Former Labour MP Georgina Beyer says she is broke and living off the unemployment benefit in a one-bedroom granny flat.
Ms Beyer, 54, now lives in Johnsonville with no money and no job, having sold her house and everything she owned in an attempt to stay financially afloat.
"I'm just the great unwashed now," she said, adding that Work and Income seemed geared toward helping young people. It devoted little attention to older age groups, she suggested.
It is a stunning fall by a politician who made history when, in 1995, she became the world's first openly transsexual mayor after winning the Carterton mayoralty.
She served as mayor till 1999, after which she represented the Labour Party in Parliament, first as MP for Wairarapa and then, from 2005, as a list MP.
She said she had sent "God knows how many job applications", but has had no luck.
"I'm thinking I've got all of this skill and experience ... I must be able to fit in somewhere."
She has applied for jobs ranging from board appointments and human rights committees to working on the forecourt in a petrol station, all to no avail.
"While I have no formal qualifications, apparently my 20 years involved with politics ... means nothing.
"[Work and Income] pay little attention to those people of an older age group who are unemployed or find themselves unemployed; it's geared towards the young."
Politicians were once eligible for continued perks after leaving office. Those elected before 1999 are still entitled to $10,000 worth of international travel each year, and up to 90 per cent off domestic travel.
Those such as Ms Beyer, elected from 1999, are entitled to some financial help after they leave Parliament, but only for a month after resigning. Most payments, including travel perks, cease when they leave office.
In 2010, she aimed for the Masterton mayoralty while working for Michael Hill Jeweller in Masterton, but claims her interest in the contest led to her losing her job. She elected not to run despite being named as an early favourite, and now says she never had the money or resources to compete.
However, she says she is eyeing the 2013 Masterton mayoralty race, and intends to move back to the region. "I miss it heaps ... I didn't think I'd miss it like that, but I do."
A leading recruitment firm says Ms Beyer should be able to find work with her skills as a former MP. "There are opportunities out there ... everyone has transferable skills," Adecco chief operating officer Donna Lynch says.
"Sometimes people have to look at new career paths they haven't thought of before."
Ms Beyer admits she has been told to "lower her sights", but says some jobs are off the agenda.
"I do draw the line at being a crew member at McDonald's. I'm a little bit past that sort of thing."
Despite her dire financial straits, she is still proud of her achievements, but accepts it has been a hard time.
"It's not a fall from grace ... but it's certainly a tumble off the pedestal."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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