Homeless advocate Janette Walker selected as Labour candidate for Kaikoura

Janette Walker has been selected to represent Labour in the 2017 general election.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Janette Walker has been selected to represent Labour in the 2017 general election.

Labour has selected its challenger to try and turn the safe National seat in Kaikoura red.

Former farmer, mediator and community advocate Janette Walker is the first confirmed Labour candidate in New Zealand for the 2017 general election.

Tackling the number of people living rough in Marlborough, a lack of social housing, and economic growth, were among her priorities for the Kaikoura electorate.

"I want a region that is thriving, not just limping along."

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She said she was "thrilled and honoured" to be selected.

"I have been waiting to do this since the last election. I want to get this government out."

Walker was defeated by National's Stuart Smith in the 2014 general election after Smith won with a final majority of more than 12,000 votes.

Walker said this time around she was better known but she would not be making any changes to her campaign style.

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Labour's jobs and growth caucus committee chairman Grant Robertson said it would be an interesting 18 months in the run up to the election.

"Janette hasn't stopped since the last election. We have a huge respect for her ability and the hard work she has done for the community."

Walker worked at the coal face and regularly assisted people who were sleeping rough through her role as the co-ordinator of Blenheim charity Crossroads Trust.

A survey of Blenheim social agencies recorded 118 cases of homeless individuals and families in Marlborough in 2015.

Walker said she was seriously committed to getting emergency housing accommodation in Blenheim.

"There is no disputing there a huge need here. What disappoints me is the number of homeless people living in cars. It's not the New Zealand we are proud of."

Rents in Blenheim were high and people could not get rental accommodation "for love nor money".

Marlborough had some of the longest waiting lists for state housing because there was no housing availability, she said.

"It is ridiculous that the Government still wants to sell off state housing."

A number of houses in Blenheim's Dix Crescent had been empty for three years because they were contaminated with meth.

"What has the Government been doing for three years? These houses could have been utilised."

The party was picking up a shift against the National government, she said.

"Middle New Zealand is hurting.

"There is a perception because of our wine industry people live the good life but its a low wage economy."

Many people relied on part-time and seasonal work, she said.

"How do you bring up a family and pay the mortgage or rent? There isn't anything else for them. I can't think of a major industry being developed here any time soon that will create a large number of full time jobs.

"People either chose to live here and cope with low wages and a lower lifestyle or go to another region and get paid more.

"Instead of people barely surviving I want people to thrive. Thriving kids and families has a flow on into the region."

The Marlborough economy was not booming, exemplified by 23 empty shops in the town centre, she said.

There was no strategic plan for the region in terms of tourism development. 

The Wither Hills was the perfect spot for a gondola going up to a restaurant and luge coming down.

"We have to make a reason for people to stop and stay."

 - The Marlborough Express

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