Chch East candidate: Poto Williams

Labour's candidate in Christchurch East , Poto Williams, centre, with her daughter, Tearai, and partner, Ken.
Labour's candidate in Christchurch East , Poto Williams, centre, with her daughter, Tearai, and partner, Ken.

A bid to become Christchurch East's new MP is just another extension of a lifetime interest in social services, according to Poto Williams.

The Wellington-born, Auckland-raised Cook Islander has worked in social services for most of her working life and now sees an opportunity to press harder for them at a political level.

"If you want to change stuff, you either have to work one person at a time or at a political level."

Williams grew up in a multi- cultural neighbourhood in Ponsonby, an area she described as "a magnet for migrant communities".

On one side of the street were Tongans, Samoans and a Polish family, while there were Australians across the road.

She attended Beresford Street School, which was one of the first to use accelerated learning methods including music, drama and arts, and then later she went to Auckland Girls' Grammar.

Williams said she had always wanted to be a social worker or work in some form of social service.

Her marriage didn't last and she was a single parent for several years before meeting Ken Anderson. The couple have been together seven years.

Williams has worked for the Ministry of Education and several social agencies including BirthRight, Healthcare NZ, and some disability agencies.

She has a particular interest in the wellbeing of children and family violence prevention.

It was in these areas where she "cut my teeth" on the political process. She was involved in making submissions to select committees and helped prepare submissions to various social service reviews by successive governments.

It was her attendance at a large social services conference in September 2012 that eventually saw her move south.

Williams spoke to several Christchurch agencies who reported massive demand from families under pressure after the earthquakes. These same staff were going home every day and dealing with their own quake- related dramas, she said.

Williams was appointed regional manager of youth agency St John of God Hauora Trust in February and worked there until she was picked as Labour's by- election candidate in late September.

She had been a long-time supporter of the Labour Party but joined only four years ago.


Age: 51 Partner: Ken Anderson. They have three children between them; Terai (22), James (24) and Phoebe (26).

Lives: South New Brighton

Interests: Running, singing and "a staunch Warriors fan."

The Press