Lawless has a vision

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 12:02 12/05/2014
Jennifer Lawless
Chris Hillock/Fairfax NZ
RECYCLED STYLE: Green candidate in Hamilton West Jennifer Lawless is heading back home for a crack at the electorate and her favourite op shops.

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An avid op-shopper who helped found a roller derby league in Wellington and, at a nudge, would recall how to butcher a home killed mutton, has thrown her hat in the ring for the Hamilton West electorate.

Green Party challenger Jennifer Lawless will have a tough time against incumbent MP Tim Macindoe and Labour's Sue Moroney and, at a lowly 31 on the Green's list, will find it near impossible to gain a seat in the House on current polling.

Green policy was to court only the party vote in election year and, for a first timer, Lawless said her placing was a positive sign and like her party she was in it for the long term.

"That's why young people like the Greens," she said. "Because it is the party with the longest-term political vision, quite literally.

"We want a functioning society in one hundred years. Not just until the election, or until we finish with politics or retire."

Lawless grew up on a farm at Te Uku on Raglan Harbour, where the Waitetuna River flowed through the backyard and living off the land was mandatory.

"My dad taught me if you can kill it you can eat it," she said. "That was the rule."

Whitebaiting, kayaking and fishing for flounder and kahawai took place in the lower reaches of the Waitetuna and the freezer was always full of home-killed meat.

"It was a really awesome way to grow up and I realise how hard that is to give people. It really instilled in me the values I want New Zealanders to have and pass on to their kids.

"It was really nice . . . There's none of that now."

She said land intensification upstream had left the Waitetuna a "cow poo mud flat" and she was determined to make changes to better the environment.

"As a community we need to be making decisions that protect everybody's right to that water."

Lawless was sitting on one of the wooden benches on Commerce St, Frankton when the Waikato Times spoke to her, after just coming out of one of the many op shops in the area.

"I love op shopping," Lawless said.

What started as a schoolgirl necessity turned into a craze and she has made long-lasting friendships with people she has met in the stores.

Her father died when she was 13 years old and her mother was a primary school teacher with two children to fend for.

The former Hamilton Girls' High School student got her first job at a local blueberry farm when she was 14 and learned how to be resourceful.

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"Me and my friends who weren't in that position went op shopping and we learnt how to make our own clothes."

"You just have to give them a new life. It's environmentally friendly, it's cheap, it's fun. Why wouldn't you do it, you know, hello?"

Her passion for op shopping resulted in a clash of cultures while in a France for a year.

She stayed at a village where Lawless' host mother told members of the church she wore "dead people's clothes".

A concerned neighbour turned up at the door with more appropriate attire.

"They thought that I must be so poor and I was completely on the bones of my arse.

"I was trying to explain to them about op-shopping but they would never do that because you would lose face."

She came home again and "could have kissed the ground" before embarking on a political science degree at Victoria University and finding inspiration to join the fray.

In 2006, while at Parliament to write a research report, she watched the mud slinging between National and Labour, but Metiria Turei's opposition to West Coast mining had her hooked.

"That really stood out to me about someone who really cared about her job and that's when I decided I wanted to work for that party and enter politics."

A stint working for former MP and now-Hamilton City councillor Martin Gallagher turned into a long term job with Green MP Kevin Hague she decided the step up should come sooner rather than later.

She lives in Porirua but Hamilton was still home and the logical choice for politics.

"The people that I know in the Greens are up here and my family is up here. Wellington has got enough politicians."

- Waikato

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