Tamati Coffey a prime candidate for kidmania

SELECTION SUCCESS: Tamati Coffey, Rotorua's Labour MP nominee.
SELECTION SUCCESS: Tamati Coffey, Rotorua's Labour MP nominee.

Tamati Coffey was thrown back a decade to his former life as a children's show presenter when he was mobbed by school children in a Hamilton playground.

Labour's candidate for the Rotorua electorate was a kid-magnet at Crawshaw School as a swarm of excited students tailed him around the courtyard.

He was recognised by some of the older students who remembered him from Saturday children's show What Now? but that didn't stop the younger ones from flocking for an autograph.

His first engagement for the day was with the Waikato branch of Youth Horizons, a not-for-profit organisation which helps young people deal with mental health and behavioural problems.

He said he was still taking time to come to grips with being a candidate.

"I've been taken under the wing of people like Sue (Moroney) and Nanaia (Mahuta), they were there this morning and are helping me understand all of the problems going on regarding young people," said Coffey.

He said education was the policy area that would likely tip the scales at the September election.

"It's that thing we need to get right for the sake of all of these kids," he said.

The official campaign period begins on June 20 and while Coffey has been on the hustings since he won the confidence of the party in March, he said policy was still weeks from being released.

"Nobody likes the Government's current proposals to spend $350 million on education that's not going to directly benefit the outcomes of children."

Labour list MP and candidate for Hamilton West, Sue Moroney, had the TV-man turned political aspirant as her apprentice for the day and said he was a charmer.

"Tamati Coffey is like a magnet for children and we're getting caught up in Tamati Coffey hysteria, which is amazing."

She was surprised when Coffey threw his hat in the ring after watching him on TV for a few years but found him a worthwhile candidate who resonated with first-time voters.

"He draws a response from people that is unlike any other potential MP. They already know him and are therefore attracted to want to talk to him.

"They've grown up with Tamati in their living room and here he is wanting to become a member of Parliament and I think that makes politics relevant."

Waikato Times