Labour candidate takes cheap shot, prepares to jump electorates

Things are getting interesting in Rotorua.

The Labour Party candidate there, Tamati Coffey, has been busy over the last week getting ready to jump to the Waiariki Electorate (a Maori seat). First he announced he had become an accredited living wage employer, now he is flinging mud at local MP, Todd McClay.

It all started with a major Rotorua employer announcing it was closing. Lumbercube employs approximately 80 people and says the closure is “due to challenges in becoming commercially operational”. Fairly vanilla stuff. Lumbercube is a private company and has faced some difficulties since opening last year.

Nevertheless it is a major employer so there has been political point scoring. This was in the Daily Post yesterday:

Labour spokesman Tamati Coffey has condemned the “rather relaxed” approach he believes Rotorua MP Todd McClay has taken over the Lumbercube mill closure.

This is funny. Todd McClay has spent a lot of time with mill management over the last four months. For Tamati this is the next passing car to bark at. He hasn’t even been to the mill before.

Mr Coffey has since told the Rotorua Daily Post losing so many jobs was devastating for Rotorua families, the community and the economy.

Mr Coffey said in his opinion Mr McClay seemed “rather relaxed” about it and this rubbed “salt into the wound”.

“Offering up Work and Income as a solution isn’t aspirational and certainly isn’t the brighter future National promised when they were elected,” he said.

“The workers have to be priority number one. Saying Work and Income is the sole solution is just not good enough. If we can’t make primary processing work in Rotorua with vast forests on our doorstep, then forestry is in real trouble,” Mr Coffey said.

Perhaps we can fall back on his earlier idea of bailing out failing businesses. Perhaps he wants Todd McClay to just write a cheque. Other than that, Tamati seems short of ideas.

Lumbercube is a private company and has to make money to stay open. This is a commercial reality; something Mr Coffey struggles to understand. Lumbercube has tried something different and it hasn’t worked. Simple as that.

Mr Coffey and Labour forestry spokesman Stuart Nash said they would seek meetings with mill management and workers over the coming week to better understand the situation and see if anything could be done to save the plant and jobs.

So, the only solution Labour have is to “talk about it”, as if adding those two great minds to the room will achieve something real for the company. But I guess they need to be humoured.

But this is all part of a wider strategy.

Whaleoil understands Tamati Coffey is getting ready to jump over to the Waiariki electorate to try his chances against Te Ururoa Flavell.

Two weeks ago he made his wishes known to Labour’s Waiariki electorate committee and has expressed an interest in an early uncontested selection. One can presume this would be to leave the door open for a hasty retreat back to the Rotorua electorate if things don’t go his way.

But this raises some interesting questions:

  • How do the Labour Party members in the Waiariki electorate feel about Tamati bringing his legendary financial management skills to their backyard?
  • If successful, how will Tamati Coffey cope with debating Te Ururoa Flavell in Maori? Will he even be able to answer questions posed to him in Maori? How is his study going?
  • What will happen to all those young Maori in Rotorua whom Tamati encouraged last election to sign up to the general roll? Will they now be encouraged to go back to the Maori roll?
  • If not selected for Waiariki, will Tamati go back to the Rotorua electorate or commit to the Waiariki members for another three years?
  • Has Tamati finally given up on an Auckland Central seat, or is this just another step in the ladder?
The coming weeks and months will be very interesting.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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