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Opportunities knock: The Opportunity Party's Southland candidate Joel Rowlands on the Queenstown hustings

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A battle-hardened resort father of three preschoolers, living in a state house and surviving
on ACC, wants your vote.

Joel Rowlands, 35, is standing for The Opportunities Party (TOP) this election in the local
Southland electorate as an advocate for those who feel they have no voice or have been left behind.

After arriving in Queenstown on a two-week snowboarding holiday 16 years ago, and never
leaving, he’s worked in the trades and tourism sectors but has primarily been a muso and a screen printer.

However, due to a long-running wrist injury, which he’s getting surgery for this month, he’s been on ACC since last December.

Rowlands already has experience pushing for causes.

After a ‘‘horrible experience’’ when his partner gave birth to their second child outside Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital, he successfully persuaded Southern District Health Board to provide 24/7 midwife cover.

He also lobbied for council to keep Frankton Motor Camp as affordable housing, however it closed early this year.

After enduring bad living conditions there, he qualified to shift his family into a state house.

Housing’s one of his, and TOP’s, main issues.

‘‘I used to be able to afford a house in the middle of town for $380 a week, the same place is 1000 bucks now.

‘‘A lot of good people have been priced out of town, and that has been hard to sit back and
watch.’’

His other main push is to get young people voting — ‘‘about 85% of young people don’t even bother to vote’’.

‘‘That’s a massive section of society that’s not truly represented in parliament.’’

Having lost his mother to depression, he’s also passionate about mental health, especially with job losses mounting.

‘‘I can see this becoming a more widespread issue if the inequality between the haves and have-nots continues to grow.

‘‘The media and police don’t really talk about it, but there have been a few [suspected] suicides over Covid, and young people, too.’’

He’s offering to help anyone struggling on that front.

Rowlands calls his campaign — which so far has cost him about $11,000 — ‘‘a baptism by fire’’.

‘‘I’m really serious about it.

‘‘We’ll see what happens but I’ll be here [standing again] in another three years — I think Southland respects consistency.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz