It’s David vs Goliath in Clutha-Southland

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A political rookie takes on the Deputy Prime Minister in the Wakatipu. Celia Williams reports

It’s a David and Goliath battle and Labour candidate Tat Loo knows it. 

But it’s not stopping him going for the traditionally-blue Clutha-Southland seat, held by National incumbent Bill English. 

The Dunedin chiropractor who joined Labour in 2008 is pragmatic about challenging English, who last election romped to a 15,475-vote win. 

“I’ve been advised, as a new candidate, you’re never going to win that electorate,” Loo says. 

“It’d be nice to campaign for the win and don’t be mistaken, we’re campaigning very hard. But for Labour, winning Clutha-South­­­­land isn’t going to be something we can achieve in three years. But because of the beauty of MMP, every vote counts.” 

After being selected for the party last year, he hopes to simply grow Labour’s proportional position. 

“This year we’re really targeting a party vote in this electorate of 25-30 per cent. We’ll be a clear second.”  Loo’s got his work cut out. 

Unlike English, Loo doesn’t have access to perks like a ministerial limousine and chauffeur, an MP’s salary and generous entitlements like living allowances. 

Single with no kids, Loo doesn’t own a house and drives a 1.4-litre Volks–wagen Polo. If elected, he’d like to move to Queenstown. 

“I’m not going to be anywhere near the electoral campaign spending limit. We’re running a campaign on goodwill and small donations and off the smell of an oily rag,” he says. 

Born in Malaysia but immigrated with family to New Zealand 30 years ago, Loo runs a private chiropractic clinic and owns a hair salon business. 

Loo believes there should be a more consistent local MP’s presence in the Wakatipu and says English and National take electorate voters for granted. 

“Bill English has a lot of responsibilities so it’s difficult for him to be in and around Queenstown for more than a maximum of one day a month. He’s got loyal party supporters who, despite that, will keep voting blue.” 

English responds: “They trot that out at each election. You’d expect him to say that, wouldn’t you?” 

Loo sees health, cost of living, education and working conditions as big issues for Queenstown. 

“I’d like to make sure that Wellington understands the population projections and the unique economic aspects of the Wakatipu and Lakes District area.” 

The other candidates are Act’s Don Nicholson, a former Federated Farmers president from near Invercargill, the Greens’ Rachael Goldsmith, also of Invercargill, the Conservative Party’s Ross Calverley and Democrats for 
Social Credit’s Robert Mills.