An OPINIONATED Queenstowner is a surprise candidate hoping to succeed Bill English as the National Party’s local Member of Parliament.
Marketing consultant Mark Wilson is the first to announce he’s contesting the party nomination for the safe Clutha-Southland seat.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has held the large rural-dominated electorate since 1990 but is leaving it to join the party list for this year’s general election.
“I like to think I offer something a little bit different and I think that difference might be quite key when it comes to getting our electorate noticed,” Wilson, 32, says.
The Rugby Southland commercial boss says he’ll urgently push for a two-lane bridge to replace Queenstown’s rickety one-lane Kawarau Falls structure: “As a keen Southlander travelling down to watch Stags [rugby] games, to work, to catch up with family, to go on holiday, I travel over that bridge as much as anybody and she can drive you insane [waiting to cross it].
“If your main regional hub of Invercargill can’t be connected to NZ’s main tourism hub by any more than a one-lane bridge, then you’ve got to ask some serious questions.”
On other issues, he supports a conference centre and looking at visitors paying for infrastructure “though I’m up for a bit of debate on the best way of doing that”.
Wilson, a Mountain Scene columnist dubbed ‘Mr Inappropriate’ for his at times outspoken and non-politically correct views, has represented Southland in under-age rugby, water polo and cricket but says his proudest moment for his home province was undertaking the Great Speight’s Beer Delivery voyage from Dunedin to London in 2007.
However he also calls himself a proud Queenstowner after living here the past nine years.
Though admittedly young, he doesn’t see age as a barrier, pointing out English was first elected to Parliament at 29.
“I think people sometimes only see one side of me.
“I like to have a laugh, I like to have a good time, I’m not very politically correct but I do have a serious side and I’m very serious about ensuring the prosperity of the region.
“For me this is something I want to do as a career – I don’t see it as a nice thing to do as a hobby in my retirement.
“I’m ready to give it a good nudge and rattle a few cages in the halls of power and try to make a bit of difference.”
Having just joined the National Party, Wilson says he’ll need an exemption to have his nomination accepted: “I won’t be the first person to be given an exemption, I don’t think”.
“I’ve always been one of those people that’s been long-time interested yet never been involved when politics comes to mind.
“I’ve always been pretty outspoken down at the bar but unfortunately bar politics doesn’t really improve anything.”
National Party nominations for the seat open March 7 and close March 25.
The final selection meeting will be held on April 27.