Dan Rosewarne's first interactions with the people of Christchurch East were after the Canterbury earthquakes, where he was involved with the response. Photo: NZDF/Supplied

Dan Rosewarne signed off from 23 years in the military last July and just a few days later was delivering his maiden statement in Parliament.

He describes that transition as a “shock to the system”.

His arrival into politics was courtesy of former journalist turned Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi’s decision to call time on his ministerial career.

Rosewarne took his spot on the Labour list and is now turning his sights on former Police Minister Poto Williams’ seat in Christchurch East.

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Labour will make its selection on Sunday with Rosewarne one of five candidates, but the only sitting MP of the bunch.

He is considered one of the frontrunners alongside Reuben Davidson who has previously contested Selwyn for Labour and is the chair of People’s Choice, Christchurch’s Labour-aligned local government group.

Rosewarne told Newsroom he’s got his work cut out on Sunday with all five candidates “very plugged into the community”.

Having won the Labour nomination for Waimakariri at the previous two elections, Rosewarne can understand some people perceiving his decision to contest Christchurch East as a bid for a safe seat.

Rosewarne lost to National’s Matt Doocey in 2017 and 2020 – the margin between the two narrowed from almost 11,000 votes in 2017 to just 1,507 votes in 2020 – though that wasn’t surprising given the number of safe National seats that turned over to Labour in the red tidal wave win.

In Christchurch East Williams easily beat National’s candidate, Jo Hayes, in 2017 by nearly 8000 votes and increased that margin to 17,000 in 2020.

“I’m still serving New Zealand, only in a slightly different way.” – Dan Rosewarne

Rosewarne told Newsroom he has been sharing an office in Christchurch East with Williams since becoming a list MP last year and has “got a real sense of the needs of the community”.

He lives in Waimakariri, just eight minutes from the Christchurch East boundary but expects the geographical borders will change for at least one of those electorates in the upcoming review.

“Christchurch East has seen a population increase with people moving back in after a period of a decrease, and you might find the Waimakariri electorate has some significant geographical changes after the next boundary review.

“So, I’m not bound by geography, I just saw Christchurch East as a place I could really contribute to and hopefully I get the chance to do that,” he told Newsroom.

Rosewarne’s 23 years in the military has seen him do three overseas tours, but he also places a lot of importance on the time spent helping in a crisis back home.

His first interactions with the people of Christchurch East were in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, where he was involved with the response, much of which was centred in the east.

“I got to know the area relatively well then, and that continued with the work I did during Covid and working in the MIQs.”

Rosewarne was the Operations Officer for the Southern Region in charge of the welfare of the Defence Force staff manning MIQ facilities, and keeping a check on how they were conforming as part of the all-of-government response.

“When I look back on the time, it wasn’t just people coming in from overseas to isolate. It was also members of the community too who had tested positive and were bringing their families in to do isolation.

“A lot of those families were from the east and were in unstable environments and housing situations, so I’ve developed a real connection with them,” he said.

A father of two and husband to a local high school teacher aide, Rosewarne describes himself as working class and “pretty run of the mill”.

Coming into Parliament he’s been comforted by the structure and rules that exist.

“There’s a lot of them in the military so that’s aligned and nested well with me. It’s also important to work well here as a team and work toward something bigger than yourself, which the military does well at developing for you, and so I don’t see my role that different.

“I’m still serving New Zealand, only in a slightly different way,” he told Newsroom.

The thing he misses most is being outdoors.

“I’ve got to get used to this sitting down and being out of the sun, that’s been a bit of an adjustment.”

While he’s still a newbie and getting to know people, he’s already found a like-minded buddy across the political aisle.

National’s MP for Kaipara ki Mahurangi, Chris Penk, is ex-military and Rosewarne says he has a respect for him as a result.

“We kind of have those same bedrock values of the military, which I think serve me well and serve him well, and he’s respected across the House for that.

“I like to think I will eventually be respected that way as well once people get to know me better.”

The three other candidates contesting Labour’s Christchurch East selection on Sunday are Melissa Lama, Colin Meurk, and Teresa Butler.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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