For more than two decades National’s candidate for Rangitikei, Suze Redmayne, worked in the electorate office of the last two MPs to serve the area, making her no stranger to the task at hand.
The saying goes that the electorate office staff do the actual work and are there to make the MP look good.
“That’s pretty much it, you know how it works,” Redmayne says with a hearty chuckle.
More seriously though she says it’s set her up well for representing her community at home and in Parliament, as she has a good understanding of how both worlds work.
“I’d describe myself as an empathetic person who can get along with just about anyone. I get a huge amount of personal satisfaction from helping other people and when you strip it back, that’s the fundamental role of an electorate MP.”
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Redmayne had considered the job might be up her alley for some time after first working for former MP Simon Power and then Ian McKelvie, who retired before this election.
When Power stepped away from politics Redmayne gave it some thought, but her children were still school-age and in hindsight she’s pleased she didn’t do it then.
Now all three of her children are paying their own tax the time felt right when McKelvie said he was calling time.
She’s lived in Rangitikei for 26 years and along with her husband, Rich, runs a sheep, beef, forestry and maize farm.
In 2010 the couple branched out and started Coastal Spring Lamb – a paddock to plate business. It began by selling 2000 of their own lambs to supermarkets and saw them pack up the fry pan and head to shops across the North Island in the weekends to do tastings and talk to customers.
By 2015 they’d sent their first export order to Vietnam; in 2016 they won the New Zealand Food Awards, and now they’re in partnership with 16 other family farms and supply more than 100,000 lambs to New Zealand and 12 other countries.
Redmayne says she’s actively involved in her community and has now coupled that with some international business experience, giving her an understanding of agri business.
Now she wants the job of representing her people in Parliament.
“What we have here is quintessential New Zealand and it needs protecting.”
Doing well in Parliament requires good working relationships, so Newsroom asks Redmayne to name a Labour policy she likes and to balance things out tests her on whether there are any Act policies she doesn’t like.
She struggles on Labour, initially saying nope, before taking a few seconds to think a little harder.
“Okay, I guess the food in schools’ policy,” she offers up.
National also supports food in schools and will continue it if in government.
Redmayne says she didn’t initially agree with the policy and has some reservations but has come around to the fact that “having a kid that hasn’t been fed and hasn’t got a full tummy isn’t going to learn as well, so for that reason I support the policy”.
“That’s one thing, if National tried to change the abortion laws, that’s one thing I’d cross the floor on.” – Suze Redmayne
On current polling National would need Act to form a government and Redmayne has a few opinions on the potential coalition partner.
She doesn’t like its policy to scrap the winter energy payment, because she has seen and heard from pensioners in her electorate who rely on it to put the heater on.
Act policy is to repurpose it as a winter hardship payment that only goes to beneficiaries and those over 65 who have a community services card, to save $379 million going to those who don’t need it.
“The difference between National and Act is, I would say, our values have heart and soul, and so do we as a party,” Redmayne says.
“I think some of their policies can be a little bit heartless.”
Suddenly aware of the MMP environment that exists in New Zealand, she notes, “that’s not to say I wouldn’t work with them if we had to”.
Redmayne has met National Party leader Christopher Luxon a few times and he’s visited her electorate twice recently.
She says she doesn’t know him really well but well enough to know “he’s a good guy and I certainly think he’s an exceptional leader”.
Her likely swearing in after the election (McKelvie won the seat by 3000 votes in 2020 despite the red tidal wave of Jacinda Ardern and Labour) would make her the first woman to represent the seat in its 163-year history.
Though she says she’s “not really tangled up” with equal gender representation and the best person for the job should get it, she admits being the first woman to hold the seat would be “pretty cool”.
Empathy is an important trait to Redmayne and it’s something she admires in former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern.
She liked her valedictory speech where she noted you can be “sensitive, kind, and wear your heart on your sleeve” and still become a political leader.
National is known for being a broad-church, which prompts Newsroom to ask where she would put herself on the spectrum from conservative to liberal.
“I would describe myself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I’m pro-choice and I’m not particularly religious.
“That’s one thing, if National tried to change the abortion laws, that’s one thing I’d cross the floor on,” she says.
“I was at the saleyards a few weeks ago and someone came up and said he had one question he wanted to ask me and that would determine how he would vote, and I could guess exactly what it was.
“It was about abortion, and it went through my head, do I say what he wants to hear?
“But I thought it’s no good not being upfront, so I just told him that I was pro-choice,” Redmayne recalls.
Though she’s never voted for Labour, she hasn’t always voted for National.
A friend at university stood for his own party one year and she voted for him, and “I think I might have even voted for the Greens once”.
Speaking of the Greens, Redmayne says she’s never understood why the party doesn’t get politics in the way former Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia or former United Future leader Peter Dunne did.
“The Greens could have done what Peter Dunne did and ensured they always sat at the Cabinet table and worked with whoever was in government and championed their own issues.”
On the note of former politicians, Newsroom asks who in politics Redmayne admires the most.
Bill English is one of her favourites, but she has time for Winston Peters as well.
“I have to say that I do admire him as a politician, not so much now, and that’s probably not the right way to describe it, but I think the GoldCard is a very cool legacy and the free doctors’ visits too.
“I do admire those things about him, but at the moment I think he’s clutching on to any group to get himself re-elected,” she says.
Given the New Zealand First leader’s party is polling on average at five percent and could well return to Parliament, it’s not out of the realms of possibility Redmayne might work with him one day soon.