Lawyer and new Labor MP Arena Williams plans to focus on advocating for more affordable justice and health care reform for her community over the next three years.
Williams won the safe red manurewa seat in southern Auckland on Saturday.
The 30-year-old woman from Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāi Tūhoe, won the victory with more than 10,000 votes over her closest rival, Nuwi Samarakone of the National.
Williams began his career as a parole officer in Panmure, where he met many people before the courts for relatively minor crimes in custody because of changes in bail laws introduced by the previous national government.
She said she hoped to use her position as a parliamentarian to change that.
“I would like to see a reform of the justice system for people who do not necessarily need to be in custody.”
The Manurewa constituency comprises four prisons.
In Williams’s experience, many people accused of petty crimes were disconnected from their families and friends, but wanted to give back to their communities.
“We have to think as a community about how we can do this safely,” she said.
During the campaign, many local residents told Williams that they expected “bolder actions in the housing sector” from Labor.
She also heard “time and time again” about how high costs were a barrier to people’s access to health care.
“Simple things like parking are very expensive,” she said.
She may be new to Beehive, but it is not Williams’ first foray into politics.
While graduating in law and business at the University of Auckland, Williams served as president of the student association.
In 2012, Williams and other college students protested on campus against rising student debt.
Dressed in underwear, Williams “begged” passersby for clothes to illustrate how students were forced to “borrow to live”.
Two years later, she ran for the Labor Party in the Hunua constituency, an “invincible” seat and stronghold of the National Party, where she won 18% of the vote.
Labor held the seat of Manurewa in all legislatures – except in 1975, when Merv Wellington of the National defeated labor occupant Phil Amos by just 1300 votes.
In 2017, Wall won by a clear majority, with 59 percent of the vote, compared to National’s Katrina Bungard with 27 percent.
After Williams was appointed to challenge Wall for the Manurewa seat, Wall launched legal action against the Labor Party.
Wall after withdrew from the Manurewa race and ran as a candidate on the labor list, ranking 27th.
Williams’ father was a city councilor for Papakura for many years. Her mother is GP.
Williams has two children with her husband Max Hardy.
The family, along with Williams’ mother, an “anonymous heroine” in his campaign, were celebrating together on Sunday.
Williams also served as a member of the Waitematā District Health Council and the Te Rūnanga Advisory Group at the Unitec Institute of Technology.