Q & A with Willow-Jean Prime

PROFILE

Age 32 •Education Enrolled in PhD, LLM (First Class Hons), PG Dip Māori and Pacific Development, BA LLB conjoint •Ethnicity European/Māori •Hapu & Iwi Te Kapotai, Ngati Hine, Ngāpuhi •Interests family time. Community development, law, walking, light reading (if there is ever time), food (eating – not cooking!)

Willow-Jean Prime is the Labour Party electorate candidate for Northland. Prime ran in this seat in the 2014 General Election but it was subsequently won by National Party candidate, Mike Sabin. However, Prime is proud of her efforts to reduce National’s majority by over 2,000 votes and increase the Labour Party’s vote and the number of polling booths won by the Party.

Following Sabin’s sudden resignation as the subject of a police investigation, the seat was left vacant. Dedicated to providing a strong representative voice in her region, Prime won the candidacy selection within the Labour Party to stand again at the upcoming Northland by-election, and aims to do even better with polling results this time.

Amid a line-up of men, Prime is the only woman standing in the by-election and brings with her a robust education together with a grassroots commitment to the electorate.

NORTHLAND By-election

When did you first become interested in politics and why?

In 2013, at the age of 30, Prime became the youngest ever Councillor for the Far North District Council and polled the second highest number of votes. It was from here her political profile increased and that she was encouraged to stand in the 2014 General Election. However, her political fervour stems from a much earlier time:

“From quite a young age (as a child debating my Nana in her arm chair – which she encouraged), I felt like I developed skills that would lead me towards a future in advocacy.  Having completed my studies, I worked for several years as a solicitor in Wellington before returning to the North, where I established a consultancy business handling community projects and Treaty claims and served on the management committees of various organisations and local Trusts.  My work in the community brought increasing pressure for me to put my name forward for the Far North District Council – I did this as an independent.”

What inspired you to join the Labour Party?

Prime was inspired to join the Labour Party as she considers it the party where she would be most effective to address the issues facing Northland, and the party where the electorate would be better represented with a sitting MP.

 How would you describe the Northland electorate?

Beautiful. Big. Untapped. Facing many challenges that can only be resolved with central government support”

Where do you think the most action is needed in Northland?

Prime is focusing her campaign on three core issues: jobs, infrastructure and vibrant communities.

She observes that:

“Northland has some of the highest unemployment in the country and we need more government investment in regional development to create jobs and grow our businesses. Our roads are in a very poor state and need urgent attention. The government has cut $35 million from our roads and we need to restore that funding and begin urgent repairs and invest in new projects to make transport in the North faster, safer and more reliable”

In her experience as a District Councillor, Prime notes that she has seen “first-hand the importance of having a government that is going to back our communities”.  She vows to “fight for more government support for local groups and facilities, so that we can have a proper partnership. That is going to make Northland a better place to live, work and play”.

Why should Northland electors vote for you?

“I am the best person for the job. I am passionate about Northland. Northland is and has been neglected by the government for a very long time.  We need a strong, local voice to stand up for us. Currently, unemployment is too high, businesses are struggling and the roads are a mess. We need someone who can get things moving and I believe that is me”

What do you hope to achieve for Northland if elected as their MP?

“I want to be a strong voice that makes the government sit up and take notice of the needs of our people and our region. I want to help create a thriving future for Northland. I love Northland, it’s my home, I grew up here and I want to do my part to make it even better”

WOMEN’S Issues

Would you describe yourself as a feminist?

Prime explains that while she has not had a “major role in advocating on specific women’s issues” that she “grew up in a family surrounded by strong woman and the values of fairness and equality” were ingrained in her upbringing.  She elaborates that although her work has “primarily centred around community development generally” that her sister and Campaign Manager, Season-Mary Prime, has been an advocate for women’s rights, and that feminism resonates in both their thinking and actions and aligns very much with their values.

Do you have a position on abortion?

Prime is not anti-abortion and supports “proactive approaches to ensuring woman are informed and educated about sexual health and that resources and support are widely available for woman where required”.

Would you consider the services available to women who are victims of all forms of violence to be appropriately funded?

Prime considers that services available to women who are victims of violence are not adequately funded. She also states:

“It is my understanding that domestic violence and sexual violence are rampant and instances are increasing while other crimes are diminishing. I am told that service providers are overwhelmed with cases and that resources have been cut to community services and providers working in this area”.

Recently, a young Māori Trans Woman protested at the pride parade due to the transmisogyny of some organisations that were participating in the event. Trans women are routinely sent to men’s prisons because the system refuses to recognise their identity as women. What steps do you think could be taken to appropriately recognise the equal rights of Trans women with their cis women counterparts?

“I think this is a discussion which must be lead by Trans Women in order for any outcomes to be meaningful and effective”

MĀORI Issues

In light of the Waitangi Tribunal’s finding that (Northland) Māori did not cede sovereignty when signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi, what steps would you take to ensure that Labour appropriately recognised Māori sovereignty rights given they legislated against Māori with regard to the Foreshore and Seabed?

“As a starting point there must be a robust discussion and debate about our constitutional arrangements – the Tribunal’s report must necessarily inform that discussion.  To date, in any such government lead “constitutional reviews” our country has not had the benefit of having to hand, a comprehensive report which unequivocally addresses the meaning and effect of Te Tiriti.  It is my view that the report can help us progress the discussion concerning the place of Te Tiriti in our constitutional arrangements”

NATIONAL Issues

Labour has strongly opposed PM John Key’s recent announcement that the government will deploy troops to Iraq.

  • What ways do you think New Zealand could assist the Iraqi people and government without sending armed forces?

Prime insists that “any assistance provided [to the Iraqi people and government] should be with a UN mandate”. She considers that “National’s Iraq deployment risks lives” and that “the way to overcome ISIS is to rebuild Iraqi society through humanitarian intervention and economic reconstruction”. 

  • Should international relations be prioritised over the democratic choice of the people?

“No.  The Prime Minister has described deployment as “the price of being the club”. I do not agree that this is a reason to send troops into harm’s way”

Write a HAIKU!

Vote Willow-Jean Prime
Hardworking. Honest. Local.
Northland needs a voice.

You can see more of Willow-Jean Prime on:

EDITORS note:

Willow-Jean Prime will appeal to many women (young and old) and Māori in general as someone relevant to their world view and as a genuine role model. She has the capacity to provide the representative continuity needed in the Northland region. Additionally, she has the requisite educational background to guide her through the bureaucracy of Parliamentary representation and her Council experience will assist in keeping her connected to her local community and the issues affecting the region. While the most recent polls indicate that the Northland by-election may come down to a two horse race between Winston Peters (New Zealand First) and Mark Osborne (National Party), unlike those two candidates, Prime is a strong advocate for Māori and the vulnerable and has occupational longevity and continuity on her side together with a youthful compassion, empathy and a vision for the future of Northland as a resident and lifelong member of the community.

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