For the past few weeks, we have been profiling the electoral candidates for the Waitaki electorate. Out of the woodwork comes another candidate.
Meet Heather Meri Pennycook who lives in Wānaka and has recently decided to stand for the newly formed Advance New Zealand Party.
The Party is led by Jami-Lee Ross and Billy TK Jr. The idea for the Party was first unveiled in a newsletter from Ross released in April 2020. Ross claimed the Party was a centrist and anti-corruption movement designed to appeal to voters "in the middle". Ross had been a member of the centre-right New Zealand National Party until a public spat with leader Simon Bridges during which he accused Bridges of corruption.
"We believe in a New Zealand that stands up for our nation's freedom and sovereignty, forging ahead as an independent country delivering high-quality public services, investing in infrastructure to create jobs and better prosperity for citizens, and providing solutions for our economic, social and environmental well-being. "it says on its website.
Prior to this interview, Pennycook had been all the way to Omauru for her first official meeting with the public. It was really good to meet the other candidates and answer questions for the people, she says. It was a substantial confidence-building exercise.
"When I got back from Oamaru I had a three-hour Zoom meeting with the Party because we are busy putting together policy as fast as we can. As a new party, we still have a lot to work through, so it's all go." Obviously a hard working woman!
Pennycook was born and bred in Makarora, but the past 2.5 years have been here in Wanaka. Her children are at school at MAC.
"I have worked in a variety of industries but have always had a love for the land and the environment. I have ever had a particular spot in my heart for the small towns and rural communities in the South Island," she says.
Penicook first became involved in the Advance New Zealand Party earlier this year.
"Half way through lockdown I happened across Billy TK Jr. talking about his disillusionment with politics and I thought, this guy is saying what I am feeling. He was considering forming a political party, and I thought, if this guy stood up and walked his talk, we could see a completely different political scene in New Zealand.
"I got interested and was in the North Island when he was doing a public meeting in Thames, so I went to it. I was impressed with his integrity and honesty.
"So I started emailing the Party saying I would love to see the stuff you are saying brought down to the South Island. Would you come down and I will organise a meeting?
"Then I heard Billy was having the launch of his Party (start of August) and I felt I was being told to go up to Auckland to the launch (by my Christian faith).
"The launch was fantastic, and they announced they were going to stand candidates in every area and were asking for people to put their hands up.
"I felt a compulsion to put my details forward – and have ended up the candidate for Waitaki.”
Pennycook had never been involved in politics before apart from being chair of the Makarora Community Board and having a lot of involvement in emergency services- search and rescue in Wānaka and the fire service in Makarora.
But I'm one of those community get-it-done type people, she says.
"I'm one of those people who have an interest in so many things and go into them giving 150 per cent and end up in a position of responsibility. I enjoy challenging tasks and working with people to see how we can make it happen, I love helping people to overcome issues and problems, and I think that's part of why I want to get into politics."
Pennycook says she has never been a fan or followed politics. She has been disillusioned with politicians, saying they don't seem transparent or accountable.
"But I have a passion for social justice and looking at what's happening; I want to stand up and fight, for instance, for the farmers who are being hammered by the new legislation. I want to see fairness and accountability."
Advance New Zealand is the voice of the people, she says. Behind having good rules and legislation passed in Parliament, we want to see our economy, small businesses and farmers thrive. We want to look after this country that we are so blessed to live in.
"Let's all work together to right what's not working and make our economy thrive.
It's quite a journey, but I'm so passionate, and it's given me hope."
Read edition 993 of the Wānaka Sun here.