Baby Hihana was only six days old when National MP Mike Sabin’s resignation triggered a by-election announcement for Northland.
“We all looked at one another at home and said ‘at least she’s out’,” laughs Hihana’s mother, Labour candidate for Northland, Willow-Jean Prime.
If the announcement had come any earlier then Willow-Jean and bump would still have been on the campaign trail, so strong is her commitment to ensuring the needs of the Far North are better represented in Parliament.
This time - with solid campaign experience under her belt and that of her talented team, a growing electorate support structure and the concentrated efforts of Caucus and LECs countrywide turning their focus on Northland - she’s aiming to do even better.
“Northland is being ignored by National and needs a strong local MP who understands its issues and will act on its behalf,” says Willow-Jean.
“The issues that repeatedly come up when I talk to people here are unemployment and infrastructure, and people want more for their communities.”
It has been a fairly whirlwind path for Willow-Jean since her election in October 2013 as the youngest ever
Far North Councillor - at the age of 30 - when she polled the second highest number of votes.
She worked as a solicitor in Wellington before returning to the North where she established her own consultancy business handling whanau, hapu and community projects as well as Treaty claims and settlements.
She’s a local, having grown up in Moerewa. She went to Bay of Islands College and then to the University of Waikato to study Te Reo and Law. She also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Māori and Pacific Development and a Master of Laws.
Her general election campaign, managed by her sister Season-Mary Downs, a lawyer in Hamilton, began six months out from the election.
It saw a lot of new volunteers recruited and significant fundraising carried out. They ran a strong social media campaign and co-ordinated three massive leaflet drops across the electorate.
Season is back to manage the 2015 campaign and looking forward to the opportunity to see a lot of her niece, who is named in her honour – Hihana is a Māori transliteration for ‘Season’.
“She’s the most amazing campaign manager you could ever have and, thanks to the amazing work of Season and the team last time, we are building from a stronger base,” said Willow-Jean.
“We are planning to run the same campaign plan because almost everything we did achieved the desired outcomes, but we’ll be adding to it.
“The support we are getting is amazing. We have offers of help from Labour activists all over the country.
“I’m doing this because Northland deserves better than what it is getting from National.
“I believe I have the work ethic and common-sense approach to fight for what’s needed to tackle the big issues.”