It was 2002. Daniel Bedingfield was at the top of the UK singles chart with his catchy hit Gotta Get Thru This, Michael Jackson hit headlines across the world as he dangled his baby son over the side of a balcony in Berlin and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had just hit cinemas.
Back in New Zealand, the country was gearing up for a General Election.
Helen Clark was Prime Minister, Bill English was leader of the opposition and a young Damian Light was looking forward to voting in his first election.
It was during the TVNZ leaders ‘worm’ debate – where an on-screen worm-like graphic indicated the audience’s immediate reaction to politicians answers – that Light was initially attracted to United Future as a party.
“I thought Peter Dunne performed really, really well….I thought, he’s talking sense, he’s talking communities and families and he just seems quite sensible.
“For me, I’ve always wanted to make a difference, to make things better [and] so when I look at Government – I think when it’s done well – it can make a positive difference to people’s lives,” he said.
“I got involved initially to just support a party that I liked and agreed with – I thought United Future was great – I voted for them and I wanted to get more involved. As I got more involved I thought I could actually contribute more.
“Ultimately, it was a desire to make things better – to change things and I think the Government can do that.”
This election will be Light’s fourth time standing for an electorate – previously he’s stood on the North Shore but he’s aware no election is the same.
Housing and transport are the first two issues that come to mind when you think of Botany residents. Light, who lives in Botany with his partner and works in Mt Wellington, laments the difficulty of catching public transport between the two locations.
“I drive to work usually – I would catch the bus and I do sometimes catch the bus but there isn’t actually a way of getting a bus to my work on the other side of Sylvia Park so I have to run across a 3-4 lane highway.”
Light says without dedicated bus lanes, people aren’t getting to work much faster than they would in their own car.
“It’s just crazy – this kind of stuff needs to be fixed.”
Light works in process improvement at a food safety organisation where he works with others to work out what projects or initiatives to run and helps them achieve those goals.
A good skill set for politics then, I suggest?
“I’m not sure if I ended up in the politics because of the job, or the job because of the politics!” he laughs.
He’s aware of the challenges of being a minority party standing in a strong National Party electorate, but feels confident in chasing the party vote.
Light is second on the United Future party list – meaning if enough party votes roll in across the country, he enters parliament as an MP regardless of the Botany electorate results.
“Our policies aren’t necessarily as big and grand as the other ones but we think they’re practical and achievable things that we can actually get done,” says Light.
“We don’t have all the answers to all the problems but we’ve got some answers to some of them.”