If you asked David Hiatt in high school whether he saw himself getting into politics, his answer would have been no.
But when the National Party Wigram candidate moved back to Christchurch from a stint overseas and started a family, the idea started to rear its head.
“I felt now was the time. Christchurch needs really strong representation.”
The 40-year-old’s general election campaign is his first turn at politics. But it’s not the first time he has been involved in an election campaign.
During the 2014 general election, he was National Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee’s campaign chairman after volunteering for National during other elections.
“That was that tipping point.”
He said Mr Brownlee was a good person to learn from.
“Gerry gets things done. He’s done a job that few others, if any, could have done.”
He has a family connection too.
His father Adrian was Lorrie Pickering’s campaign chairman in his bid for the Rangiora electorate in 1972. But when Mr Pickering had to step aside due to ill-health, his dad stepped up, although he did not win.
“Maybe it’s in my blood.”
He is number 52 on National’s list, while his opposition, Labour Wigram MP Megan Woods, is number five.
She has held the seat for the last six years. Before that, Jim Anderton held it from 1984-2011.
In the 2014 general election, Dr Woods won the seat with a 3330 vote majority over National’s Karl Varley. That had doubled from the 2011 election.
Mr Hiatt concedes he is the underdog.
“But the underdog can be a good position to be in.”
Both will run against Green Party candidate Richard Wesley, the Conservative Party’s Chris Brosnan and John Ring, of the Democrats for Social Credit Party.
Dr Woods said she had only met Mr Hiatt a few times.
“I take any opponent seriously. It’s the third time I’ve run, and I’ve had three different opponents. I wish him all the best because I genuinely think it’s a big decision for anyone to put their head above the parapet.
“Everyone has to start somewhere, and often it’s not unusual for people to start in seats that are seen as safe for the other side as a bit of a dry run for things down the track.”
Mr Hiatt said his campaign was grass roots. He wanted to meet people, and grow National’s presence. He had knocked on more than 9000 doors.
“This is an opportunity for National to grow our party vote.
“I’ve never been in any race trying to come second.”
His campaign was focused on providing opportunities for young families, and supporting small businesses, which were the “backbone of the economy”.
Mr Hiatt said in light of the Labour leadership change from Andrew Little to Jacinda Ardern, he was focusing on his own party’s campaign, because that is what they could control.
He said Labour had nine years to get themselves organised, and National had “strong and stable leadership”.
Meanwhile, the Greens have had a turbulent week, with co-leader Metiria Turei resigning yesterday and two experienced MPs quitting earlier in the week.
“It gives a clear direction to the voters who is organised, and perhaps who is not organised,” he said.
Mr Hiatt has a young family, with two sons aged seven and nine with his wife Nichola.
“For me that’s the reason I’m doing this. I want to make sure they have strong opportunities. That’s really important to me.”
Dr Woods’ main campaign points were the mental health “crisis,” a lack of affordable housing in the electorate and public transport planning for the growth in the south-west.
“I think National is walking away from Christchurch before the job is done.”
She said the Ministry of Health was treating the Canterbury District Health Board as “business as usual,” and seven years on from the February 22, 2011, earthquake, thousands of homes were still not fixed.
“I’m number five in the Labour caucus, I’m at every conversation and shadow Cabinet discussions.”
But Mr Hiatt said Christchurch had strong advocacy within the Government, especially through Prime Minister Bill English. He hoped to build on that if elected.
“We’re 100 per cent committed to Christchurch and the rebuild and regeneration.”
Mr Hiatt grew up on a farm near North Canterbury’s Broomfield.
But when his father died of bowel cancer when he was five, they leased the farm, and later moved into Christchurch.
After attending Medbury School and Christ’s College, he spent a gap year in England coaching cricket and rugby before studying a Bachelor of Commerce and Management at Lincoln University.
He and Nichola returned to Christchurch after a stint in Canada and set up tourism business Lookout Point and Canterbury Guiding Co, which he recently sold.
He said it was through the tourism business he got to know the Wigram electorate well.
In spite of running for the seat, he lives in Strowan, in the Ilam electorate, about 2km outside of the boundary.
But he said he spent the majority of his time in the electorate.
“It’s about what you do and what you deliver as opposed to where you live.”
Dr Woods said a local MP had to be a representative of the community.
“I’m confident I’ve worked really hard for the people of Wigram,” she said.
“It’s not just about visiting the community like a day job. It’s about who you chat to when you go down and buy the milk.”
Both Dr Woods and Mr Hiatt will continue to campaign right up until September 23, through street corner meetings, door knocking, mailbox drops, social media and hard work.
Let the games begin.