Twice the voice in Wellington as probable ACT MP moves to Queenstown

by Kim Bowden - Aug 14, 2023

He's set to shift on Saturday from Sydney to Queenstown and, having landed ahead of several sitting MPs on the ACT Party's list, Todd Stephenson will likely be another Whakatipu-residing Wellington decision maker come October.

The ACT Party faithful (he's been a party member since day dot) has been rewarded with fourth spot in the party's ranking of potential MPs.

On current polling that should deliver him to parliament and, potentially, government, if ACT and National choose to go it together to lead the country.

Mr Stephenson is bucking trends to return from across the ditch - he's been Sydney-side for 17 years.

He and is partner will call Hanley's Farm home, moving permanently back into a residence they own that has been part rental, part holiday home until now.

He is no stranger to the south - born in Lumsden, high schooled at Invercargill's James Hargest, then a law degree from Otago.

There is a brother in Invercargill, a dad in Fiordland and other family in Queenstown. 

"It's just a place we've always wanted to come back to, and we obviously come here on holiday quite regularly, so it just made sense that that's where we would move to.

"But I think it's also got the bonus of ACT actually having, hopefully, a MP based in the lower South Island."

While he'll be officially standing in the Southland electorate, taking to the campaign trail alongside sitting National MP Joseph Mooney, he says he is after party vote ACT more than anything else.

"I've got a lot of 'meet-the-candidate' meetings booked in and I look forward to turning up at those.

"It's a very large electorate, and it's got a lot of different, diverse industries and populations.

"My approach, like the rest of my colleagues, is talking to people, understanding their issues...whether they're in Queenstown, Te Anau or Gore."

It is "too early" to talk about establishing an electorate office in Queenstown, he says.

He is leaving an established professional career in the healthcare sector, where he has represented multinational pharmaceuticals companies.

With increasing population growth in inland Otago and pressure for improved healthcare service provision locally, he reckons he's well-equipped to help the region move forward.

"I've spent a lot of time advocating with government and other stakeholders around quite complex healthcare issues...I'm really looking forward to discussing with the locals what they see as the issues and the needs, and then talking about how that can be addressed."

He sees managing growth as a "key challenge" for Queenstown.

"How can that be managed, and the right infrastructure put in place and funded."

If it isn't done right, the area is at risk of not attracting talent, he says.

Another hot topic he's expecting on the election trail - the cost of living crisis.

"Obviously it is particularly an issue in Queenstown and the Whakatipu Basin where the cost of living is astronomical. And, obviously, tied to that are things like the cost of building houses, rent and the flow on there is the accommodation shortage, and I'm acutely aware of how difficult it is to try and rent a property in Queenstown for workers. So, I think that that's definitely going to be something of interest that will be talked about over the campaign."

He pushes back at any suggestion ACT isn't really considered a party for the workers.

"We're a party for all Kiwis...We want to make sure that regardless of your economic circumstances, that you actually have the chance to get ahead in New Zealand.

"That's one of the things that have been troubling us over the last six years - Labour hasn't actually moved things forward."

He can't resist chucking in a word or two on the current government's co-governance direction also, saying he thinks ethnicity is "being used to divide New Zealanders rather than bring them together".

"We've got some sensible ideas, and some sensible policies and think all Kiwis should consider giving ACT their part vote.

"We're obviously doing really well in the polls at the moment and we're looking forward to getting a great team into parliament after the election."

Mr Stephenson's official bio says he has been a member of ACT since its formation 30 years ago and campaigned for the party at four elections from 1996 to 2005. He was also employed by the party from 1997 to 2000 and twice elected to the ACT Board.

"For the past 17 years (he) has lived in Australia mainly working for large multinational healthcare companies where he has gained experience in leadership and strategy, public affairs, government relations, public policy, and stakeholder engagement.

"He has a good understanding of the workings and processes of parliamentary democracies, and has maintained an interest in politics supporting issues, candidates, and political parties that align with his classical liberal views."

The Southland seat has only ever been held by a National MP, and sitting MP Joseph Mooney has announced he is standing for another term.

In 2020, the ACT Party received 5,016 party votes in Southland, behind Labour with 15,341 (a historic party vote win in the South) and National with 14,244.





Support Crux Support Crux