Wānaka Sun       

Hawea local stands for the ACT Party

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 06 Aug, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

With the general election fast approaching, the Wanaka Sun intends to profile, once a week, the five candidates for the Waitaki Electorate.

This week it's the turn of home town boy Sean Beamish who has lived in Hawea all his adult life. He is standing for the ACT Party.

Beamish, (36) is a  mechanical engineer and has been an ACT Party member for about two years.

When the Wanaka Sun caught up with him, he had been doing a "billboard run" and had done five billboards for that day.

He says he has been a member of the ACT Party for a while but didn't have it in mind to run as a candidate for the Waitaki electorate until recently.

It started with me volunteering to put some billboards up for them a while ago, he says.

Waitaki didn't have a candidate, and through a few conversations, this is the result.

So what is your background?

I'm a mechanical engineer. I studied at Otago Polytech and then worked up at Cardrona Ski Resort for a few years in the early 2000s.

Since then I've spent the better part of 10 years in Australia and a couple of years in the Democratic Republic of Congo and most recently up in Papua New Guinea.

The Papua New Guinea and Congo jobs I was mentoring young engineers.

I have lived in Lake Hawea all my adult life, and I commute to my overseas jobs from there.

So why the ACT Party?

Their party values are very much aligned with mine. It's a case of individual freedom and the responsibility that goes along with that.

Also, free-market economics and small governments staying out of people's lives as much as possible and letting them get on with it.

In particular, at the start of the campaign, we didn't know the coronavirus was going to happen. At the same time, it was still about the government letting the private sector get on and succeed rather than taking too much control over what's happening and dictating to them what the recovery should look like.

At the moment we have the border closed and the government managing all of the quarantine. There is real potential for the private sector to get engaged if the government would give them some guidelines around what the rules are and how they have to manage them. We might find that there is a tourism sector that is very happy to come in and enjoy two weeks in a nice hotel or one of our backcountry lodges.

It's about having a conversation about how we can best take advantage of the situation we have got. We are an island nation that is relatively coronavirus free- it's something that we should be able to capitalise on.

And closer to home?

Our region, in particular, is very much a tourist-reliant economy. So we have to have conversations on how we can get smarter border controls and start opening ourselves up to some of the nations that are already coronavirus free.  Rarotonga and some of our Pacific neighbours, for instance, for tourists, to go both ways.

We don't know what's going to be possible, but we need to start having some conversations about what we can do and how we can get businesses back on their feet rather than have to support them with taxpayer money.

Rarotonga etc. would these people want to come to New Zealand at the moment?

I think those that have family here would be enthusiastic about being reunited. I think it's something we need to be exploring and not shutting our minds to.

So where do you see yourself in the electoral race?

I do not intend to win the seat, but I mean to be the representative of our community in Wellington. That's the realm of a democratic society - to represent the views of the constituents to the people who are making the decisions in Wellington.

I'm very supportive of what Jacqui (Dean) does as the electorate MP, and I am campaigning for the party vote for ACT in order to increase our influence with the government.

What is it that makes a mechanical engineer want to take a dabble at politics?

Ultimately it was my experiences overseas and seeing what can happen when a country loses its democratic systems and freedoms. It's something that doesn't come naturally, it needs people to step and become involved. And it's very easy having been born in a free democratic country to take for granted really how good we have it.

I would certainly much rather be in a difficult situation in New Zealand than in an average situation in the Congo.

In the Congo, there is 82 per cent unemployment. And a similar percentage living on less than US$1 a day which is the international guideline for poverty.

I was working for a mining company, training engineers on a copper mine. It was really good- the company I worked for was operating with western safety standards and teaching nationals how to do mining in a safe and productive way.

It was a good experience. I got home every three months.

And the political situation in the Congo?

They call themselves a democratic republic but their election had been delayed for about 16 years. In general, the public had more to fear from the police force and their military than from each other. Corruption is pretty rife. Life expectancy is low, and infrastructure is poor. But they are fantastic people- friendly, polite, willing to learn, and with powerful tribal relationships and separate hierarchies that we are unused to in the west.

With the hierarchies, just because you make someone a supervisor doesn't mean they can tell a chief outside of work what to do.

So where to from now?

I'm going to be on the campaign trail, meeting more people and telling them why the ACT Party policies present a good option for the people of New Zealand and can pull us out of our current scenario much more quickly than some of the others.

Waitaki is a big electorate- I'm going to Mt Cook, Geraldine, Oamaru, down to Moheno, Ranfurly and over this way.

It's pretty impressive when you think that the Waitaki electorate has got the same number of people as 20 square kilometres of Auckland. It's a lot of productive land, and it needs representation.

View edition 986 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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