Where do you choose to spend your money each day? What do your choices say about you? To some, these may seem like trivial or frivolous decisions, but we know that every dollar spent is a political statement, and these choices are especially weighty at a time when disposable income is a precious resource.
So what better way to get to know the three main Wellington Central electoral candidates – Ibrahim Omer (Labour), Scott Sheeran (National) and Tamatha Paul (Green) – than asking them where they spend their own money and time? Their answers may surprise and enlighten you. They may even sway you. As we said in 2020, when we asked the same of the then Auckland Central candidates: policy is of course important – but the personal is political.
Why Wellington Central? It’s one of the most diverse electorates in the country and with current MP Grant Robertson and previous Greens candidate James Shaw switching list-only and previous National candidate Nicola Willis moving her electorate campaign to Ōhāriu, the electorate has become one of the most exciting seats in the country.
As well as housing the New Zealand Parliament, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, two universities and many government agencies, Wellington Central is also home to plenty of stores and studios that make up our local fashion industry.
Regardless of what electorate you live in, please do check that you are enrolled and cast your vote on or before October 14.
(Candidates’ answers are listed in alphabetical order)
Where do you live in Wellington Central?
Ibrahim Omer: I rent in Mount Cook.
Scott Sheeran: Te Aro.
Tamatha Paul: I’m a renter and I live with my five flatmates in Aro Valley!
What makes Wellington Central so special?
IO: The diverse and creative people. We are the arts centre of New Zealand and there are so many exciting businesses that liven up our streets. When I came here with nothing as a refugee this place gave me so many opportunities, and I want to give back by being an advocate for our city in Parliament.
SS: The people.
TP: It’s a city that embraces individuality, where you can be who you want and wear what you want without being judged. It’s a city that makes you realise your inherent power to impact the society you want to live in whether that’s joining a march or a protest, leafleting, signing petitions or even running into politicians on the street.
What are the biggest issues facing the electorate?
IO: Housing, public transport, water infrastructure, and climate resilience.
SS: Housing, transport, investment.
TP: Housing, transport and tax systems. Housing, and the lack of affordable, quality homes, is the biggest issue facing Wellington. For many people, a majority of their income is being spent on exorbitant rents and often people are paying through the roof, for homes that leak through the roof. Our city suffers when people cannot afford to live here.
Our lack of sustainable and effective transport. I will fight hard to accelerate the construction of light rail in our city, and for the best pay and working conditions for our bus drivers. Light rail will radically decarbonise our city and will bring investment into our city, as investors are attracted when they can see major transport and infrastructure projects. It will also help facilitate the construction of more houses as has been seen in places such as Canberra and Sydney, where light rail is envisaged. Light rail can move twice the number of people along the same corridor. This will help the bus service and mean greater coverage by the public transport network.
I will work to tax the unearned wealth of the top few percent of New Zealanders and put that money to work to lift all of our whānau out of poverty to create a fair society. The Greens’ tax policy means greater investment into our health and education systems, and it means liveable incomes for all, particularly for groups like tertiary students, artists, parents and beneficiaries.
Where will you be on election night?
IO: With our huge and dedicated team of volunteers. The Labour movement inspires me every day.
SS: With my family and supporters.
TP: With the hundreds of volunteers whose energy and stamina will have hopefully led us to victory! We will be at El Barrio, a local bar that I wholeheartedly support for their progressive views on transforming our city centre.
Where do you get your morning coffee? (and what’s your coffee order)
SS: Midnight Expresso [sic], flat white.
TP: People’s Coffee on Luke’s Lane! Living wage employer and the best coffee in town and I know the manager who scolds me everytime I stir my coffee haha.
What’s the restaurant you’ve been going to for years?
SS: Monsoon Poon.
TP: Oaks Satay Noodle House! A Wellington classic. Affordable and delicious.
Where do you go for something fancy?
IO: I’m not really a big fan of fancy restaurants, but Origami on Cuba Street is great!
SS: Salty Pidgin.
TP: At the moment I’m loving KISA, their food is delicious!
Best ‘cheap eat’?
IO: K C Café.
TP: Love a Kapitan curry, roti and rice from Lil Penang.
Where do you go for takeaways when you can’t be bothered cooking?
IO: I love going to Abrakebabra on Manners Street on the way home, especially as it's on my bus route.
SS: Mt Vic Chippery.
TP: Depends how I’m feeling but my favourites are:
● Pad thai chicken from Oaks Satay Noodle House
● Kapitan curry and roti from Little Penang
● Roast lamb meal from Baycourt Roast
● Enchiladas de carne con queso from Viva Mexico
● Pinky pie from Winner Winner
Brunch on a Sunday: where are you going?
IO: Raglan Roast.
SS: Oriental Bay, Gelissimo, with the kids.
You’re celebrating: where to?
IO: Southern Cross, it’s where I had my graduation celebration and there are many good memories there.
SS: The Pickle Jar
TP: Gonna go lie on the beanbags outside Rogue and Vagabond and have a cold one.
Your go-to for a drink on one of Wellington’s good days?
IO: Kaffee Eis for coffee and ice cream, I don’t really drink.
SS: St John’s Bar
TP: Wai Māori!
Favourite place for a gig?
SS: Michael Fowler Centre.
TP: Meow or Rogue and Vagabond but our city desperately needs a medium sized venue so we can have bigger shows and more artists. Our local artists are also growing their audiences and I really wanna have a solid venue offering so they can stay here and keep progressing.
Best annual event?
IO: CubaDupa! It is so great to see all communities across Wellington come together. Wellington is such a diverse place, across the rainbow community, public servants, migrants, artists, workers, and so many more, and CubaDupa is such an expression of that. I want to be an advocate for all these communities. Plus the food trucks are yum!
TP: Homegrown or Matariki.
Best event you’ve ever attended in Wellington Central?
IO: Back in the day the Wellington Sevens was amazing. I hope to see those kind of things back!
SS: Fat Freddy’s Drop concert at Government House.
TP: I went to a Matariki event at Pipitea Marae last year with the best chefs in Aotearoa who did a 13 course meal with local produce and it was mind blowing. I’ve never eaten kina prepared quite like that before.
IO: I spend way too much money at Barkers.
SS: Te Papa Store.
Favourite spot for NZ fashion?
IO: As you can tell from my going to Barkers a lot, I’m not much of a fashion guy!
SS: Twenty-seven Names.
TP: RUBY is a classic, I love their clothes and their kaupapa.
Favourite vintage store?
IO: I’m not a big shopper to be honest!
TP: Hunters and Collectors.
Where do you go when you’re after local art or design?
IO: I often walk past the Solander Gallery, right by Grant [Roberton] and I’s electorate office on Willis Street, which always has some nice pieces to look at through the window.
SS: Māori Arts Gallery.
TP: Kura Gallery is where I go when I want to support indigenous artists and get koha for friends and whānau.
Where do you go to ‘indulge’?
IO: If I have spare time (not often!), it's always stunning to walk up Mt Vic and watch the sun set.
TP: Basically any dessert place but I’m obsessed with the dessert pies at Winner Winner on Courtenay.
Your regular dairy?
IO: I’m not super close to any dairies now, but when I lived in the council flats on Brooklyn Road it was always Shalimar.
SS: Cuba Street Superette
TP: Aro Valley Mini Mart.
IO: Countdown Mt Cook.
SS: New World Chaffers.
TP: I go to New World Chaffers or Countdown on Lambton Quay when I’m at mahi but prefer to try buy local at the Harbourside Market.
Nature in the city: where’s your favourite spot?
IO: I love to walk around Central Park in Brooklyn, and have been to Zealandia plenty too. We are so lucky to have such great green spaces around the city.
TP: I love Waimapihi in the Aro Valley> It’s a hotspot for our native birds and I love seeing my favourite bird, the kārearea, out there in the wild.
Your favourite Wellington Central building?
IO: In terms of architecture, Old Government Buildings (the law school) is so cool. I used to clean that building and went to some tutorials there too.
SS: Old St Paul’s.
TP: Te Rau Karamu Marae in Pukeahu Mount Cook is the most beautiful marae. Marae are so important to the resilience of our city and the celebration of our indigenous culture.
A Wellington Central icon that must be protected?
IO: Victoria University! It's such an important part of our city, and when I came to New Zealand with nothing, I insisted to the refugee resettlement officials that I wanted to move to Wellington because I had the dream of going to VUW. After years of cleaning around the city, I had the chance to learn in the same lecture theatres I was cleaning. It changed my life.
The recent job losses have been really hard, and I was proud to advocate strongly within Government for the extra funding the tertiary sector received earlier this year that softened the blow (at one point I spoke to Minister Tinetti all the way from a coffee shop up to her office to push for it). But we know there is a lot more to do, and I want to keep working with the TEU and VUWSA to get the current funding review right and do better for our uni.
SS: Bret McKenzie.
TP: Woody the Tree!
A Wellington icon gone before its time?
IO: VicBooks. I enjoyed it as a cleaner and a student, and while studying I had a ritual to sit there with a coffee after every exam just to decompress, a real shame that it’s gone.
SS: Jemaine Clement.
TP: Boogie Wonderland :(
Best Wellington Central ‘secret’?
IO: It’s no secret, but we do have the best coffee in the world! I have tried coffee everywhere in New Zealand, but there is nothing like a flat white here in Wellington.
SS: Innermost Gardens.
Anywhere else you’d like to add - or give a shout out to?
IO: The Gipps St Deli in Karori. A great local family business.
SS: Mākara Walkway.
TP: A big shout out to Good Boy Sammies in Newtown! Delicious.