During March the National Party selected a new candidate to replace Maggie Barry, who is retiring at the 2020 election, after three terms in parliament. From a field of around 10 candidates who put themselves forward, the party chose Simon Watts, currently the deputy CFO at the Waitemata District Health Board. Aged in his early 40s, Simon looks to be a high quality candidate as the party seeks to retain the seat in the September elections.
Simon Watts had a rural upbringing, being born in the Waikato – Cambridge, where his family were farmers and orchardists. He is the eldest of three brothers and went on to study accounting and finance at university before starting his career at Deloitte, qualifying as a chartered accountant.
With his wife Shannon (whom he met at University), Simon embarked on an OE, ending up in London, where he worked for one of the world’s largest investment banks for nine years, during and after the global financial crisis. They returned to New Zealand in 2013. Shannon has a successful career in marketing and they have two primary school aged sons, Jack and Callum.
When Simon returned from his OE he completed a health sciences degree allowing him to also practice as a frontline ambulance officer with St John.
Simon has been in his finance role at Waitematā DHB for the past three years. The local DHB employs over 7,000 staff with an almost $2 billion budget. It is one of the largest and best-performing in New Zealand. He says he's proud to have played a part in its success, having worked alongside some amazing doctors and healthcare workers. He was keen to acknowledge the enormous effort they are making right now to keep us all safe and well.
Channel Magazine’s Aidan Bennett caught up with Simon Watts to put these questions to him shortly after he won the nomination is mid-March.
Aidan Bennett: What made you decide to get into politics?
Simon Watts: I’ve always been impatient with the pace of change. New Zealand is a small but brilliant country with opportunities in front of us, and I want to help us take them. Whether this is building new infrastructure, enabling growth or future-proofing, I want to see New Zealand grow again and be even better. When my two boys are young adults and they ask me… ”Dad what did you do to make our community and country better” I’ll have a good answer and can point to examples.
AB: How long have you lived on the North Shore and what do you love about the place?
SW: When my wife Shannon and two boys returned home to New Zealand in 2013, we deliberately chose to live on the Shore as it was the ideal spot to raise our family. We like the community feel of the Shore and enjoy the beautiful backyard including some of New Zealand’s best beaches, the gulf, parks, and our business district.
AB: What are the special features you particularly like about our little slice of paradise, the North Shore electorate?
SW: I like the fact that we are a destination. We are a combination of communities that make up the electorate, and each local community has its unique aspects which makes it such a great place to represent.
AB: What are the key differences that you would like to make if elected to parliament?
SW: I’m determined to be a strong advocate for our local issues including securing a second harbour crossing to improve transport into the city, upgrading our water networks to clean up the beaches, and revitalising our business district as a hub for job growth.
AB: Do you know much about life at The Beehive?
SW: The Beehive is a community in itself. It’s like Waterloo Station in London from Tuesday to Thursday, it has its characters. But, most importantly, the decisions that are made in Wellington affect what happens here on the Shore, so it’s my job to ensure we get our fair share.
AB: What politicians have you admired and looked up to and why?
SW: I like politicians who have a clear vision about the future and make that vision a reality – quite simply they do what they say they will do. Bill English made a specific contribution introducing social investment. Steven Joyce championed infrastructure and John Key was a relatable leader. We have a new generation of people entering politics – many of whom have achieved plenty in the real-work in business and are wanting to contribute their experience to make New Zealand the best it can be – I’m one of those types of people.
AB: Are there any specific issues facing our part of the world that you are keen to get involved with?
SW: Whether it's improving transport links, upgrading our wastewater to make our beaches safer to swim at, supporting our local economy and businesses to manage through this economic downturn, or ensuring our frontline health services are getting the support they needs. Health services – ensuring we have the people and supplies we need right now to keep our people safe; transport links – we all want to get to work faster and home again to see our families, whether by public transport, ferries or car; wastewater – stopping the sewerage going onto our beaches so we don’t have to check an app before you take the kids swimming; business – supporting our local economy to proposer again and rebound strongly when the opportunity arises.
AB: Complete the following… after a big week at Parliament, there is nothing more I would love to do than…
SW: … Come home, see my family and friends, have brunch at a local café and put on my running shoes for a jog along the beautiful coastline that we have here on the North Shore.