Rip it up and start again: New Zealand needs a new social contract says new TOP leader

Two-time Christchurch city councillor Raf Manji has been appointed as leader of The Opportunities Party (TOP).

27 January, 2022 – New Zealand needs to work quickly to become a more equitable place to live, or we are all “absolutely stuffed”, says newly appointed leader of The Opportunities Party (TOP), Raf Manji.

“We need to become a more sustainable society – socially, environmentally, and economically. By many indicators we are at breaking point, we need deep structural change, and fast, if we are to prosper over the coming decades.”

“I’m focused on rebalancing the current system to support all our communities, not just those with easy access to capital. We need to build a sustainable economy that serves all of us and move away from this relentless focus on housing and its monthly price movements.” 

“To do that, we need to forge a new social contract.”

Manji, who has served two terms as a Christchurch city councillor, says his new role as leader of TOP is the culmination of over 20 years’ work and research. 

With a background in global finance, governance, strategy, policy and risk, Manji brings an impressive skillset to TOP. He says the party has long interested him for its strong focus on structural reform, through policies such as a Universal Basic Income, a topic Manji has previously advocated for and spoke about at the 2016 TEDxChristchurch.

“I look at National and Labour and see them as two sides of the same coin. Neither of them is identifying solutions to the very real and pressing issues facing us today. They represent the status quo and their dominance is holding us back. It’s time for a new voice at the table and a more collaborative approach to solving problems and producing policy that works.”

Manji’s immediate goal is to get TOP into Parliament, with over five percent of the Party Vote in the 2023 General Election.

“If we manage that, we will be the first new party in Parliament in 20 years. It’s achievable, people want solutions to the big problems and recognise that neither the Left nor the Right has all the answers. We’d bring fresh thinking, rather than the old tribalism, to the Beehive, something that a lot of voters are crying out for.”

Manji first stood for public office in Christchurch in 2013 as an independent, and won comfortably in the traditionally blue electorate of Ilam. He served two terms as a city councillor and chair of the council’s Finance Committee, where his main focus was the council’s post-quake strategic direction, risk management and engagement with central government.

Following the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch, Manji acted as an independent advisor to the Christchurch Foundation, dealing with the distribution of donated funds and providing advocacy and support to the affected families “24 hours a day, seven days a week”.

Manji was born in London to immigrant parents of Muslim Indian and Irish Catholic descent. Although not religious himself, his financial background and understanding of the Muslim world made him an obvious pick for the role. He found that survivors struggling with immigration, housing, mental health, language barriers and more came to him after struggling to get appropriate help from government agencies.

Manji moved to New Zealand in 2002. His appointment to TOP makes him the first immigrant leader of a mainstream political party in New Zealand. 

“By 2050, about half of New Zealand’s population will be Māori, Pasifika or Asian. Particularly in Auckland, our population is already very diverse, and we need to see more diverse representation at the top.”

Manji replaces Shai Navot as TOP leader, who is stepping down having guided the Party through its post-2020 election review and led the search for a new Leader. “The time is right to hand over TOP’s leadership to Raf,” she says. “He’s got a real vision for the Party and for the future of New Zealand. Raf will make an excellent MP and advocate for real change.”

“It’s been an honour to lead an incredible group of people during this transition period, and to represent a party that cares so much about improving the lives for everyone. I look forward to seeing the party continue to grow as we build towards the next election.”