The first seven candidates representing The Opportunities Party (TOP) for the upcoming General Election have been confirmed.
Joining the Party Leader, Raf Manji, are four previous candidates and two newcomers. As previously confirmed, Raf Manji will be standing in Ilam, his old council ward and an electorate he believes he can win, having finished second in 2017 with 23% of the vote. TOP will also be targeting two other electorates where it feels it has a chance, Ōhāriu and Epsom.
Jessica Hammond will contest Ōhāriu, where she finished third in both 2017 and 2020. Jessica is a public servant who has worked on issues ranging from transport infrastructure, to health and disability. She has two children and is outraged that there are families in New Zealand living in houses worse than her scummy student flat from her university days. For Jessica, child poverty is and will always be top of mind - and she is prepared to take the bold steps needed to fight it. She will also act as Co-Deputy Leader.
TOP will also be targeting the Epsom electorate with one of its two newcomers, Dr Nina Su. She is a children’s and emergency doctor with a strong passion for evidence-based medicine, education and equitable outcomes. Previously, Dr Nina Su has had trouble finding a political party that truly matched her values with an emphasis on evidence-based policy and a focus on preventative and early intervention strategies. She believes TOP can look at New Zealand with fresh eyes and build a better tomorrow for generations to come.
Shai Navot, TOP’s previous leader, returns after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl and writing her thesis on the housing crisis in New Zealand whilst on maternity leave. She is a practising lawyer, with experience in both civil litigation and criminal prosecution. She spent several years working in the justice system, prosecuting cases on behalf of the Crown and various government agencies. Shai is running for The Opportunities Party (TOP) in Upper Harbour. Shai brings determination and passion to everything she does and firmly believes that we need to create a fairer society, with a system that genuinely supports everyone to reach their potential and live a fulfilling life - and she believes TOP’s policies represent our best chance at achieving that goal. Shai will be Co-Deputy Leader alongside Jessica.
Dr Ben Peters will stand again in Dunedin where he finished fourth in 2020. He has a PhD in Biochemistry and plays a key role in developing many of TOP’s environmental and climate resilience policies that require a deep understanding of science, sustainability, and health. He brings a distinct mix of scientific expertise, a dedication to serving his local community, and a desire to make a positive impact for all Kiwis. He serves on the board of his local church and the Mornington School board, where he has held policy and finance positions. With a wife of eleven years and two young children, Ben is deeply rooted in Dunedin and is dedicated to strengthening and serving his community.
Also returning from 2020 is Ciara Swords. Ciara is a first-generation Kiwi who was born in the UAE and moved to New Zealand at five years old with her Filipino mother and Irish father. Her parents decided to move to the beautiful town of One Tree Point in Whangārei for a better life. She had a fantastic childhood with freedom to play outside on farms and beaches - but from a young age, Ciara was acutely aware of the inequality that existed around her.
While studying Economics at the University of Otago, Ciara learnt about the many issues ingrained within New Zealand’s tax system that the main political parties either refused or were unable to solve. When she came across The Opportunities Party, she saw that they had solutions that would actually work - she knew she had to get involved. Ciara now lives in Auckland’s beautifully diverse Mt Albert suburb and works in account management and customer service for a shared office space provider in the CBD. She is running for TOP in her local Mt Albert electorate.
Damian Sycamore, another newcomer, rounds off the team. He has been working in the leadership team of a K-Road-based construction software start-up for the past five years. He has worked with a diverse group of people across New Zealand and Australia who all share one common struggle: unaffordable housing. It is housing, specifically the progressive Land Value Tax policy, that led Damian to put his name forward to run for TOP in the Auckland Central electorate.
Damian’s palpable passion for affordable housing started four years ago when he bought his first house. It was the cheapest house he could find in the neighbourhood he wanted to live in. Since grasping that bottom rung of the property ladder, most of his free time and energy has been spent on trying to make the home liveable for himself, his partner, and their three-year-old son.
Damian knows he’s not alone: for the younger generations of Kiwis, housing is often prohibitively expensive, and if they are lucky enough to buy a house, it either needs a lot of work, is in a flood-prone area, or is a lengthy commute from work. This predicament leaves many of his peers either giving up on owning a home or moving out of the country.
TOP Leader, Raf Manji, fresh from his first election debate at the University of Auckland this week, is excited about this next step for the party in its journey towards the 2023 General Election.
“It’s time to build for the future and look to the next generation to deliver a fairer New Zealand. The pressing issues of living costs, housing affordability and climate change need to be tackled urgently and this group of candidates is passionate about that challenge.”
TOP plans to announce further candidates next month as it looks to field a full squad of 22 to take to the election pitch in October.