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Gareth Hughes

Meet Gareth Hughes

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Phone: 04 817 8287
Email: gareth [dot] hughes [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz

Spokesperson for:

Energy, Oceans, Mining (oceans), ICT, Libraries & Archives

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Gareth's bio

Gareth entered Parliament as the youngest MP in 2010 and now in his second term he is focused on campaigning for clean energy, healthy oceans and a free and open Internet. He is the Green Party Musterer.

He was the New Zealand Herald Backbencher of the Year in 2011.

Gareth, who grew up in Gisborne, has a degree in Religious Studies, History and Politics from Victoria University and has previously worked for Greenpeace. In 2009 Gareth co-ordinated Greenpeace's Sign On campaign where more than 200,000 Kiwis 'Signed On' to action on Climate Change.

Gareth, lives in Wellington is married to Meghan and they have two young children, Arlo and Zoe.

Gareth's story

It was the image that defined the protest. The planet's most famous fast food clown peering through the rear window of a police car as he was hauled away for prosecution. Beneath the makeup and the wig and the lipstick and the overalls sat Gareth Hughes - activist, father and first-term Green MP.

"It was just a lucky photo," says Gareth, recalling with pride the success of his very first GE-free action. "I had locked myself to a McDonald's distribution facility to protest the company's use of GE chicken feed, and thought there would be some great shots of that, but in the end it was Ronald in a police car that appeared around the world."

Date of birth: 31 October 1981.
Family: Married to Meghan, father to Arlo and Zoe.
Hobbies: Boating, climbing and scuba diving.
Favourite NZ animal or bird: The Rockhopper penguin - I campaigned for them as part of Forest and Bird's Bird of the Year competition.
Favourite movie: Kill Bill.
Favourite novel: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.
Music I play on Saturday mornings: Diasteradio.
My never-fail recipe: My vegan self-saucing pudding (cooked for a hungry crew on the Rainbow Warrior).
Greatest sporting achievement: Breaking my nose and cracking my ribs in the first two Parliamentary rugby games I played.
Year entered Parliament: 2010.
Green Spokesperson for: Energy, Oceans, Mining (oceans) ICT, Libraries and Archives.
First political action: At university I established an Angry Residents Association at my student hall to protest at the poor student services.
Most embarrassing political moment: I've dressed as a shark (bottom trawling), chicken (GE), Electro Man (Auckland rail electrification), a snail (mining), orangutan (rainforest destruction) and of course, Ronald McDonald.
Proudest political moment: Coordinating the Sign On campaign for Greenpeace.
Hero: Bill Hicks.

Taking a stand against corporations and winning — McDonald's stopped using GE chicken feed within a month of the 'Unhappy Meal' campaign — didn't seem a likely career path for Gareth as a kid growing up in Gisborne. The 31 year-old admits to being "a bit of a munter who was into cars and girls" in his younger days. However, his outlook on life underwent a major overhaul once he entered University.

"The world opened up when I went to Victoria University," he says. "I started out intending to study commerce, but after stuffing up my enrolment I decided to drop any papers that sounded boring. As a consequence, I ended up with a double degree in Religion and History, which was fascinating and exciting in the context of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Something else to blossom at University was Gareth's relationship with his partner Meghan, with whom he now has a 3 year-old son, Arlo and new baby, Zoe.

"Well, I met Meghan, became a vegetarian, turned a little bit hippie, and moved to Waiheke Island, so you could say meeting my partner was a life-changing experience," he says.

With the change in lifestyle and location came a newfound eco-awareness that was to shape Gareth's political life. He quickly took up a role as a fundraiser for Greenpeace: "I met thousands of people everyday while trying to talk sense and raise money - sometimes not very successfully!"

Gareth has a modesty that belies his years. His work in GE-free activism, and later in climate change campaigning, saw him make his mark in both Greenpeace and the Green Party. His rise up the Green Party list was even more impressive when you consider he had been active in the party for only a few years.

"I became a member of the party in 2000, after the inspiring success of the Greens in the 1999 General Election," he says. "However it wasn't until five years later that I took a role with the parliamentary side of the organisation."

Gareth ran Sue Kedgley's Wellington office and also worked as a climate outreach co-ordinator for former party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"It was great to be more involved in party affairs - especially at the parliamentary level - and the experience crystallised my desire to become an MP," he says.

Gareth admits becoming an MP has been a goal for a long time, but at just 31, is he concerned about his relative youth?

"If this is the House of Representatives, then people my age should be represented," he says, matter-of-factly.

"No doubt people will call me young and inexperienced but I would rather be judged on my merits, not my age. I don't have parliamentary experience — that is obvious — but I have a new energy and a new generational approach and I think that is just as important."

Gareth admits that he needed to buy a suit before taking his seat in the House, but also knows that he is where he is because he has always been himself.

"I don't want to be anyone else, I just want to be Gareth," he says. "I come from a different generation to many sitting MPs. I don't remember the likes of Robert Muldoon and Roger Douglas — at least not the first time around — so all I can do is believe that my generation's time is now, and act on that."

Gareth has made no secret of the fact that he would dearly love a cabinet post one day — "The fact that [long-time Green Co-leader] Jeanette Fitzsimons never became a Minister is one of the great political tragedies"— and the safe money would be on him having a significant impact in the area of climate change.

Gareth coordinated Greenpeace's Sign On campaign which saw more than 200,000 signatures collected in support of more ambitious climate goals for New Zealand. Couple this with some high-intensity activism and you have the hallmarks of a passionate advocate for a cleaner, fairer and more sustainable country and planet.

"I spent three years working on climate change with Greenpeace and the Greens. We had some success, but you'll have to ask me in 30 years, not three, how successful we've really been," he says.

As far as Gareth is concerned, the Greens are the only party with a vision to create a future with more jobs, more security, more happiness and more opportunity, and he intends to be at the cutting edge of a move toward a better New Zealand.

It would appear that a man made famous for acting The Clown, is actually anything but.
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