O'Connor still passionate after 20 years

By Ben Aulakh of the Westport News
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The West Coast’s elected MP says he is as passionate and driven about his job as he was when he entered Parliament 20 years ago.
West Coast-Tasman Labour Party MP Damien O’Connor celebrated two decades in Parliament yesterday.
He marked the occasion by delivering a speech in Parliament on the Casino Bill, before having a few drinks with colleagues in the evening.
Mr O’Connor said that apart from a few months at the start of 2009, his 20-year run in Parliament since 1993 had been unbroken. His period out of Parliament followed his 2008 election defeat to Chris Auchinvole, before he returned as a Labour list MP.
He felt fortunate to have made it to a 20-year milestone, he said.
“(I’m) humbled to have been in Parliament for that long, it’s not something that happens to many MPs ... as long as people feel I have something to offer and contribute then I’m very lucky.”
He felt he had been a passionate advocate for his electorate, even when at times that had been at odds with Labour policies.
Such differences were all part of a healthy democracy, he said.
Helping to negotiate a $120 million compensation package in lieu of the end of native logging on the Coast was one of his proudest moments in government.
“That should be enduring and provide opportunities for the West Coast for a very long time.”
The “close-to-riot” situation in Greymouth prior to the compensation package had been a little nerve-wracking, he said.
He also admitted that he had paid the price for his time in Parliament in other ways.
“The cost to my family and time lost is something I can never compensate for ... I am forever grateful that my family remains connected with me given the pressures they have had to be put under.”
Mr O’Connor said he remained as committed to life as an MP and to helping get Labour back into power.