Labour's 22 new MPs welcomed with hugs and a warning Parliament can be 'pretty intimidating'

Labour's 22 new MPs have been welcomed to Wellington's halls of power with a hug from Grant Robertson and a warning from Andrew Little that Parliament can be a "pretty intimidating place". 

Labour's landslide election victory on Saturday means Parliament will be painted red with a big bunch of new MPs joining the caucus. Labour will now have 64 seats in Parliament - 15 of them previously held by National. 

The new Labour MPs arrived at Parliament on Monday morning and were greeted by Labour's Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson and Kiri Allan, fresh from her victory in East Coast, the seat held by former National MP Anne Tolley. 

Robertson, addressing the group of new MPs outside Parliament, described them as a "good-looking bunch", and said it was "brilliant" to see them there after meeting many on the campaign trail. 

"I want to acknowledge right now your hard work and the work of your teams and your whānau. That is a big part of why you're here. You are going to be a great class," Robertson said. 

"I've already made the joke about three times but I'm feeling much healthier already - we've got GPS, we've got midwives - we're covering all the bases. All of you bring something really special to this caucus and I can't wait to get on with it."

Andrew Little, a former Labour Party leader and list candidate who has served as Justice Minister, told the new MPs not to be afraid of seeking help because Parliament can be an intimidating environment. 

"You will have maximum support. There's no one you can't go to, talk to, seek help from. This can be a pretty intimidating place, you don't have to know everything about it in your first year, actually your first three years - don't worry," he said. 

"I still got lost after six months in this place. It's perfectly natural and normal."

Labour's class of 2020 posed together for a photo and some of them spoke to the press.  

Labour's new MPs.
Labour's new MPs. Photo credit: Newshub

"It's an honour and a privilege," said Rachel Boyack, Labour's new MP for Nelson, which had been held by National's Nick Smith since 1996. 

"I just want to acknowledge the incredible work that Nick Smith has done for the Nelson community over the years and I know I have some big shoes to fill," Boyack, chair of Labour's Policy Council, told reporters. 

On Labour's meteoric rise, Boyack said: "I think this is a result based on the need for certainty and support for Labour's plan as we recover and rebuild from COVID-19.

"It was a four-year job interview for me so I'm really delighted but also really humbled and know that I have a huge job to do now."

Nelson MP Rachel Boyack.
Nelson MP Rachel Boyack. Photo credit: Newshub

Not all of Labour's new MPs won an electorate. Some of them are getting in on the party list, such as Naisi Chen who sits at number 38. Chen stood in Botany but was beaten by National's candidate, former Air New Zealand boss Chris Luxon. 

"Getting ready for it," said Chen, a former advisory board member of NZ China Council, when asked what's on the agenda for the day ahead. "Just meeting the team and getting used to everything and knowing where everything is. It's a big place."

Labour list MPs Naisi Chen and Camilla Belich.
Labour list MPs Naisi Chen and Camilla Belich. Photo credit: Newshub

Rachel Brooking is another list candidate at number 46, who will become a Labour MP. She was "a bit nervous but mainly excited", and said Labour's big win is "a big thank you to Jacinda for being so clear, so responsive, and so people-focused". 

Labour list MP Rachel Brooking.
Labour list MP Rachel Brooking. Photo credit: Newshub

Steph Lewis, who replaces National's Harete Hipango as MP for Whanganui, laughed when asked if she had ever been interviewed by the media before. 

"Yes - not quite so many of you, though," she said. 

Lewis, who has worked as an employment advocate, a lawyer, an advisor and an investigator, has sought to win the Whanganui electorate before and said it was "incredible" to finally get it. 

"It hasn't sunk in yet but I'm very honoured by the faith that the people in the Whanganui electorate have put in me and I hope to do them proud over the next three years and hopefully beyond," she said. 

"I've got a really diverse background and I grew up in both the urban part and rural part of Whanganui so I really understand the issues on the ground in all three parts of our electorate - we've got three different districts there and so I'm ready to get stuck in and work on the ground."

Whanganui MP Steph Lewis.
Whanganui MP Steph Lewis. Photo credit: Newshub

Ingrid Leary will be the Labour MP for the new electorate Taieri, which has drawn together urban Dunedin South with parts of rural South Otago. She has experience in law, journalism, and public service.

"Very excited to meet all the new colleagues - it's a whole new adventure," Leary said, when asked how she felt about becoming an MP. 

On what her priorities are going forward, she said: "Hunkering down, getting to know the rules, getting to meet my colleagues, getting to see how it all works, and me being a strong voice for the Taieri electorate.

"Jacinda Ardern is a fantastic Prime Minister. She's led us safely and stably through COVID. I also think the teams on the ground worked really, really hard and we made sure that we got out and met voters face-to-face and had the key messages."

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary.
Taieri MP Ingrid Leary. Photo credit: Newshub

Leary pushed back against speculation during the election campaign over whether she was planning to stay in the Taieri electorate were she to lose the race. 

Questions were raised when Leary confirmed she spent lockdown on Waiheke Island, but Leary said she lived in South Dunedin where she had a child at school. 

"I have already moved," she told reporters, when asked if she will relocate from Waiheke. "I've lived in the Taieri electorate for a year. I have a house there and my son is at school there so don't believe everything you read on social media." 

Labour's newbies also include the party's first refugee MP Ibrahim Omer, a list candidate, who left his home country of Eritrea in 2003, making the dangerous border crossing to neighbouring Sudan.

Takanini MP Dr Neru Leavasa.
Takanini MP Dr Neru Leavasa. Photo credit: Newshub

He spent years in UN-run refugee camps where he worked as an interpreter, until being detained on suspicion of being a spy. It was only when the UN stepped in that he was rescued and offered the chance to come to New Zealand.

Another newcomer is Dr Neru Leavasa, who becomes MP for the newest electorate, Takanini. The south Auckland GP is also a small business owner, and has served on one of the Government's Covid-19 advisory boards.