A freedom fighter for our people - Sandra Lee-Vercoe

By Piripi Taylor

Heartfelt words of sympathy are being heard throughout the country at the passing of former Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton. He was 79-years-old when he passed peacefully at Cashmere View Hospital in Christchurch last night. His passing is felt by those all over the country and also by his former Deputy Leader Sandra Lee-Vercoe.

Former Mana Māori Motuhake leader Sandra Lee-Vercoe is mourning the loss of a man of huge respect and dignity, “When the New Zealand Labour Party was at its very worst under the power of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble. Jim Anderton was the only one on parliament who continued to say this is madness. This is anti-people. This is creating rich and poor. This is ruining New Zealand society and taking our sovereignty.”  

The two joined forces in 1991, 2yrs after Anderton split from the Labour Party to form the NewLabour Party. Together they formed the Alliance Party along with the Democratic Party and the Greens and both entered parliament after the 1993 elections.

“Under the first past the post system it was almost impossible for our candidates to get elected to Parliament. So the notion of joining together with other parties like the New Labour Party and the Greens was a good opportunity for our movement.”

After stepping down as leader of the Alliance, Lee-Vercoe persuaded Anderton to return in '95 in a coalition with Labour. Then the Labour-led coalition ended 9yrs of a National government in '99, and Anderton became deputy PM under Helen Clark.

“He was very prepared to defer to me as his Deputy in almost all political matters Māori that came before us, both in opposition and in the cabinet.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paid tribute, saying "He will be remembered as someone who stood up for his principles and for the people he represented."

“Very pouri, it’s very sad that this great leader of New Zealand, a freedom fighter for our people and those that are the most disadvantaged in New Zealand has gone.”

His leadership of the Progressive Party after leaving Alliance ended when he retired from parliament. His years of public service leading a number of portfolios was recognised by being appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in last year’s Queen's Birthday Honours. Heartfelt sympathies are extended to Jim's wife Carole, his family and friends.