For a man who loves to ‘plod along’ while out jogging, National candidate and Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott is anything but a plodder when it comes to his work, life and outlook, writes SEAMUS BOYER.
The word ‘opportunity’ pops up a lot in Alastair Scott’s conversations.
“Anyone can go to university, for example, if they want to,” he says, matter of factly, in the kitchen of his Masterton vineyard last week.
“But first of all they have to take the opportunity and do their best.
“But also, and more importantly, they have to take a risk – that’s what makes a difference.”
According to him, that means kids on Masterton’s east side have the same opportunities to succeed as his own.
Especially when you add in student loans, the hardship allowance, and the proximity of Massey University.
With drive and determination, anyone can leave home, apply for a place at a university or training college, or start an apprenticeship, he says.
And nothing should be too easy.
“A hand-out only creates a queue.
“Free stuff is extravagant and is never going to work.”
The son of a policeman and a primary school teacher, Mr Scott went to school in Wellington, with the family “moving around a bit”.
He fondly recalls hot summer days spent with his three younger sisters at his grandmother’s Masterton home in William Kemp Pl.
For his secondary education he went to Wellington College before heading off to Massey University in Palmerston North to study accounting.
Along with partner Robyn Noble-Campbell, who teaches dyslexic children, the couple have six kids (three each), with only one left at home.
The others are spread between Sydney (working), New York (working), Dunedin (studying), and Malawai (volunteering).
Mr Scott says he’s happy to wave them goodbye and wish them well.
“The rule in our house is that when you turn 18 you’re out.
“Whether that’s travelling or studying or working, you’re out.”
If there are opportunities in New Zealand, they will return – “but you can’t legislate for people to stay”.
As for Mr Scott, he’s travelled widely himself in search of opportunity, starting with a move to London in 1989 after beginning his working life at the BNZ “just before the crash” in 1987.
Once in London, he started work in the back office of a bank before moving into a start-up company specialising in trading derivatives.
From London he moved to Tokyo in 1994, then home to Wellington in 1997, with two kids in tow.
It was then that he started Matahiwi Estate on Masterton’s Paierau Rd.
The first vines were planted in 1999 and 2000, and 2004 was the first vintage.
The focus for Matahiwi was always on scale and the export market, says Mr Scott.
The vineyard puts out 1200 tonnes of wine per year, which – if bottled – would equate to about one million bottles.
Instead much of the product is shipped overseas in containers where it is bottled and distributed under different labels.
The vineyard employs “at least a dozen” staff plus other seasonal workers when required.
Living out of a cottage at the vineyard during the campaign, Mr Scott tries to get out jogging 8-10km three to four times a week to help relax.
“It’s good for the brain. If I’m not that fit I’ll just plod along . . . and at the end you can see things more clearly, and the little things don’t matter anymore.”
He’s also looking forward to Sunday when he can get his golf clubs out and enjoy a round after months on the campaign trail.
Living in Kelburn, Mr Scott couldn’t vote for himself in this year’s election even if he wanted to.
Instead he is registered to vote in Wellington Central, although he’s not concerned in the slightest by the fact, and believes voters shouldn’t care either.
As he puts it, living in the Capital mean’s he’s 70 minutes from Carterton.
“And that’s unacceptable, apparently.
“But if I lived in Waipukurau then that would be fine – even though that’s two hours from Carterton.
“Then if I lived ten minutes up the road from Waipukurau in Otane that that would be unacceptable again.
“It’s just a diversion, and if you can only say that that’s my one weakness, then I’m pretty happy with that.”
Elected in 2014 with a majority of 6700 votes, Mr Scott is confident he’ll still be the Wairarapa MP come Saturday night.
He’s not sure about the majority – he says he might “lose a bit” but swears he hasn’t done any polling – and says the order will be the same as last time; him first followed by Labour candidate Kieran McAnulty, then NZ First’s Ron Mark.
There was a bit of complacency in 2014 among National voters, which won’t be there this time around, he says.
“And last time I was the new boy, this time I’m the incumbent, so that’s an advantage.”
In the meantime, Mr Scott is happy with how the Wairarapa economy is going, even though he admits an influx of people moving into the region is putting pressure on existing infrastructure.
“But I say that’s a good thing, that’s a great opportunity for the Wairarapa.”
There’s that word again.