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Attitude will determine altitude

Ron Mark, NZ First Wairarapa candidate, laying a wreath. PHOTOS/FILE

Lisa Urbani

Ron Mark, Wairarapa’s NZ First candidate for the election, has led a very full life, and despite being very busy, shared his story, living up to his ethic of working hard.

Born in Masterton Hospital, his parents lived in Carterton with his grandmother, who was the great-granddaughter of the paramount Ngati Kahungunu chief Tawhirimatea Tawhao Ngatuere, one of the paramount Māori leaders around the time that many settlers were arriving in the Wairarapa.

Her husband was the great-grandson of the famous Te Arawa and Ngati Raukawa warrior Chief Arekatera Rongowhitiao Tepuni Maaka.

At the age of three, Ron was removed from the care of his parents, placed into state care, and raised in a succession of foster homes, mostly throughout Wairarapa.

He attended school at Alfredton, Hillcrest Primary, Pahiatua Primary, and Tararua College, remembering being caned on his last day of college, and the deputy head telling him that he would “never amount to anything”.

“Joining the Regular Force Cadet School in Waiouru at 16, I was formally placed into the care and custody of the New Zealand Army, graduating from that school into the Regular Force Army as a soldier mechanic in December of 1971.”

His army service had him posted as a soldier and NCO backwards and forwards among Waiouru, Linton and Burnham with a few short stints under training at Papakura.

Later he volunteered for Special Air Service [SAS] Selection and was deployed to the Sinai to help set up a new Peaceheeping Force, to supervise and enforce the newly signed Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt.

In 1985 he was offered a position through the British, as a contract Staff Officer in the Sultan of Oman’s Army.

“Amongst all of that I got married and raised five children, sadly losing our eldest daughter Tracey at the age of three months, something I do not think I have ever really gotten over.

“Between my surviving four children and my partner Christine Tracy’s daughter’s children, I have a total of 14 grandchildren located in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.”

Ron Mark, the musician.

His political career started in 1991 when he stood as a Labour candidate for a seat on the Wigram Community Board in the Christchurch local body elections, but he first came to prominence in 1993, when he stood for Parliament for the Labour Party, and fell just short of beating the Minister of Finance in her safe seat, by about 500 votes in a very close-run race.

Standing in 1994 for the Canterbury Regional Council as an Independent, he again just missed out by a narrow margin.

Winston Peters visited him in 1996 and asked him to stand for New Zealand First, which he did, and he was duly elected to Parliament as a list MP.

Returning to Carterton in 2007, he stood for and won, the Carterton mayoralty, and was re-elected unopposed again in 2010 and 2013.

He accepted an offer to stand for Parliament as a NZ First candidate in 2014, and was re-elected as a list MP.

“In 2017 I was elected again, and was one of only three people involved in every coalition meeting with National and Labour that laid the foundations for the formation of the current government, in which I have been made a Cabinet minister and been appointed Minister of Defence and the Minister for Veterans.”

Ron has many achievements to his name, too numerous to mention in the space allocated, in part thanks to his belief that, “you can achieve everything you want to achieve no matter who you are, if you just set your sights and work hard”.

“One of the most challenging and rewarding appointments I held was lead negotiator for the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua [Treaty Settlement] Trust, having been elected as the Hurunui o rangi representative. A claim that started at $40 million and grew to an estimated value of approximately $167 million.”

He said he had, “learned the value and joy of hard work, providing dignity, and that at some stage everyone needs a hand up, but that no one should expect, as a right, a handout.

“Life will present you with many challenges, that you will get it right one day and wrong the next, but that there is always another day, and it is how you respond to adversity that will define who you are.”

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