Labour MP David Shearer to leave behind family for UN peacekeeping mission
Labour MP David Shearer will leave behind his wife and two children to take up a job in war-torn South Sudan.
Shearer, 59, said he received an “out of the blue” phone call asking him if he’d be interested in a United Nation’s peacekeeping mission which involves 18,000 personnel and a roughly $1 billion budget.
The Mt Albert MP’s recommendation for the appointment was agreed upon by the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
But Shearer’s decision to accept the position came down to his wife Anuschka’s agreement. He will be deployed at a ‘non-family duty station’ – meaning the deployment was deemed dangerous or unsuitable for spouses or children.
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“[My wife] will not be able to come with me,” Shearer said.
“It’s not considered safe enough for families and that’s a big deal because they’ll be in New Zealand and I’ll be in South Sudan.”
Shearer has two children – Vetya and Anastasia – both adopted from Russia.
Shearer said he committed to a 12 month contract but expects the mission will go on for quite a long time.
“We’re going to have to be creative and spend a bit of money on air travel. We’ll meet in places halfway where we can take a holiday.”
It won’t be the first time Shearer has worked in a war-torn country. When the Mt Albert Labour seat first came up he had been working in Iraq.
“I had been thinking for sometime that I wanted to come back to New Zealand and contribute to my own country,” he said.
Shearer said Mt Albert will always remain as his “home away from home” as his family will continue to live in the electorate.
“I made a commitment when I came here that I would live in the electorate,” he said.
“Being able to use the influence you have to benefit your own community has been the biggest buzz for me.”
After a seven-year political career, Shearer said he had little regret about his time in Parliament.
“I was Labour leader for nearly two years and I had hoped that would carry on, so if I have any regrets it’s around that,” he said.
Shearer said he is confident he is leaving Mt Albert in good hands, but would not comment on who should replace him.
“I hope there is a contest, because I think it’s always better when there is a contest and people have to sharpen up the reasons why they want to be here.
“I know the quality of the people who are putting their hands up so I know it’s going to be a good person.”
Shearer will officially resign from Parliament on December 31.
Prime Minister Bill English this week confirmed the date for the Mt Albert by-election, with voters going to the polls on February 25.