Who gets Horan's NZ First job

Aucklander Helen Mulford (pictured) missed out being NZ First's ninth MP in 2011 by a fraction of 1% of the vote.

Now she is the lady-in-waiting poised to fill the gap if beleagured MP Brendan Horan – already expelled from Winston Peters' caucus – quits the party.

NZ First got 6.59% of the party vote, or 147,544 votes, in last year's election, which converted to eight seats in the House.

Electoral Commission communications manager Anastasia Turnbull says if NZ First got roughly 0.28% more of the vote – depending if they were new votes or which party they took them from – Ms Mulford (47) was likely to become the ninth MP.

A list seat was always going to be Ms Mulford's ticket to Parliament.

She stood in National MP Maurice Williamson's Pakuranga electorate, which he has held since 1987.

However, she might still get her chance.

Mr Horan faces an uncertain future after allegations arose about money being pilfered from his dying mother's bank account, which prompted leader Winston Peters to sack him from caucus.

Should Mr Horan resign Ms Mulford is poised to fill the gap.

So who is she?

Gagged on Horan

NZ First gagged Ms Mulford from being interviewed by NBR ONLINE until after the Horan affair is resolved.

But party president Kevin Gardener agreed to let her answer "non-political" questions by email.

Ms Mulford – formerly Mulford-Tyler – is heavily involved in the NZ First party machine, having been on the board since 1996, when she helped set up the party's youth section.

She ran as a NZ First candidate in two safe National seats at the last two elections, getting 997 votes in Hunua in 2008 (won by Charles Hutchison, with a majority of 15,858 votes) and 1430 votes in Pakuranga last year (won by Maurice Williamson with a majority of 13,846 votes).

Considering Mr Horan's troubles, it is interesting to note Ms Mulford is the welfare guardian and property manager for her dementia-afflicted mother.

She has also volunteered or worked for several elderly or disability-focused organisations, including Age Concern and her current employer, Spectrum Care Trust Board.

The mother of five teenage sons, she lives in Albany. She has a blended family combining three sons with her former husband and the two teenage sons of her fiancee, Dave Peterson.

They are to be married in March and she has one grandchild.

For work, Ms Mulford runs the "advocacy services" division of Spectrum Care Trust Board, which provides a range of services for intellectually and/or physically disabled people and their families.

She's also halfway through two qualifications – a degree in politics and a diploma in management.

Horse play

Meanwhile, Ms Mulford and Mr Peterson own a trotter, called Idiotic Knight, which they hope to race next year.

"In the past two years I have also spent some of my limited spare time retraining for riding standard-bred horses destined for the dog food factory. 

"I found homes for four and have one still of my own which I keep in Kumeu."

She was born in Paraparaumu in 1965 and attended Wellington's Onslow College.

In her earlier school years, Ms Mulford remembers enjoying bullrush and "mimicking rock bands like ABBA".

Her first job was as a legal annotator at Brooker and Friend, in Wellington, which took her to parliament where she met then Labour Prime Minister David Lange.

She moved to Melbourne and worked for the Australian accident compensation scheme, where she eventually became a senior negotiation officer – leading a team of nine responsible for recovering $26 million a year in settlements from private insurers.

After becoming pregnant she took voluntary redundancy and returned to Wellington, where she had two more sons and started studying social and community work at Massey University.

"The social policy papers were what stimulated an initial interest in politics."


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