Two years ago Sam Uffindell returned to New Zealand, stepped out of MIQ and went straight to the National Party office to sign up as a member.
Today, the 38-year-old businessman formally takes the party reins from predecessor and former Tauranga MP Simon Bridges who resigned from the role, stepping down yesterday.
Uffindell said he admired Bridges’ tenacity and felt he was “incredibly hard-working”.
“He loves this city and there were ups and downs in his career and challenges and it just shows his strength of character that he drove through it and continues to keep driving through.”
Uffindell, a father of three, hoped to do the same for Tauranga, describing himself as hard-working, dedicated, and with “a vision for this city”.
“There’s a community here we need to serve and the people of Tauranga need someone who’s going to come in and continue doing good work for them around transport, the cost of living and addressing our CBD,” he said.
But there was “a fair bit of improvement” that could be made, he said.
“We’ve got an incredible spot here. For people my age, or any age really, it’s probably the most desirable place to live in New Zealand. We’ve got a big horticultural and agriculture scene here and potential for aquamarine science and there’s a lot of tech that’s coming off the back of that.”
Uffindell wanted Tauranga to become the technology capital of New Zealand “but we need to put the building blocks in place”.
Uffindell is the head of financial economic crime for Rabobank NZ and has nearly 15 years of experience in banking in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. This includes work as vice-president for the Singapore office of Deutsche Bank.
He also owns New Zealand HuMates, a small local agribusiness that provides soil quality products to farmers and growers.
Uffindell referred to places such as Israel, California and Singapore that established large tech start-up places which Tauranga would replicate using existing empty space in the CBD.
Asked what skills he had to help make this vision happen, Uffindell responded: “I’m a people person, so I’ll get out there and talk to the tech people.”
“We actually don’t need to think that hard about it. We can just copy and paste what other countries are already doing. We just need to adjust our policy and provide incentives so that small businesses can come here or start up and have confidence they’ll get support in the early stages. We can provide that here.”
“We should be looking at Tauranga being the best city in the country by 2030,” he said.
‘I’m coming here with a vision for Tauranga … But to do that we need long-term thinking. We need to lift our horizon and we need to be looking out there and seeing where are we going to be growing these industries.”
Uffindell holds a bachelor of commerce and a bachelor of arts (honours) from the University of Otago and a master of international law and international relations from the University of New South Wales. He has completed diplomas of financial planning and applied anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.
When he’s not working, Uffindell spends time with family and friends, running and growing avocados.
But Uffindell’s aspirations don’t lie with just technology. Transport infrastructure, the cost of living crisis, and community safety were key issues he planned to address if successfully elected MP.
“On the law and order front, we need to put community safety first. We need to stop pandering to gangs, we need to stop letting criminals slide by without accountability and we need to back our police,” he said.
Ensuring the city was better equipped to manage its unavoidable growth was also key, he said.
This involved new house zoning and retaining the city’s green spaces, established suburbs and natural beauty, he said.
Uffindell has been a National Party member since 2008 but after spending time overseas he had to renew his membership when he, wife Julia and daughter Lily (now 5) returned to New Zealand in 2020.
“We stepped out of MIQ and I went straight up and signed up.”
He helped National in the 2020 election by “doing the grassroots stuff” such as putting up signs, knocking on doors and acting as a human hoarding. He became chairman of the Bay of Plenty electorate and held fundraising dinners.
Now was the right time to step up as there was “a lot more to do”, he said.
Uffindell was born in Auckland but wife Julia is from Tauranga, where their last two children Zippora, 2, and Teddy, 1, were born.
“This is the best part of the country and the only place we want to live so we’re looking forward to doing our best for the people here,” he said.
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