Nationals Chris Bishop on Omicron, building a house, and becoming a dad

As if being the National Party’s key Covid man isn’t demanding enough, Chris Bishop is also in the middle of building his dream home, and preparing to become a dad.

This weekend the list MP and Covid-19 response spokesman is packing up the final things from his home in Petone of seven years.

Bishop and his wife Jenna Raeburn are selling up to build in Eastbourne, a sought-after seaside suburb in Lower Hutt.

It’ll be a family home for them to welcome their first child, with Raeburn now 19 weeks along.

Bishop is nervous but excited about becoming a dad, revealing it’s a little boy on the way, and says he’s aware his life is about to change significantly.

He jokes the couple is having an “ongoing series of meetings” about baby names.

They’ve been using an app called Kinder, similar to Tinder, to try to reach a consensus on what to call their first child.

The idea is to swipe left or right on potential names and the app matches up the ones both of them like. So far they’ve got nine matches.

Bishop makes the point that the name Chris no longer appears to be popular.

“I don’t know what that says about me and Chris Luxon, or Chris Penk for that matter, or Chris Hipkins – there’s a lot of Christophers in Parliament.”

Chris Luxon, leader of the National Party, was one of the first MPs Bishop told about the baby.

“He seemed even more excited than I was, fatherhood is really important to him and family is important,” Bishop says.

Luxon encouraged Bishop to take as much time off as he needed; Bishop will be taking paternity leave when the baby is born, which also happens to coincide with a three-week parliamentary recess.

Raeburn met her midwife for the first time this week, via Zoom. The antenatal classes are all going to be on Zoom too.

“[Those classes are] how you sort of meet people and make friends and hopefully come away with a few enduring friendships with other new parents, so that’s a shame”, Raeburn says.

The couple acknowledge they have a lot going on in their lives right now, but Raeburn says it’s the “age and stage” that makes it feel like the right time to have a baby.

“We could wait until next year, then it would be election year. So we’d have the house built and we might be through some of the Covid stuff, but there would be all kinds of other things going on.”

The house is proving to be a lot more work than they bargained for, particularly because of escalating construction costs and supply chain issues.

Before purchasing the land they’re building on in Days Bay in 2020, the couple had to fill out a 10 page questionnaire from their architect about what they wanted in a house.

“We went to the pub to fill it out and it took ages, and I was like, what are we doing this for? It took two and a half beers each to finish it,” Bishop says.

It’s our last Christmas as a family of four!

But after receiving the architect’s design for their dream home, they were sold.

Since then, the cost estimate to actually build the house has increased by up to 40 per cent. This has been especially stressful because the initial cost was at the upper end of their comfort limit anyway.

There have been times where it has been a bit borderline as to whether the build would even go ahead.

So it’s a relief to finally get spades in the ground, even if the three-bedroom home won’t be ready in time for the arrival of their baby.

The house will be surrounded by bush on two sides and have views of the ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounge.

Bishop is also excited about having a walk-in shower with a rainfall shower head.

He’ll be catching Wellington’s new fully electric passenger ferry across the harbour to get to Parliament when they move in.

In the meantime, the couple are moving to Miramar in Wellington City’s eastern suburbs while the house gets built. They’ll be living in Raeburn’s family home with her parents living in a new build at the back of the section.

Bishop will be commuting to Parliament as usual as well as back to Lower Hutt.

Come election time, Bishop very much wants to claim back the Hutt South seat he lost to Labour MP Ginny Andersen.

Raeburn notes Bishop hasn’t complained a bit about the commute, considering she has had to do the same commute in reverse for the last seven years.

She is Wellington Airport’s general manager of corporate affairs.

“It’s all worked out quite well actually because moving to Miramar, we’ll be there with the baby for the first 6-12 months so being closer to my family and my work during that time will be helpful.”

Raeburn has recently got her Covid-19 booster shot and isn’t too worried about the threat of Covid-19 from the Omicron outbreak.
Bishop thinks most people are now resigned to the inevitability that the variant will spread quite quickly and many New Zealanders will be exposed.

As National’s Covid-19 response spokesman, he says it’s genuinely challenging to get the balance right in holding the Government to account on the issue.

He still gets messages from people who think National should be falling into line behind the Government, as well as correspondence from those who think the party isn’t being hard enough.

“Sometimes people say you shouldn’t politicise it [Covid-19], but the reality is the Prime Minister is a politician, so is Chris Hipkins. The major decisions in the pandemic are made my politicians, therefore it’s a political issue by definition.”

For now, he’s flying to Queenstown this afternoon to attend the party’s caucus retreat.

The beginning of the political year is getting underway and as Bishop says, he’s “just getting on with it”.

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