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Enter the Winston-whisperer
He could be mistaken for a bodyguard, so close has he been at Winston Peters' side this election campaign.
In numerous pictures of the New Zealand First leader on the hustings, including those on election night and the morning after in Russell, a tall blond man wearing a suit and tie is in the near background, often walking a step behind the Kingmaker like a royal courtier.
He is Paul Carrad, no Diplomatic Protection Squad member but Peters' key aide on the campaign and a man considered likely to remain close, but in the background, in this next critical phase of coalition negotiations.
Carrad - known as PC - is one of those whom departing NZ First MP Richard Prosser described yesterday as "others on the outside" who Peters is close to and whose counsel he takes.
A former advertising man turned sports agent, fundraiser, tourism cruise operator, corporate communications guy, government relations strategist and lobbyist, Carrad has been by Peters' side for weeks and close to him for years. At Russell on Sunday morning when Peters gave a media press conference on the waterfront, Carrad stood a few metres back, just out of shot. On election night he hovered as Peters was photographed on the Duke of Marlborough hotel deck.
Carrad retired with Peters and his partner Jan Trotman to their Whananaki bach on Sunday and it was him who dealt most with the media post election rather than Peters' press secretary.
It was Carrad who, during the infamous Peters interview with Guyon Espiner on Morning Report during the campaign, was sent off to Peters' vehicle outside to fetch a letter from former Prime Minister Helen Clark and deliver it later, live on air, to the studio.
He is known as a top tier dinner party guest, a raconteur with access to influential figures in politics, government, business and sports. But crucially, according to those who know him, he is keenly informed on public policy issues, current affairs and media, clever and someone who can join the dots of political strategy.
Those who have watched his proximity to Peters through the final stages of the campaign remark that Carrad would have been good for the 72-year-old NZ First leader. He is not considered rash, weighs his options carefully and can draw on a wealth of viewpoints.
"Paul is a deal doer," one contact of his said yesterday. "He has worked very closely with Winston for some years. Paul has a very strong commitment to regional development.
"I would think one of the keys for Paul and others is how to lock in life-after-Winston [for New Zealand First] through a coalition deal."
Carrad is a man of many talents. His LinkedIn page has 30 'featured skills' listed.
He is a connector and networker among the rich, famous and powerful in two countries, New Zealand and the place he spends much of his time, the Cook Islands. One observer called him "the number one Kiwi up in Rarotonga". Since 2001, through his consultancy Pacific Communications Ltd, he has managed the development aid relationship between the Cooks government and the European Union.
A former Cook Islands foreign minister, Wilkie Rasmussen, lauds Carrad on LinkedIn as "truly one of the best ... sound analytical mind and always up to date with current affairs."
His involvement with Peters has been most obvious through the campaign but the two have been linked closely for years. They would have crossed paths over the decades in Wellington, Carrad's home town, where in the 1980s and 1990s he worked in advertising and then government relations and PR consultancies. He has been a committee member of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, a former council member of Sailing NZ and was on the NZ Olympic Committee.
Carrad helped NZ cricketer Jeremy Coney and international golfer Greg Turner "with commercial aspects of their careers" and co-owns a Fiordland charter vessel, the MV Pembroke, with Turner and several other parties.
New Zealand First is yet to reveal who will conduct negotiations on its behalf alongside Peters, except that there could be seven to eight on the team. But those who know Carrad expect him to be in the background advising and acting as a sounding board rather than in any public role. The Politik.co.nz website reported he has headed this week to Mt Ruapehu to go skiing, an indicator perhaps that things are on the slow path until special votes are counted and declared by Saturday week.
From Carrad's Twitter account, it might be thought that he would be more disposed to linking with Labour than National as there is a disproportionate number of anti-government tweets or retweets.
Another government relations lobbyist who has been at some of Peters' public engagements has been Aucklander Tony O'Brien, the former Sky TV fixit man with governments and political parties of all hues in Wellington.
O'Brien is friendly with Peters, but told Newsroom he followed the fortunes of all minor parties and had no formal role in the NZ First campaign.
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