With over 100 first cousins, Denise has a deep and abiding love of family - and lively debate!
Denise grew up in a large Catholic family in the railway settlement in Hamilton, an experience which taught her about social justice and developed her debating skills from an early age.
Leaving school with few qualifications, her first work was in aged care. Realising how undervalued this work was she returned to school as an adult student, during which time she literally sang for her supper as a singing telegramist.
Denise had a 16 year career as a union official, starting as an organiser with the Northern Theatrical workers union at just 21 years old. She found her union roles - especially with low-paid women workers - incredibly fulfilling.
Denise eventually trained as a journalist and while working and raising her children she studied part time, adding labour relations and not-for-profit management studies to her qualifications.
Denise considers herself fortunate to have moved to Waiheke Island. She lived off the grid on an organic farm for many years and developed a deep connection with the environment. For seven years she ran recycling and waste reduction campaigns that helped the island return the best waste diversion results in the Auckland area.
She stood for Auckland council in 2007 and deposed the incumbent who had held the position for nine years (by 11 votes!). She also served as a Waiheke Local Board member before being elected to Parliament in 2011, bringing her grassroots, real world experience to national politics.
As an MP Denise has kept the pressure on the government to serve the people as they should. She is an advocate for measures aimed to reduce the harms associated with gambling, and keeps workers' rights on the agenda in the House. Yet she remains active on the ground; she personally collected thousands of signatures for the Keep Our Assets referendum and stays involved in the Waiheke community.
Denise wants to see real reform of the waste sector - by putting power and responsibility back in the hands of the community. In these tough economic times Denise also wants to ensure we keep fighting for fair working conditions and a living wage for all.
"I want to see real reform of the waste sector - by putting power and responsibility back in the hands of communities"