My first National Party national conference was way back in 1996 – a few months before our first MMP election.
I was thinking about that while getting ready to go to his year’s conference and wondering if I’d been to enough and was in danger of suffering from conference fatigue.
The warmth of the welcome as I registered on Friday morning told me the answer to that was no and that was continually reinforced throughout the weekend.
As a regional chair I was privileged to sit through the candidates’ college, where I met some aspiring MPs and learned from two existing ones – first term MP Simon O’Connor and Prime Minister John Key.
The conference opened on Saturday morning. Speeches from ministers were informative and interesting with plenty of time for questions. Several workshop sessions also enabled plenty of interaction from the floor and we had the opportunity to debate seven remits too.
Saturday night’s dinner agenda included the presentation of a presidential citation to party stalwart and Super-Blue founder Bernie Poole and the Sir George Chapman Cup to retiring Young Nats president Daniel Fielding.
MC for the evening, senior whip Michael Woodhouse then introduced David Farrar who was chairing the debate for the Westminster Shield.
The moot was that the South Island should declare independence from the North.
Chris Finlayson led the affirmative team of Young Nats incoming president Sean Topham and Simon Bridges.
Nick Smith led Amy Adams and Neil Miller in putting the contrary case.
I thought of taking notes so I could repeat some of the hilarious lines but I was too busy laughing to write.
The judges were David, John Key and Bill English who almost upstaged the debaters with their humour.
The negative team won by .5 of a point.
Sunday’s programme began with an ecumenical church service followed by a session on law and order, more policy breakouts and concluded on a high with the Prime Minister’s address.
A first-time conference goer who I met at the airport was fizzing. It was a reminder to those of us who have been to several conferences that we shouldn’t take for granted the easy access to MPs, that we can still be inspired by the speeches, that the networking opportunities between formal sessions is part of the fun and that the best way to treat fears of conference-fatigue is to go to one.
It was a wonderful weekend and I’m already looking forward to next year’s.