Simon O’Connor’s maiden speech


National’s Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor delivered his maiden speech on Thursday:

Mr Speaker

In 1854, this house met for the first time on the outskirts of Auckland.  It consisted of just 37 people.  Those 37 could scarcely imagine how NZ would change over the coming century and a half.  Since that time, 1,362 people have held seats in parliament and each one has given a maiden speech.  It is difficult to imagine how I might say something original, but I’ll give it a shot.

Maiden speeches seem to me a curious exercise.  They are an introduction, a moment of history, and a statement to posterity all at once.  They are also a time for reflection at the beginning of a new chapter in which each of us can consider the events in our lives that have led us to this place at this point in time. 

I, like all who have stood in this house, have been asked many times, why I decided to enter parliament and politics?  I have always noted that there was never one particular moment.  It has been an organic process that developed slowly over many years, while working alongside people from all walks of life.  I have worked in many challenging environments, from prisons and homeless shelters, to rest homes and hospitals; from the streets of Brooklyn, New York to the island of Taveuni in Fiji.  In doing so, I have seen some of the best and worst aspects of humanity. 

I have sat with those mourning the dead and celebrated the hope of a new-born child.  I have encouraged those who suffer under the curse of drug addiction, counselled those who work on the streets, and listened to those off the street who simply needed to be heard.  It has, for me, been the stories shared, the struggles endured, and experiences lived, that has drawn me more and more to this new opportunity to serve New Zealand, here in this house. 

The varied experiences which have filled my life thus far cause me to look forward to working for the great constituency of Tamaki, and to engaging with its communities from St Heliers to Glen Innes, Orakei to Glendowie, and all the suburbs in-between.  I love working with people, and for people.  It has defined my life to date, and I hope and expect it will do so far into the future.

I have come to parliament with not only a desire to serve the people of this country, but also with the conviction that ideas are powerful things.  I believe that ideas, well-articulated, can change the world.  The importance of robust, rational debate is a passion of mine, one that requires the consistent application of considered principles.  I reject political fundamentalism, where part of the truth is over-emphasised at the expense of everything else.  No great idea needs such a dishonest defence.  Some might consider me optimistic to hope that in this auspicious chamber there is still room for genuine debate and constructive discussion. About this, I may be optimistic, but there are few things I think far more deserving of such optimism than this place of thoughts and ideas, of discussions and debates.  I hope that, in the coming years, I may contribute something to them all.

I seek to contribute because I am a proud New Zealander.  I am kiwi through and through, having spent almost all of my life in Whangarei and Auckland.  There are those who question what it means to be a New Zealander.  They suppose we lack an identity or lament that it is not what they would wish it to be.  I have no time for such a myopic perspective.  New Zealand has a clear and strong identity which has grown and evolved over the centuries that have preceded us.  Most kiwis know who they are and what they stand for and spend very little time worrying about labelling it.  Some of our principles have changed over time, but the most important ones, our most fundamental values have not.  The importance of family, hard work, personal responsibility, and a fair go for all, remain central to who we are. 

Of course, one cannot stand in this room and speak of great kiwi traditions without acknowledging our extraordinary democracy.  Mr Speaker, I believe New Zealand has the best democratic and constitutional structure in the world.  I realise that this is not a thought which occurs to many people on a frequent basis, but this is probably more a testament to its veracity than anything else.  My belief in our constitution has not arisen from ideology or blind patriotism, but an appreciation developed over many years of observation and study.  Democracy is not something that can ever be taken for granted.

At the heart of our constitution sits the crown.  It is an ingenious, ever evolving entity that plays a role in so many aspects of this country.  It is a valuable guardian of our democracy, a symbol of our independence, and a sign of our political resourcefulness.  I am pleased to acknowledge today the 60 years of service that the Queen of New Zealand has given to all kiwis.  It is my hope that, in the years ahead, New Zealand can make its monarchy ever more distinct and an even more uniquely kiwi institution.

I suspect most here today would agree that New Zealand is the greatest country on earth.  But that is not to say it is a perfect nation.  Again I suspect that most here are cognisant of the many problems this country faces. 

 Foremost among them, is the scourge of violence in our society.  If there is one general area to which I wish to apply my time and experience, it is to ending, or at least greatly reducing, this violence.  Of course, there is no single solution, no quick fix.  It is a perennial issue that has been grappled with by successive parliaments. 

I believe that this National-led government is taking great steps in the right direction, but there is much work still to be done.  Some is legislative, but the most difficult work is changing attitudes.  I fear that New Zealand accepts violence too easily.  Aggression is celebrated, verbal and emotional abuse is tolerated in public discourse, and people are willing to turn a blind eye towards those suffering at the hands of bullies.  The prevalence of domestic violence, violence against children, and random acts of violence on our streets is a sad indictment of us all.  I do not believe it is a simple matter to resolve this tragedy, but neither do I feel it is hopeless.  Like all the problems we face in New Zealand, we begin with a commitment to fix what is wrong, to persevere in what is required, and to accept only success.  This is how we have tackled problems in our past, and this is what is required now to build a safe and secure society for all.

This room is full of leaders, representatives of their constituencies and communities. Their commitment to ending violence in our country is essential, but the work of many others outside this building is also required. Fortunately, New Zealand has no shortage of dedicated, principled, and energetic citizens.  I feel it is important to recognise that none of us stand in this parliament alone.  We are born into a community, live in that community, and as individuals are at our strongest when we are in the midst of that community and those that matter the most.

Mr Speaker, there are many people to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for their support and encouragement over the years, and who have been very influential in my being here today. 

My parents, Rory and Colleen, are in the gallery this afternoon.  A son could not have better parents and my gratitude can only ever be a small measure of what I owe to them. If there is one lesson, amongst the many they taught me, and that I can bring to parliament, it is that love is not an economic commodity or one that is scarce when times are tough. 

Sitting with them, are my siblings, Bernadette and Vincent.  I am lucky to have such a great brother and sister.  When required, they know how to put me in my place, a skill several people in this room will be interested in hearing about I’m sure.

To my friends across this country and around the world, I would like to thank you for all the insights and humour, lessons and memories. 

William Yeats said, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  To those friends here today I say thanks to you, and through you, to all those who couldn’t be here.  To Ben Lee, Charles and Leigh Hay, Lynne Francis, Sean Palmer, Gordon Pilot, to Paul Foster-Bell, Chloe Oldfield, Brian Anderton, Aaron Hape and Paul Byers  – thank you for all your help and encouragement over the years.  I thank the Auckland University Fencers for all the fun and laughter, the debates, and the bruises.  I am optimistic that my years of fencing may have well prepared me for the cut and thrust of this political place. 

I acknowledge my caucus colleagues, for the help and support they have given me over the past few months.  I would particularly like to thank Dr Jackie Blue and Dr Cam Calder, both of whom I have worked closely with over the past six years.  The opportunity to be part of your electorates and to lead your campaign teams was great preparation for my own path to parliament.

I must also acknowledge my predecessor, Allan Peachey, whose sad passing last year cut short the work he sought to undertake in this house.  I want to recognise his family, and the kindnesses they have shown me as I have prepared to represent Tamaki in this house.

Tamaki is an electorate with a formidable story, a narrative known all over the country.  I am conscious of the role I play in writing its next chapter, but fortunately, I am not the sole author.  I am pleased to work alongside the finest electorate team in New Zealand.  Andrew Hunt, Christine MacFarlane, and Aaron Bhatnagar are here today.  I am immensely proud to be your MP and conscious of your expectations.  I will not let you down.  Ros Rundle, Adriana Gunder, Eric Hansen, Phil Martell, Simon King, Cher Reynolds, Mariana Nordmark, Sharon Ludher-Chandra, Jim McElwain, Todd Muller, Dan Gardiner, Graham and Matt Malaghan, Kit Parkinson, and Cyrus Richardson form the electorate leadership team, but could not be here today.  Without their help and support, I wouldn’t be either.

I am grateful to the National Party for the opportunities it has provided me.  My commitment to our shared principles is absolute.  I am conscious that my selection as an MP is both a privilege and a responsibility. The list of those who have helped guide me to this role is long and I cannot thank each person by name, but I hope all of them know how much I appreciate their efforts and their friendship.  I will thank, in particular, Alastair Bell and Alan Towers, Nicholas Albrecht, Josh Beddell, Alan Conlon, James Palmer, Murray Broadbelt, Chris King, and Scott Simpson who was the first party figure with whom I spoke of my parliamentary aspirations.  Scott, I am thrilled that we enter this 50th parliament together. 

Mr Speaker, it is an honour to be here as the Member of Parliament for Tamaki. It is a welcome opportunity to serve my constituency, to listen to their needs and articulate them here in this house. 

I look forward to the future in my new role, but in the finest conservative traditions, I will venture into that future with a clear understanding of and respect for the past. 

I will work hard to live up to the expectations of our first 37 parliamentarians who, 150 years ago, launched New Zealand’s democracy.  I believe this 50th parliament is the heir to all the hopes and dreams of the thousand MPs who have come before us.  We are here today to build a better country and I hope that those who occupy this house 150 years from now might look back upon us and say that we were successful. 

Mr Speaker, I can think of no greater honour than to know that I might be a part of that.

The video is here.

Ian Mckelvie’s maiden speech


National’s Rangitikei MP Ian McKealvie made his maiden speech on Thursday.

Some of the highlights are in bold print:

Mr Speaker I rise with a great sense of history to present my maiden speech to this Parliament. My Rangitikei Electorate has had a representative in this house for 150 years, my family have lived in the lower Rangitikei for 160 years, I am the 27th person to come here as a representative of  the Rangitikei Electorate.

I am following some great people into this house and I want to particularly take this opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful role my predecessor Simon Power played in the affairs of both the Rangitikei Electorate and New Zealand. He made his mark here and left an impression on us all that will last a long time. Simon is a man who was, in his time in politics able to bridge the divide that the Westminster system of Democracy creates, I sincerely hope that in my time here I may be able to encourage consensus that sees this house able to make the best possible decisions for our collective futures.

 I wish to thank all those who have helped make my first few weeks in this place as easy as possible, from all those security people who take care of us on a daily basis, to the Prime Minister, those who have helped me to get here and particularly all those who supported me during the election campaign, both with the campaign and my induction into the National Party. Special thanks to my wife of 38 years Sue, she is my no 1 campaigner, our family, Diana, Cam and Rachel, Angus and Harri and my mother Rosemary, two brothers and sister who are here today and  who have put up with many hours of following, filling in for, making excuses for and supporting me in my somewhat unexpected career path to date. A career path probably instilled in my blood by my father John, a shy man who enjoyed Politics and played a part in Local Government in an all too short a life.

It’s appropriate to acknowledge my near neighbours Iain Lees Galloway and the Hon Chester Borrows who represent the Cities that will help forge the future for the people of the Rangitikei Electorate, for without strong leadership from our cities, rural New Zealand suffers. I must also acknowledge Tariana Turia whose electorate covers the Rangitikei and beyond and who is hugely respected for the work she does for our people.

The Rangitikei electorate for those who need to know contains 4,500,000 sheep, about 400,000 beef cattle, 175,000 Dairy Cows and 63,000 people of whom 28% are Maori. We are also the home to the North Island ski fields and the Tongariro National Park, the home bases to the NZ Army at Linton and Waiouru , the Airforce at Ohakea  and New Zealand’s largest University in Massey. Our electorate contains the brainey part of Palmerston North, stretches over 300 kms north to Taumarunui and contains some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery. It also contains the bulk of New Zealands fragile hill country, ensuring the activities of our Regional Council are critical to the future of that sector. 

My driver throughout my public life to date has been to create a better place for future generations of my family and yours to live and work in. I am a sixth generation New Zealander, have eighth generation grandchildren and I hope that my family will still be here, enjoying our wonderful but different country in eight generations time.

I will give you a brief synopsis of my life to date before getting into the things that really matter to me and those who encouraged me to aspire to a stint in our Parliament. My family have lived within two kilometres of the place I live in since 1850, they have lived in the house I live in since 1900, we are Rangitikei people. I was educated a pony ride (2kms on a metal road) from home before going on to boarding school for the rest of my school life.  This was  followed by a short stint at Massey University where I learnt a lot but passed little. I then farmed for quite a time before venturing into the commercial world via the motor industry with two very good friends of mine.  And they’ve survived too cause they’re both here today. This led in turn to involvement as a Director of various insurance, property, finance and farming entities. One of those the Farmers Mutual Group, or FMG, the preeminent rural insurer in New Zealand and despite the events of the past year still a very strong and much needed entity in the industry.

Some nine years ago I was elected as Mayor of the Manawatu District following four years as President of the Royal Agricultural Society of NZ. My election as a Mayor taught me so much about people and the things that matter to them, about how to get communities working well, about disaster as we were hit by the massive 2004 floods and storms and needed a very large (at the time) recovery package put in place by the government of the day. It also opened other doors for me and I am currently Chairman of Special Olympics New Zealand, a position that has taught me so much about the disability sector in New Zealand. In my life to date I have also been president or chairman of various Racing Clubs, A&P Shows, rugby clubs, our local school and a number of other community based organisations.

Enough on me and onto why I am here:

I was offered an opportunity to stand for the Rangitikei Electorate seat when Simon Power unexpectedly resigned.  It was something I had never aspired to but it seemed logical that I would take what I have learnt to date and use it in an effort to better our lives as New Zealanders.

Those learning’s are as follows:

My life time in Agriculture leaves me in no doubt that we will always be one of the World’s most efficient food producers and that we will continue to have a very important role to play in feeding pieces of the World, as its population grows rapidly. To continue to achieve this there are a number of issues that we must give attention to:

The environment, our people, and agriculture must travel hand in hand as we grapple with the effects we humans have had on our land forms, our rivers and our natural heritage. Ecological sustainability is the key to the future of agriculture and our economic fortunes and whether dealing with genetic engineering, the ETS particularly related to the food production sector or the environment we must use the very best science available to us to resolve these matters. They must be resolved expeditiously and it is vital for our country’s future wellbeing that we invest heavily in this area. Agriculture in New Zealand has had a financial battering over the past decade and must be treated carefully or it could still fail us, it needs nurturing, not with cash but with sensible well planned policy. Agriculture in recent years in New Zealand has not had a sufficient level of profitability to re-invest in its future through science and innovation – I am delighted to see the Government taking action in this area and look forward to the sector being able to play its part as well.  Whilst on agriculture I want to make a plea for us not to encourage (through suspect policy) the planting of pine trees on land that can be used for food production –pine trees are difficult to eat!  And they’re very difficult to get income out of as well.

I also urge you as a parliament to give time and thought to our equine industry. We are good at horses, it is international in almost every sphere of equine activity and it has great potential if nurtured in the correct manner.  The horse, particularly through the racing and breeding industry is a very large employer in this country and I have yet to see a robot riding one (Mark Todd aside) or a computer mucking out a stable. Encouraging the equine sector to work with each other in a unified manner could boost this sector significantly as an export earner.

Rural New Zealand, its towns and its people are very important to our futures and we must endeavour to keep people living throughout our country. It is not in the national interest to push our population north, we must encourage people to live in our small rural towns and on our farms. To do this we must carefully consider the ramifications of much of our policy making, as often small changes can improve the lot of those people dramatically. I refer particularly to the manner in which telecommunications, electricity, education, health, law and order and transport services are delivered to rural New Zealand. An example of this is that the poor supply of electricity to parts of rural New Zealand is a major inhibitor to economic growth, with a number of areas in my electorate not having sufficient supply to enable new cow sheds or irrigation schemes to operate efficiently, part of the reason for this is a lack of sufficient land use planning, a factor that must be corrected. Another factor that is easy to overlook but a very important factor in the Rangitikei is the time our children spend on the school bus, and 2 to 3 hours a day is not uncommon, hence the ferociousness with which rural communities defend their small schools.

Briefly on the matter of our broader economy and a topic that I think we need to have some serious discussion on and that is our poor understanding of risk, how to evaluate it and how to manage it. This is one of the factors behind the increase in cost of local government to our community, to business as well and is driven to some extent by our interpretation of the Building Act, the RMA and occupational safety and health amongst others. Without the capacity to understand, manage and utilise risk businesses struggle to expand, most of the great businesses in the world took significant calculated risk to grow.  

I don’t believe we should take anything for granted in life, I don’t believe we have any‘rights’ in life – property or otherwise – we must earn them. I have a strong belief in what I call social order or justice and that often means that those who have, have to give a hand up to those who have not. Where I come from – unhappy people don’t make for a happy work force– and our country cannot operate effectively with an unhappy workforce. To achieve this we must have a strong progressive economy enabling us to pay what a person is worth. We can no longer continue to allow the well off to claim on the welfare systems by hiding income or assets. There is no place in New Zealand society for greed and we have seen and suffered from plenty of that in the past few years.

Through family experience and more recently through my role as Chairperson of Special Olympics New Zealand I have a particular interest in the lives and circumstances of our disabled community. There are an estimated 55,000 people born with an ID in this country, a large majority of whom are males. There are nearly quarter of a million physically disabled New Zealanders, we know that investment in this sector produces significant gains for the people and family involved and for our country as a whole. I will continue my strong advocacy for these New Zealanders and support them in their efforts to achieve better life expectancy and make a greater contribution to our society.

Sport and recreation is one of the gems in life – without it we do not survive, and we must continue to encourage young and old alike to participate in all levels of physical activity. To do this some key changes are needed to our traditional thinking around sporting infrastructure – we need diverse climate immune facilities and we need to provide easy access for people who wish to exercise from home, for example walking, biking, boarding. I call it door to door exercise – to achieve this our communities must be safe – our infrastructure must be safe, well planned and well maintained.

One could not have spent nine years in local government without acknowledging there must be a better way – and there is and it does not involve dramatic change.  In past years local government has struggled with the costs of implementing legislation passed onto them by central government A good deal of it came care of the stringent but expansive conditions placed on councils by the Local Government Act 2002. There are at the same time many talented and able people doing a wonderful job in what is a complex and very demanding sector. I can only commend the Prime Minister for elevating the local government portfolio to an important place in Cabinet – and I think it’s the first time I recall it being in Cabinet in many years –and wish Minister Smith all the best as he confronts the many challenges that lie before local authorities throughout New Zealand.

In this country we are seriously testing our talented people resources by the number of governance bodies we have created and as a consequence we have the requirement for large numbers of chief executives, CFOs and elected members or directors. Many of these are becoming specialised positions (often prescribed by law) and we need to ensure we use our talented people to the best possible advantage. We should also bear in mind that letters after ones name are not necessarily a prerequisite for success in life.

There is no question that the further we spread the talent pool in New Zealand, the lesser the talent we have available.

I am in awe of this place and its history but was surprised on opening day when parliament emptied out as our leaders spoke, whatever our Political persuasion we owe each other the common courtesy of at least listening once in relative calmness. You cannot fool the people, respect and common old good manners are still valued by most in this country and they watch us closely through our friends the media.

Mr Speaker, members, people are everything in life, without each other we are nothing, no matter what race, creed, sex, age or ability, mental or physical, everyone in this wonderful country must be cared for and encouraged to achieve their best. There is no left or right in good health, educational opportunity, having work or violence to one another. To achieve this we must have inclusive government and take the people with us.

I am a great believer in protocol and tradition; it puts some order and discipline in our lives and on that basis I wish to congratulate you Mr Speaker and your team of deputies on your appointments, and whilst I am absolutely sincere in this it does remind me a little of dropping off a leg of lamb for the banker.     

Mr Speaker, fellow members of this great establishment, despite being written off as being too old and not expected to shine by some Australasian tip sheet I hope in my time here to make a contribution to New Zealand and I hope that when I get to leave and I hope to choose that time – that our Country is a better place to live. Thank you 

The video is here.

Maggie Barry’s maiden speech


National’s new North Shore MP Maggie Barry delivered her maiden speech on Wednesday.

Some of the highlights are in bold print.

My boy, Joseph Vincent was named after his two grandfathers. On my side we hailed from Counties Cork and Kerry and my son’s father, Paddy Marron was born in County Monaghan. Paddy – who’s up there in the gallery next to our son Joe – arrived here in NZ from the Emerald Isle on the good ship Southern Cross. It was the very day of his 3rd birthday and he was clamouring for his present. His father told him that he was giving him a very special gift- a new start, a new life – in a new country.

My people were farmers- this was their land of opportunity too – they were practical people who worked the land and, much like myself, were fond of reinvention and recycling.

As the crow flies I haven’t come very far at all – about half a kilometre really from where I was born in Tinakori Rd. These parliamentary buildings – the precinct- were always part of the backdrop of my life. It was always my favourite shortcut into town through the leafy grounds past the statues of the great and the good.


I went to Sacred Heart convent primary school across the road from here in Guildford Terrace. My family went to mass at the Basilica in Hill Street – the church where my parents were married, where I was baptised and where we held both of their funerals.

My mother, Agnes was the first single woman the New South Wales bank had ever given a business loan to. She opened her florist shop, around the corner from here in Molesworth Street in 1939 – the age of the corsage and the funeral wreath and the American soldiers – all good for building what became a very successful business.

Raised on a farm in the Depression years, Mum was a hard worker- to save enough money for her first home she also ran a boarding house and as part of her wartime duty she worked nights at the glove and munitions factory. Weekends, she was a mainstay of the dig for victory vegetable garden team here in Thorndon. To borrow the Sam Hunt line – I’m the fruit of old loins. Mum had me, her only child when she was 43 and, never one to peak too early, she later learned to play golf – hitting a hole in one at the age of 72.

Agnes was a remarkable and a determined woman who taught me many things, including the value of a strong work ethic, the importance of trying your best if you want to achieve the things that matter and never, ever giving up on what you really believe in. In her later years she taught me how to live in the moment, perhaps one of her greatest gifts to me.

David, the old man, had a sharp mind and a quick temper. He was very fond of a drink and an argument and I learned early on to justify my point of view or keep quiet. Skills that I’m sure will come in very handy in this very chamber.

Dad had falsified his age to enlist to fight in WWII. He was keen to serve his country as his father Edward had done before him at Gallipoli.

I was raised to believe that in peacetime, the highest form of public service is to be a Member of Parliament.  I know they’d all be very proud of me standing here today as the first politician in the family.

My forbears picked this extraordinary country as the place they wanted to call home. And now my family and I have chosen to cross the harbour and be part of the North Shore community.

It is a great privilege for me to be here representing them, following in the footsteps of such honourable men as George Gair and Wayne Mapp.

And I’m breaking in some new ground of my own – becoming Nationals first-ever woman MP, north of the harbour bridge. I was born in the year it opened in 1959 and I can assure you we won’t be waiting around patiently for another 52 years for a second harbour crossing.

The North Shore is defined by water – the glorious Waitemata harbour, the Hauraki Gulf and the freshwater playground of Lake Pupuke.

Shore people work and play on the margins between the ocean and the land. We enthusiastically sail, wind surf, paddle board, swim and fish. There’s a sense of satisfaction in being different from either our big city or our rural neighbours. There’s a tangible sense that we are indeed fortunate to still be enjoying the ‘end of the golden weather’ lifestyle made famous by local playwright Bruce Mason.

Laid back- yes indeed- but never lacking when it comes to energy and vision the North Shore is an unashamedly aspirational community.

We have a rich cultural history and the mountains in Devonport were among the earliest areas of Auckland to be settled. Occupied by Maori from the 1300s, European settlers with their colonial architecture began arriving from the mid-1800s and there was a permanent naval presence by 1841. Gradually, farming was overtaken by shipbuilding and now tourism is a substantial source of income as appreciative visitors catch the ferry across from the city to sample the pleasures and diverse heritage of Devonport.

Takapuna translates as “the rock with a spring” and against the background of some of the finest beaches in the country – springs a strong commercial drive and along with a handful of multimillion dollar businesses the North Shore is home to more than 22,000 mostly small sized businesses.

Reflecting modern NZ we are a culturally diverse community with nearly 10 thousand Asians making up some 15% of our numbers.  As their elected representative I pledge to do all I can to build on their successes.

The North Shore people reward excellence and look after our own… and love to crow about local heroes:  Sargesson, Fairburn, Tuwhare…

There’s no shortage of sporting greats to celebrate: Sir Peter Blake, Dean Barker, Ian Fergusson, Ralph Roberts, Buck Shelford, Alison Roe, Kirk Penny and the Breakers, Jacko Gill… and the roll call doesn’t stop there.

As the MP for North Shore I’m committed to building on that outstanding record and focusing on achieving our aim of becoming the NZ centre for high performance sport.

North Harbour is already home to the Millennium Institute and I’d like to acknowledge and commend the hard work and determination of my colleague in the adjoining electorate of East Coast Bays, the Hon Murray McCully.

I enthusiastically endorse the proposed National Ocean Water Sports Centre on Takapuna beach.  The NOWS Centre will be a world class training facility to develop up and coming athletes across the four codes of yachting, windsurfing, kayaking and ocean swimming.

The most commonly asked question I’ve encountered is; why would you leave plants for Parliament?

My erstwhile colleagues in the media had a field day last year when I said I was standing for Parliament.

“Gardener of the nation takes on the parliamentary jungle”; there were references to weeding out the opposition; comparisons were made between MPs and mushrooms  – both thriving in perpetual darkness and nourished on manure.

I’m not exactly gaining ground by the shift into politics- In last year’s Readers Digest most trustworthy professions poll : Firefighters came in first as usual -fair enough and Journalists came 38th out of 39, just above Real estate agents.  Politicians didn’t even feature in the top 40…so I’m in familiar unpopular territory.

I’ve known this chamber for the past 30 years as a broadcaster and as a journalist- reporting and questioning the not always so honourable members.

I know first-hand from my days in Radio and TV news about the daily grind of finding news stories within tight deadlines – and while there will always be the lazy and the ill-informed as there are in any profession – I think, on the whole, the NZ media work hard, do a good job and I congratulate them.

But after 30 years of being part of the tribe that reports from the side lines- asking what and why and how- I decided the time was now right for me to step inside the tent and to make a different contribution to the country that has given me so much.

As well as being a strong voice for the North Shore there are also wider goals I’m aiming to achieve in my time in this place.

It’s fair to say I have some experience in broadcasting and, thanks to my family, I have more than a passing interest in the health sector. After my experiences having my own son, I agreed to chair a review into NZ maternity services.  My father’s death from cancer led to my involvement as patron with Hospice NZ and during my term as a member of the National Health Committee I headed a working party into palliative care. During Mum’s 10 year decline with dementia I saw with sadness, too many older people in residential care who didn’t have family around them and were without advocates to keep an eye on them. Our elderly deserve dignity and protection. I believe they have earned our respect and we certainly wouldn’t be the society we are today without their effort and wisdom.

I agree with John Key that the measure of a civilised society is how we treat our vulnerable- our very young and our old and the one in five New Zealanders with disabilities. Given my green fingered background and lifelong love of plants I hope that my knowledge and skills might be useful in helping to shape our environmental and conservation goals. Producing and presenting the garden show for 12 years on television gave me privileged access to people’s lives. Some of them were overwhelmed and daunted by the sheer scale of the planets problems but, personally, I’ve never doubted that saving the world starts in your own backyard.

I share the view of many that we are, really only the custodians of this land and the guardians –Kaitiaki of our grandchildren’s heritage.

We have to be vigilant and face up to our responsibilities and our woeful environmental track record. Down the years we’ve let too many introduced pests decimate our native plants and birds. As an island nation we haven’t treated our ocean with the respect it deserves. We’ve allowed some of our waterways to become badly polluted and I want to be part of a government that puts that right. As convenor of this year’s upcoming Blue Greens Forum on the shores of Lake Pupuke we’ll be making progress on these issues and I’m excited to be part of shaping the agenda for discussion around the country’s environmental and conservation concerns.

I remain convinced that we can grow both our economy and manage our environment better – and that improving the economy need not and must not be at the expense of the environment. But in these troubled times we need to explore all our potential advantages –use all that famous traditional ingenuity and increase our dairy production and returns while limiting the adverse effect on our water quality.

In the 20 years I had my garden tour business I travelled all over the world visiting more than a thousand gardens from Europe to China to Africa – it was a dream job and I loved many of the places I saw but New Zealand is my turanga wai wai, my ‘place to stand’.

It’s then that I feel most patriotic about my homeland and, believe me, I’m not about to let anybody harm it.

I intend to work very hard in my select committees of Finance and Expenditure and Local Government and Environment.  I’ll personally welcome the opportunities to work constructively with politicians from other parties to secure the best outcome for the greater good.

But ultimately, I didn’t want to join Labour’s ranks or become a Green party MP.

I stood for National because I believe we have the right financial policies to see us through these troubled times. I agree with our goals. My Mother and Father raised me to believe that hand in hand with individual freedom comes personal responsibility; that people sometimes do need a hand up but a lifetime of hand-outs is not the answer.  As a mother I’m raising my teenage son with the same values because I believe that they are as relevant today as they were when the party was founded 75 years ago. My constituents will always have my first loyalty and I will do my very best to represent their best interests.

I will be a strong voice for the North Shore and I am very ambitious for my electorate.  It’s a privilege to begin my service to them today as their Member of Parliament.

The video is here.



Just 5/10 in the Herald’s changing world quiz.

Mark Mitchell’s maiden speech


National’s new Rodney MP Mark Mitchell delivered his maiden speech on Thursday.

Some of the highlights are in bold:

Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today filled with pride at been given the opportunity by the people of Rodney to represent them in this our 50th Parliament and am honoured to be addressing the house for the first time.

I congratulate you on your reappointment to the high office of speaker. You have already been recognized across this house for your sound judgment and fairness and I look forward to being under your guidance in this chamber.

Mr. Speaker. You have been the Minister of Education, Agriculture, Tourism and Trade during your career.

Overseeing the producer board reform that ultimately led to the creation of Fonterra and Zespri, you launched our successful 100% pure marketing campaign which was a global success.

Perhaps most importantly you were the original instigator of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Mr. Speaker you are also renowned for your singing voice and your annual concert in Rodney is an event constituents look forward to every year. I have made a commitment to continue with this concert and although I feel my own voice is pretty good I have been assured by those closest to me that I need to find another way of keeping that tradition alive.

Mr. Speaker, I live in Orewa, in the heart of the Rodney electorate.

Rodney is a wonderful part of New Zealand stretching from Albany Heights, Wainui and Dairy flat in the south, to Warkworth, Matakana and Leigh in the North.

We have been blessed with the beautiful Hibiscus and Kowhai coasts, stunning regional parks like Shakespeare, Wenderholm and Mahurangi, and home to two marine reserves one of which, Goat Island, was the first in New Zealand.

The new northern motorway has bought Auckland closer to Rodney and our towns in the south of the electorate are experiencing strong growth while still retaining their unique character.

Further north our communities are more rural; some have become famous like Puhoi for its Pub and Cheese Factory or Waiwera for its geothermal hot pools.

We have the charm and history of Warkworth, world class wine trails, great schools, strong communities and a real pride in our beautiful part of New Zealand.

However there are challenges ahead and I am focused on finding solutions that will allow us to develop our infrastructure and services in step with our population growth.

This includes the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension, the Penlink development and I will work on common sense policies and legislation that will encourage investment and growth in our local Business’s and economy.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my superb campaign team who worked incredibly hard, who did the basics superbly combined with innovative ideas and really took the campaign to our opponents.

I know many of you are gathered around the TV in Warkworth and Orewa today and although I can’t mention everyone, you know that our result was a testament to your drive, passion and belief in the National Party values and vision for a brighter future.

I would like to make special mention of our Electorate Chair Jennie Georgetti and Campaign Chair John Evans, your determination and will were contagious.

Thanks also to our regional executive, Alan Towers and Stephen McElrea, Stephen your solid dependable advice and guidance was of great assistance to a new candidate.

To our National Campaign team who provided a steady rudder and reliable compass to us all.

And to President Peter Goodfellow and our Board of Directors for your support, guidance and council.

I was born on the North Shore of Auckland and spent my first years living on Whenuapai Air Force base.

My Dad was a Flt Lt flying Orion’s on 3 squadron.  My Mum was the daughter of the Base Commander Air Commodore Frank Gill. My Grandfather was also the National Party MP for East Coast Bays, Minister of Health and Defence and our New Zealand Ambassador to Washington.

Dad managed to catch the eye of my mum at a base dance and the rest as they say is history.

One of the great lessons I learnt early from my Dad was about not giving up.

When the inaugural Auckland Star Times Takapuna to Rangitoto race was cancelled due to bad weather Dad decided to make the swim anyway. He battled strong winds and swells to complete a difficult swim.

He won the race and set the best time. Being the only competitor didn’t matter.

Because my Mum was the daughter of a career Air Force Officer and spent her childhood on different postings around the world when she was finally able to settle in one place she nested.

There were four of us kids but our house was always filled with orphans that Mum would take under her wing.

I learnt early that not everyone is born into a loving caring home and that when we can help we should.

I am from Irish Catholic, English and Canadian stock with my ancestors arriving in NZ from 1860 through to 1919.

I was educated at Rosmini College in Auckland; a Catholic School whose motto is Legis Plentido Charitas, Charity fulfils the law.

A Google search of Social Justice will result in the name of Father Antonio Rosmini, the original founder of the school.

I am a strong advocate for social justice, however I reject claims that social justice and conservatism are exclusive of one another.

On leaving school I went farming in the central North Island.

I was lucky enough to be given my first job by Gary Ramsay who is here today in the gallery.

Farming taught me what long hours of hard physical work and graft were all about.

Our farmers and the rural sector is where our number 8 wire attitude and common sense approach to problem solving was born.

From my own time overseas in a competitive environment I discovered that those problem solving skills and failure is not an option attitude, helped me stand out amongst the crowd.

As a country we need to recognize the importance of these qualities’ and fight hard to retain them as part of our culture and psyche.

In 1989 I joined the New Zealand Police.  I was a member of the Dog Section and Armed Offenders Squad.

I would like to acknowledge the Officer in Charge of the Police Dog Training Centre Snr Sgt John Edmonds who is here today.

I was lucky to have been able to serve with you and it is a great honour to have you both present today.

My partner on the Dog section was a small black German shepherd named Czar.

When we graduated our final report stated Czar was a natural born Police Dog and that if the team didn’t perform operationally the handler should be replaced not the dog.

He loved children but didn’t have much time for adults.

One of the first jobs we attended together put us head to head with an offender armed with a samurai sword and whose intent was to attack medical staff at Rotorua hospital.

During the arrest both Czar and I were stabbed, me through my right arm and Czar in the chest.

We both recovered although I never regained the full use of my arm.

I thank the Hon Judith Collins for the leadership she provided in making sure our Police officers were given every tactical advantage and option available.

Had tasers been around in my day I would have a much better tennis swing.

One thing I could see early in my career was the amount of damage gangs and organized crime did to our communities.

Whether they be the Mongrel Mob, Hells Angels or Asian triads they are parasites living off the backs of our communities and a bunch of low life cowards.

Hunting in packs they rob, steal, rape, murder, intimidate, assault and generally terrorize anyone unlucky enough to get in their way. Many of the social issues we face today are connected either directly or indirectly to the gang culture.

Our Police Service is now been led by leaders rather than managers, with morale the highest it has been for years and with the best Police Officers in the world we are on the right side of the ledger in continuing to tackle gangs and organized crime.

Our brave men and women of all our emergency services have my full support, admiration and gratitude for the services you provide our country.

I make a commitment to my electorate that I will be strong on Law and Order and support changes to bail laws that strengthen the rights and protection for victims of crime.

Our Rodney health services are very important with a growing population and a high number of older people choosing to retire in Rodney.

I support our locally driven initiatives like the Rodney Health Trust and Rodney Day Surgical Centre who are providing local services for our communities.

I am proud of how far we have come as a country in our understanding, caring and tolerance of those suffering from a mental illness or depression.

I was often asked if I was angry at the person who stabbed me who at the time was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

No I wasn’t angry with him. He didn’t wake up one morning saying I want to be paranoid schizophrenic. He was ill with a sickness he didn’t want.

In 2000 I lost my younger brother Sean. He was intelligent, the life of the party, an active member of the Auckland Coastguard rescue team and diagnosed with Manic Depression.

He wrote a letter to us, his family and then swam into the Rangitoto channel. We found him the next day washed up on Rangitoto Island.

We love and miss you Sean.

I applaud John Kirwan and the courage it took to tell his own story about depression and the debilitating effects it can have.

I am committed to supporting the mental health services in our communities.

In 2002 I resigned from the Police to live a quiet life raising and training horses in Taupo.

But fate had other plans and in 2003 I found myself in Iraq as part of a small team establishing a safety and security programme for the newly formed interim Government.

It was a tough year for me because for the first time in my life I was exposed to the ugliness of corruption, extreme ideologies, and very little regard for human life.

The first election in Iraq had over 7000 candidates for 235 Parliamentary positions.

Opposing candidates would dispose of each other with road side bombs or hit squads.

It helped for me to put some context around the teapot tapes last year.

In 2005 I was asked to establish the Provincial Joint Operations Centre in southern Iraq.

This was the command centre of all the newly formed Iraqi security forces.

Iraq faces some very big challenges in their rebuild, but I was lucky enough to work with some very good men and women, and where there are good men and women there is hope.

In 2005 I was approached and asked to establish a security programme for a company that was providing food and life support to the coalition in Iraq.

Seen as a legitimate target by Al Qaeda as they were supporting the Government, employees of the company were being attacked and killed.

The security programme I put in place was successful and soon I was being approached by Governments, including the United States, Japan and Australia to assist with logistics’ and protective support in high threat and difficult environments.

Although I have the deepest respect for organizations such as the United Nations I also saw how difficult it was for big bureaucratic organization’s to move quickly when sometimes people needed protection and aid today as it would be to late tomorrow.

I am proud of the fact I was part of a dedicated team that formed an initiative backed by the World Economic Forum to create Emergency Logistics Teams set up to deploy aid into areas struck by humanitarian disasters.

I am proud that we lead refugees out of Lebanon to safety when they were trapped in a war between Israel and Hezbollah.

That we protected and supported scientists from The Hague to open and take evidence from mass graves in their case against Saddam Hussein.

Delivered food and medical supplies to flood ravaged areas of Pakistan and ensured it got to the people that needed it.

That we were able to open up a supply chain to get food and supplies into Darfur and Mogadishu.

Mr Speaker, I have been a Farmer, Policeman, small business owner, and the founder of a successful global company.

I understand the pressures they face, the responsibility they carry and the importance that each one plays in the future of our country.

But they can’t carry the weight by themselves.

I believe that for the privilege of living in this beautiful country regardless of when we arrived we all have the same obligation and that is to look for ways to contribute to New Zealand’s future.

Finally Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my family.

To my wife Peggy, I would not be standing here today delivering this maiden speech if it wasn’t for your unconditional love and support.

You have helped me achieve my dream and I hope that I can help you achieve yours.

To my children; Taylor, Spencer and Jazlin.

Your father was taken from you and New Zealand too early.

Possum was the only sportsman in New Zealand to beat the Aussies in their own National Championship 7 times in row. What a legend.

But first and foremost he was a loving and caring father.

I will continue to do my best to provide you with the love and security that your father would have provided.

To my Daughter Sylvie, yes honey it did feel like life had really begun for me when you came into this world and I am very proud of the caring young lady you are growing into.

To my son Nathan, you’re the man…your energy and enthusiasm for life is contagious.

To my sisters Lissa and Tracey, thank you for being here today. Thank you to Auntie Francis and Uncle Rodney; Geoffrey and Lynda Bourne for being here also.

Mr Speaker, I am back in the service of my country. There is no greater honour.

Whaleoil has a video of the delivery.

Thanks Air New Zealand


Air New Zealand recently ran a promotion in which you went into a draw for prizes if you entered your airpoints number when booking on-line.

I did and received an email yesterday saying I’d won 25% off a book at Paper Plus.

There’s always several books on my nice-to-have list and the voucher will give me a much appreciated discount on one of them.

Quote of the day


. . . Anyone decrying Mr English’s comments as some big revelation is showing not only their ignorance of economics but also the worst kind of old fashioned, command-economy statist mentality.

Of course it’s just a guess. No one is going to know for certain until the shares are floated on the market. That’s how markets work.

The idea that someone can sit in the Treasury – or the Minister’s office – and come up with a sure fire figure on what the market is going to pay for those shares is living in some kind of economic fantasy land. . . Rob Hosking.

Could isn’t would


The High Court’s decision to send the decision on the Crafar farms’ sale back to the Overseas Investment Office raises the question of how could a foreign buy be better than a local one.

Shanghai Pengxin was committed to spending $14m or more if necessary to bring the farms up to scratch economically and environmentally.

It also agreed to set up an on-farm training facility for dairy farm workers and provide a couple of scholarships for trainees.

A New Zealand buyer could do all this and more but could isn’t would.

If Shanghai Pengxin was able to buy the farms it would have to fulfill its commitments local buyers would not.

This means a local buyer could get a property at a lower price than a foreign buyer was prepared to pay then do less with it.

Business New Zealand says the court ruling raises concerns over fairness and neutrality.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says the decision seems to imply that future overseas investors would find it harder to succeed against a local bidder, even if the overseas investor was prepared to offer substantially more.

“If a local bidder could show that they would meet the same Overseas Investment Act criteria as an overseas bidder, then, according to the High Court decision, the overseas bidder would not be able to succeed.

“This is because the criteria in the Overseas Investment Act do not include the bidding price.

“This implies that a lower offer by a local bidder would trump a higher offer by an overseas bidder, where both bids met the OIA criteria.

“Great legal uncertainty would result from potential overseas investors meeting numerous stringent criteria then finding themselves having to meet local legal challenges.

“This could have a severe impact on the willingness of overseas interests to invest in New Zealand, just at a time when New Zealand needs every ounce of overseas capital to get our economy more productive and successful.

“This implied disadvantage against overseas investors is serious and requires scrutiny and possibly amendment to the Overseas Investment Act to ensure a fairer, more commercially neutral set of criteria,” Mr O’Reilly said?

The ruling calls into question all other decisions made by the OIO.

It will also be concerning anyone contemplating a farm sale in the near future because as Rob Hosking points out it will rule out some potential buyers.

That might please people who think land prices are too high but it will also mean bigger losses for creditors waiting for money from the sale of distressed assets.

February 18 in history


On February 18:

3102 BC Epoch of the Kali Yuga.

1229 The Sixth Crusade: Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor signed a ten-year truce with al-Kamil, regaining Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem with neither military engagements nor support from the papacy.

1268 The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were defeated by Dovmont of Pskov in the Battle of Rakvere.

1478 George, Duke of Clarence, who was convicted of treason against his older brother Edward IV of England, was executed.

1685 Fort St. Louis was established by a Frenchman at Matagorda Bay thus forming the basis for France’s claim to Texas.

1745 The city of Surakarta, Central Java was founded on the banks of Bengawan Solo river, and became the capital of the Kingdom of Surakarta.

1797 Trinidad was surrendered to a British fleet under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby.

1814 The Battle of Montereau.

1841 The first ongoing filibuster in the United States Senate began and lasted until March 11.

1846 Beginning of the Galician peasant revolt.

1861 Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America.

1861 King Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont, Savoy and Sardinia assumed the title of King of Italy.

1873 Bulgarian revolutionary leader Vasil Levski was executed in Sofia by the Ottoman authorities.

1878 John Tunstall was murdered by outlaw Jessie Evans, sparking the Lincoln County War.

Jessie Evans.

1884 Mark Twain‘s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published for the first time.

1901 Winston Churchill made his maiden speech in the House of Commons.

1906 Hans Asperger, Austrian pediatrician was born (d. 1980).

1911 The first official flight with air mail took place in Allahabad, British India, when Henri Pequet, a 23-year-old pilot, delivers 6,500 letters to Naini, about 10 km away.

1913 Raymond Poincaré becomes President of France.

1922 Helen Gurley Brown, American editor, was born.

1929 The first Academy Awards were announced.

1930 Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto.

1930 – Elm Farm Ollie becomes the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft and also the first cow to be milked in an aircraft.

1932 – The Empire of Japan declared Manzhouguo (the obsolete Chinese name for Manchuria) independent from the Republic of China.

1933  Yoko Ono, Japanese-born singer, was born.

1933  Mary Ure, Scottish actress, was born  (d. 1975).

1936 Jean Auel, American writer, was born.

1943 – The Nazis arrested the members of the White Rose movement.

1943 – Joseph Goebbels delivered the Sportpalast speech.

1946 Jean-Claude Dreyfus, French actor, was born.

1948 Eamon de Valera resignsed as Taoiseach of Ireland.

1948 Keith Knudsen, American drummer and songwriter (The Doobie Brothers), was born (d. 2005).

1950 Cybill Shepherd, American actress, was born.

1953 Robbie Bachman, Canadian drummer (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), was born.

1954 John Travolta, American actor, was born.

1954 The first Church of Scientology was established in Los Angeles, California.

1955 Operation Teapot: Teapot test shot “Wasp” was successfully detonated at the Nevada Test Site with a yield of 1.2 kilotons.

1957 Walter Bolton, a Wanganui farmer was the last man to be hanged in New Zealand.

1957  Kenyan rebel leader Dedan Kimathi was executed by the British colonial government.

1960  Greta Scacchi, Australian actress, was born.

1965 The Gambia becomes independent from the United Kingdom.

1969 The Hawthorne Nevada Airlines Flight 708 disaster occurred, killing all on board.

1972 The California Supreme Court in the case of People v. Anderson, 6 Cal.3d 628 invalidates the state’s death penalty and commutes the sentences of all death ro innmates to life in prison.

1977  The Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle was carried on its maiden “flight” sitting on top of a Boeing 747.

1979 Snow fell in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria for the only time in recorded history.

1982 “Queen of Crime” Dame Ngaio Marsh died.

'Queen of Crime' Ngaio Marsh dies

1983 Thirteen people die and one is seriously injured in the Wah Mee Massacre in Seattle, Washington. It is said to be the largest robbery-motivated mass-murder in U.S. history.

1991 The IRA exploded bombs in the early morning at both Paddington station and Victoria station in London.

2001 FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested for spying for the Soviet Union.

2003 Nearly 200 people died in the Daegu subway fire in South Korea.

2003 Comet C/2002 V1 (NEAT) made perihelion, seen by SOHO.

2004 Up to 295 people, including nearly 200 rescue workers, died near Neyshabur in Iran when a run-away freight train carrying sulfur, petrol and fertiliser caught fire and exploded.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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