Todd Muller’s maiden speech

National’s Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller delivered his maiden speech:

Tena koe Mr Speaker,

Ko 1862 African te waka, ko mauau te maunga, ko wairoa te awa, ko pakeha te iwi, ko potuterangi te marae, ko Todd Muller ahau.

Mr Speaker, this afternoon I rise with immense gratitude to the people of the Bay of Plenty electorate, for their strong support of the John Key-led National Party and for placing their trust in me as their local MP. 

It is a realisation of a childhood dream, and I commit to work for all of you, to advocate without fear nor favour and for the good of all our community. 

To begin I wish to acknowledge the Borell and Bidois whanau of Te Puna who have given me this very special korowai to wear this evening. I am deeply humbled.

Mr Speaker, there are many whose love and support have enabled me to stand here before you today.

Firstly, my parents Mike and Trish Muller, who are here in the public gallery.  Thank you for your unconditional love, your values, and unerring belief in my potential. Thank you for showing me the power of fusing a loving family with hard work. The more I observe society, the keener my appreciation grows.

I wish to acknowledge my three younger brothers, Gavin, Craig, and Nathan. 

We were a tight family growing up who made our own fun largely around backyard cricket, rugby, and the kind of fierce hand-to-hand combat that only brothers of a certain age can understand.  Thirty years on, the hand-to-hand combat is now verbal and I remain blessed with the certainty of a family’s love.

To my wife Michelle.  Thank you for believing in me, for being willing to walk our life’s journey together and for being such a wonderful mum to Aimee, Bradley, and Amelia. 

To my darling children thanks for your understanding and acceptance that in coming to Parliament, Daddy won’t always be at home. 

Mr Speaker, my biggest work in progress remains being a loving dad and husband and I will continue to strive to be there for them when they need me. 

I wish to acknowledge my predecessor the Hon Tony Ryall. His extraordinary performance as Health Minister is well documented, but it is his integrity and work ethic for the people of the Bay of Plenty that is the benchmark I will seek to emulate.

I wish to thank the local Bay of Plenty National Party, campaign chairman Sean Newland, electorate chairman Mark Bayley, my campaign team, and the hundreds of volunteers for their tireless commitment to our cause.  I am humbled by your support. 

Finally, my thanks to those who have backed me throughout my career, often affording me opportunities that my experience did not justify, particularly the late Professor Lew Fretz at Waikato University, you Mr Speaker in my early days in the National Party, Doug Voss at Zespri, and Theo Spierings at Fonterra. 

In particular, I would like to thank the Rt Hon Jim Bolger who plucked me from party obscurity to be his executive assistant throughout his second term, a role that took me across the country to engage with the diverse families and communities that make up this extraordinary place.

Jim, I have always been extremely grateful for your support now spanning across two decades. You are a statesman of great mana and I am very honoured you are here today.

Mr Speaker, I was born in Te Aroha 45 years ago, but the Bay of Plenty is home.

Like many before us and particularly after us, our family moved from somewhere else to the Bay, 40 years ago for a better life. 

In my parents case it was a move from dairy to a new industry that was just emerging from the corners of citrus orchards in Te Puke and Te Puna.

I went to the local school at Te Puna, then Tauranga Boys’ College, then the University of Waikato where I followed my passion for public service and its contribution to history.

My passion stems from two great influences: the power of the written word and the fulfilling power of deeds.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the unnamed salesman who convinced my parents to use their savings, such as they were, to buy the latest

World Book encyclopedias in 1978. 

I devoured those books, in particular the sections on American presidents.  It fired my imagination to such an extent that I saw myself as a future US President (constitutional challenges not withstanding).

I even wrote a book as a 10-year-old that saw me elected vice-president of the United States as a very young man in my twenties, become president upon the very unfortunate death of the then president, and then go on to serve 13 consecutive terms until I think I died of old age.  My Mum still has the story hidden away in our attic.  I suspect its best to remain there.

For the power of deeds, it was my grandparents Henry and Eileen Skidmore, former mayor and mayoress of Te Aroha, who gave close to 60 years to that small mountain-bound community and their impact on me has been profound.  Family, faith, and community were at the core of their lives and their example shines for me still.

They demonstrated how selfless service not only enriches those who receive it, but for those who give it, enables a life that has distinct meaning.

Mr Speaker, I have always wanted to serve my community, and for me the vehicle for that service is the National Party.

The National Party has been an integral part of my life since 1989, where I was welcomed into my first meeting with open arms, encouraged to speak, to contribute, and typical of National Party values, the more I did, the more opportunities opened up.

We are a party made up of ordinary New Zealanders, committing extraordinary levels of personal time and commitment to a philosophy that has anchored our own lives over many years, thereby proving its fit for the lives of generations to come. 

I believe the National Party philosophy speaks to the aspirations of the families of the Bay of Plenty and the values of our country.

Our belief in family. Though we are singular individuals, we are made complete through the shared effort and experiences that family brings.

Our belief in individual enterprise.  Hard work and application should be encouraged and rewarded, whilst acknowledging the need for resilience and perspective, because life is often unfair.

Our belief in the importance of constant self-improvement.  Education is a lifelong experience that is neither defined by or concluded with a graduation ceremony or certificate.

Our belief in the value of personal dignity, particularly for our elderly. Our elderly should be our most venerable, but can, particularly in their twilight years, become some of our most vulnerable.  We must get the balance right between supporting those who have much to live with those who have given much already.

Our belief in the right to personal security, be it in our communities, or in our homes.  Our commitment to public safety must be underpinned with tough deterrence for those who breach our trust.

And finally, our belief in a compassionate community that looks out for others and provides a pathway for improvement that is matched with expectations of self-motivation and individual responsibility.

These are the values of the National Party, they speak to the aspirations of the country and will be my guiding stars.

Mr Speaker, I am very privileged to represent the Bay of Plenty electorate.  It wraps around the city of Tauranga, and is made up of the small communities of Apata, Omokoroa, Whakamarama, Te Puna to the west; Kaimai, Oropi, Ohauiti to the south, and Welcome Bay, Maungatapu, Arataki, Omanu, Matapihi, and the future city of Papamoa to the east.

It was a very different place when I was a boy, when the regional population was just over 30,000 and the communities were mostly rural.

All my early childhood memories were about harvesting the bounty, in our case kiwifruit, and the sense of place and space that this remarkable area affords. 

And I can recall the families coming, year after year and the challenge and opportunity that growth brought.

In 1974 no-one, with perhaps the exception of local icons Roly Earp and Bob Owens, could imagine dairy, kiwifruit, avocados so developed, or a community city of our size, with the supporting roading and port infrastructure of the excellence we have.

Now we stand in 2014, a city of 120,000 people, a region spread from Katikati to Te Puke, of 175,000 and growing at over 3000 a year.

My vision for this community looking out to 2030, is a vibrant, diverse region that energetically and innovatively connects itself to the world confidently drawing on the unique talents and character that underpin our small communities of today.

Our region is one of the fastest growing in the country and we should welcome and celebrate that growth, be demanding of our city planners and of Government for the ongoing investment that is required for our region to thrive.

One in five Bay of Plenty locals are from offshore, and half of them from the UK.  Our growth story to date is one of warmly welcoming new people from around the country and around the world. Long let this continue.

Mr Speaker, I commit to the people of the Bay of Plenty that I will add my voice and efforts to theirs and always look to promote our natural advantages of climate, soil, vocational and tertiary education, innovation and manufacturing excellence, diversity of people and ideas, which together with our global port gateway is increasingly taking our uniqueness to the world.

Mr Speaker, throughout my career I have had the privilege of travelling extensively throughout our country.  

It has nurtured in me a fascination for people, a yearning to understand their stories, and to observe the power of place and belonging in their lives.

Mr Speaker, I believe our country will forever be defined by the land and its influence on the people.

Its abundance sustains families and communities, its physical beauty almost mythical in its scale and power, drives our collective creativity, and inspires our innovation.  A forever changing landscape, with brooding intensity and an energy that’s palpable.

Aotearoa gets under our skin. And the longer we have been here, the more intrinsic the connection to the land becomes.

Our tangata whenua have specific words that speak to the power of this place.

But you can see it in the 6th generation farmers who express kaitiakitanga in different words but showcase it on their farms.

You can see it play out in those who seek to protect it from others who wish to come and make a life here.

You can see it in those who wish to tame it, or in those who wish it forever locked in yesterday’s memories.

You can see it in our new migrants that shed tears when sharing the impact of moving here.  

Mr Speaker, the power of this place is real and it affords us as a people huge privileges and responsibilities.

We need to be careful that our innate and subconscious awe of our environment does not blind us from the opportunities that present us.

We have one of the largest economic zones in the world.  Close to 90 per cent of our water flows to the sea, we have a productive basin underpinned by sustainable practices that are admired by many around the world.

We have trading partners that see value in what we can offer and are willing to pay for it.

Mr Speaker, let’s use our natural resources to their fullest potential.

I am not advocating plundering New Zealand with 19th century tools and ideas, I speak of alloying the world’s best technologies and innovations to some of the greatest natural resources and talent in the world, for the betterment of our people.

Mr Speaker, there is always risk in any endeavour, but I firmly believe there is greater risk in inaction. 

Not only will we deny ourselves the opportunity to improve our standard of living for generations to come, but we are quite frankly denying history. 

Since the dawn of time, scarce and valued resources are rarely left untouched. We have the opportunity to use our natural resources and advantages for the benefit of our people, or know for certain that some other people of some other age, yet to come, will do the same.

The capacity of this country to imagine this future, one that leverages our natural resources with our people and for our people, in a way that acknowledges our genuine respect of place and space is one of the defining challenges of this generation.

It’s about fusing the environment, the economy, our education system with the values of our country and the values of the National Party.

Mr Speaker, Captain Cook’s Bay of Plenty is as good a place as any to start. Tena kotou, tena kotou, tena kotou katoa.

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