Word of the day


Stag – a male deer; a turkey cock older than one year; a young horse, especially an unbroken stallion; a swine or bull castrated after etching maturity; a social function restricted to men; one who attends a social function unaccompanied; one who applies for shares in a new issue with a view to selling at once for a profit; to buy shares in a new issue and sell them for profit; roughly cut.

Chris Penk’s maiden speech


Chris Penk, national’s MP in Helensville, delivered his maiden speech last week:

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Parliament, Mr Speaker; I do so with great expectations and excitement.  I congratulate you and your fellow presiding officers on your respective appointments.

Let me begin by recording my gratitude to all who voted in the electorate of Helensville, including – but not limited to – those who did so for my Party and me.  I acknowledge and thank my opponents for a campaign that was robust but reasonable, and frank but fair.

I also acknowledge all fellow Members of this House, including in particular the “class of 2017” (on both sides of the aisle) and my National Party colleagues under the strong and principled leadership of Bill English.

It’s well known that my immediate predecessor as MP for Helensville was Sir John Key.  I’m grateful for the advice he has generously given me.  During the recent election campaign it was observed by many that I have “large shoes to fill” if I am (extending the metaphor) to follow in the footsteps of Sir John. 

Nevertheless I shall endeavour to tread the path that appears to me, exercising my own judgement in accordance with my own experience and worldview, to mark the surest way to health and happiness for the people of Auckland’s northwest.

The Helensville electorate is magnificent. I may be biased – and indeed it would be strange if I were not – but in my view it represents the very best of our nation, comprising as it does fertile farmland, commanding coastlines, bountiful bush, secure suburbs, flourishing forests and beautiful beaches.

My journey to Parliament has been at once atypical (including many voyages over and under the oceans of the world, on which more later) and in other ways somewhat typical (including a career in the law).

I completed a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Linguistics at 19 years of age, having already by then commenced a lifelong love of language.  I find a happy home here in Parliament, an institution whose words are powerful enough to be known as “Acts”.

Along with my BA, I had started a law degree but (in a victory for adventure over academia) I chose to “run away to sea”, so to speak, rather than face classes in jurisprudence.

More specifically, I served in the Royal New Zealand Navy as an officer of the watch on HMNZS Te Kaha, an Anzac-class frigate.

I was also privileged to serve in the role of Aide-de-Camp to Her Excellency the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, travelling around New Zealand and abroad as a member of the vice-regal household.  At 22 years of age, I was (at least at that time) the youngest person in NZ to have held the role.

Already by then a keen student of public law, at Government House I had the considerable privilege of witnessing “royal assent” being given to legislation.  In a strict constitutional and historical sense, it is law-making power beyond even that enjoyed by this House.

In 2004, I joined the Royal Australian Navy to fulfil my dream of driving submarines.  The genesis of that dream is unclear to me but may have been my boyhood enjoyment of the Jules Verne classic, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. 

As navigating officer of a diesel-electric submarine, I was driving a hybrid vehicle long before most Green Party MPs ever did.  Every submariner knows that the best stories of the silent service are seldom told, those of hard times and good times alike. 

Through the looking glass known as a periscope, I saw things over a decade ago that are still as clear in my mind’s eye today as though I’d viewed them only yesterday.

My service with the Australian Defence Force was completed with Operation Iraqi Freedom, when I was stationed on a shell-scarred oil terminal.  And so it was that I spent Christmas of one particular year a metaphorical stone’s throw away from where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers of ancient Mesopotamia still meet and flow together into the Northern Arabian Gulf, in turn not far from the little town of Bethlehem.

To the men and women of the Defence Force, I say “Victor Mike Tango” … along with “over” rather than “out”.

It was then time to return to NZ, where I completed my law degree.  On admission to the bar I practised law, eventually in a firm that I established with a business partner, Ong & Penk Lawyers.

My experiences on the long and winding road to Parliament have shaped me for good and, almost without exception, also for the better.

Next, my heartfelt thanks to the National Party campaign team and executive committee of the Helensville electorate.  I owe my place here to each one of you.  Our leader, Stephen Franklin is a great New Zealander who has served with the SAS, the police force, St John and of course, as mentioned earlier, Sir John Key.

To all National Party members, supporters and of course our voters: thank you too.  I acknowledge the Party President, Peter Goodfellow and his fellow Board directors, including Andrew Hunt, who is also to be thanked in his capacity as Chair of the Northern Region.

Others who have supported me strongly and kindly in various ways are too numerous to name but they know who they are.  I also know and it is my solemn resolution never to forget.

Mr Speaker, it’s my belief that family members of politicians should not generally be mentioned in Parliament, for a number of reasons.  The exceptions that prove this rule for me are Maiden and Valedictory Statements, being rare opportunities to thank those who are nearest and dearest.

First, my eternal gratitude to the best parents a son could wish to have: Debbie and Stephen Penk. Both are teachers by instinct and indeed profession, my mother at various levels in the schooling system and my father as a lecturer at the Law School of Auckland University. 

They raised five boys in a household that was not wealthy in a material sense – far from it – but one rich in love.  They taught me the overriding importance of fidelity, family and faith.

We were raised in West Auckland and I attended the local state schools, of which Kelston Boys High School deserves particular mention as a favourable, formative influence.

I’m also grateful for the love and support of all my brothers, and my sisters-in-law, and acknowledge the presence of Alex and George in the Gallery today.

There is much that I could say about my grandparents but I’ll focus briefly on the experience of each during World War II.  This is because the self-sacrificial ethos of their generation – rightly called “the greatest” by many – is typified by such service.

My grandmother, Joan Penk, joined the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce.  As a “WAAF”, I hope that she would be pleased that I’m now able to represent an area that includes the RNZAF airbase at Whenuapai.

Her husband, my grandfather Harold Penk served as a medic in the NZ Army.  A brave and devoted man, he was mentioned in dispatches at the time and it’s my pleasure to be able to mention him in Parliament now as well.

My maternal grandfather, Prof Forrest Scott, PhD was a naval officer in the Second World War, who bequeathed us a diary in which he describes the torpedoing and loss of his ship, HMS Springbank by a u-boat.

His wife and my grandmother, Helen Scott, was a schoolgirl evacuated from Dover during the Nazi bombings.  Her determination was amply demonstrated by obtaining a degree in mathematics at Cambridge University in the 1940s, an era in which women were actively discouraged from studying such subjects. 

I’m delighted that she will be watching on Parliament TV today, provided that the Silver Ferns are not playing a netball test on another channel at the same time.

I will also always be grateful to my dear parents-in-law: Ken and Tjoe Choe.  They are invariably supportive and generous, not least of all because they allowed me to marry their eldest daughter.

I met my beautiful wife, Kim at law school.  An excellent journalist specialising in online news, she has recently (at least temporarily) exchanged the Fourth Estate for first-time motherhood, a role she handles wonderfully well.

Our son was born just two days prior to the recent General Election.  Jokes about her being in labour and me being in National were not made in her hearing at the time.

Some might say that I will be spending my days here, sitting on the backbenches of the opposition side of Parliament, in much the same way that a newborn baby does: making unreasonable demands and unintelligible cries, often due to an excess of hot air, from the other side of a room.  I could not possibly comment.

Mr Speaker, I move now from the personal to the political:

I joined the National Party immediately on my return to NZ in early 2008.  For several years I served on the electorate committee of Paula Bennett, twice as Electorate Chair.

In 2011, I represented her in a Judicial Recount of the Waitakere election result.  That was under my mentor and friend, Peter Kiely, Chair of the National Party’s Rules Committee, whom I thank now for many years of help and encouragement.  I recall walking into that room with our candidate behind by 11 votes and we emerged several days later with her ahead, and accordingly the victor, by 9 votes.  I will never forget that fascinating intersection of law and politics.

Mr Speaker, my values are closely aligned to those of the National Party, as you might well expect, in particular our emphasis on providing equality of opportunity and a strong belief in the value of personal responsibility.

Beyond that, I would like to offer some thoughts on an aspect of law-making that is seldom considered and understood properly even less.  It concerns a paradox of choice and freedom.

Every person has rights that are limited by reference to rights enjoyed by others.  That much is generally acknowledged as a matter of principle, although in practice we do not always protect every heart that beats.

But perhaps more complex and interesting is the paradox of making laws that ostensibly offer choice and freedom to a person but have the actual opposite effect.  By way of example, a person who is offered by the law (and accepts) the choice of taking an addictive substance will suffer from a lack of choice as a result of doing so.

Much more could be said along these lines – and will be said, I’m sure – in the coming months.

I also wish to comment briefly on the present electoral-constitutional arrangements of this country.

It has become clear that MMP governments are now invariably formed in three stages, only one of which involves the voting public and two of which do not:

–               first, an election, of MPs to seats, by the people;

–               second, a selection, of the government, by politicians; and

–               third, a collection, of some (but not all) of the relevant parties’ policies, again by politicians alone.

Given such democratic deficit inherent in the rules of the MMP game, it is unfortunate that the people are given so little opportunity to view the way in which the game is played at the second and third stages.

Mr Speaker, in my hope that this speech will be watched at least once on YouTube, by someone other than me, I have effectively created a game of Maiden Speech Bingo. 

In these 15 minutes I have referred to three Beatles song titles, three Charles Dickens novels, three books of the Bible and three famous naval ships. 

Each is significant to me in some way.  You may recall that I began addressing the House with “great expectations”, one of the Dickens novel titles of course, but the rest I will leave to anyone interested in looking.

I conclude my remarks with the motto of the submarine on which I served, HMAS Sheean, which was simply “Fight On”. 

I emphasise those words for two reasons:

First, I do not resile from the adversarial nature of parliamentary democracy but I will fight fairly.  A contest of ideas provides the least unsafe way of making the least dangerous laws.

In Opposition, we have not only the right but, more significantly, the responsibility to oppose bad government policy … even as we support any good policy that they may propose.  A legislative chamber that is fiery is not a bleak house but a bright one.

Second, that motto – Fight On – speaks to the high value I place on resilience, persistence and determination.

Mr Speaker, even as I finish now I promise that I will, at all times, fight on.


Saturday’s smiles


What is a sheep’s favourite car?

A Lamb-baa-ghini.

Rural round-up


Farmer led project highlights innovative environmental work:

A North Canterbury river awarded as the country’s most improved- is testament to innovative environmental work undertaken by farmers and their community says Federated Farmers.

The Hurunui district’s Pahau River was bestowed supreme winner at last night’s 2017 National River Awards, achieving significant reduction in bacteria E coli levels over the past 10 years.

The river reportedly runs through one of the most densely irrigated catchments in the country. It had also demonstrated decreasing levels in nitrogen and phosphorous. . . 

Alliance Group Doubles Annual Earnings as Meat Prices Recover, Targets Fatter Profitability:

(BusinessDesk) – Alliance Group, the world’s biggest sheepmeat exporter, doubled annual earnings as its sales rose 15 percent with a recovery in global meat prices, but wants to lift profitability further.

Operating earnings rose to $20.2 million in the year ended Sept. 30 from $10.1 million a year earlier, the Invercargill-based company said in a statement. It paid $11.4 million to its 5,000 farmer shareholders, up from $9.8 million, while revenue rose to $1.53 billion from $1.36 billion.

“We are welcoming new shareholders, achieving a stronger balance sheet, improving our profitability and most importantly, offering better livestock pricing for our farmers,” chair Murray Taggart said. “Alliance has a wide range of short, medium and long-term programmes underway as we seek to gain deeper market penetration and capture more value from existing markets.”. . .

Tax Working Group should have an Agri-sector voice:


A new Tax Working Group should have primary sector representation says Federated Farmers.

Sir Michael Cullen is to chair the Group from February next year and the Federation recommends that farming and fellow industry stakeholders get a voice.

“Ideally it would be good to have someone on the Group who understands the agri-sector and its tax issues. Given the likely focus on environmental taxation, capital gains and land taxes, it would same a reasonable thing to do,” says Federated Farmers Vice President Andrew Hoggard. . . 

Jersey Benne harvest delayed – Sally Brooker:

While the new potato season is being celebrated in a national campaign, North Otago’s Jersey Benne harvest has hardly begun.

Potatoes New Zealand is promoting the ”humble potato” with television advertising, having showcased varieties, recipes and nutritional facts to food writers and the media at an Auckland event. Potato growers from throughout the country took along samples of their produce being dug this month.

However, a shortage of cauliflower and broccoli has prompted one of North Otago’s biggest growers to delay his potato-digging.

Peter Armstrong, of Armstrong and Co, plants potatoes on several properties in the Totara and Kakanui areas south of Oamaru, where the soil and microclimate result in sought-after Jersey Bennes. . . 

Take alternative protein seriously, analyst warns – Alexa Cook:

The meat industry should not be complacent about the threat of alternative protein food products, a report warns.

The international Rabobank report looks into the success of alternative proteins, including plant-based meat substitutes, insect or algae-based products, and lab-grown meat.

The products were on the verge of becoming mainstream and ‘stealing’ growth from traditional meat product markets, it said.

The report projected that the market for alternative protein would grow 8 percent each year in the European Union, and six percent each year in the US and Canada. . . 

Zespri wins top award for best growth strategy:

Zespri was recognised last night in the 2017 Deloitte Top 200 Awards for its strong growth strategy, with the kiwifruit marketing company on track to more than double global sales to $4.5 billion by 2025.

Zespri Chief Executive Dan Mathieson says the 2degrees Best Growth Strategy award is welcome recognition for the work done across the industry to grow a genuine global sales and marketing organisation and drive demand for Zespri’s premium kiwifruit.

“This award is real testament to the great team we have at Zespri – passionate, dedicated people around the world who bring to life our global grower-to-consumer strategy day in and day out – and the long-term partnerships we have with our customers. . . 

Agritech Programme Focusing on Digital Technologies:

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and smart data are major themes at next year’s MobileTECH 2018. This is one of New Zealand’s largest agritech events and will see technology leaders from throughout the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors gather in Rotorua in late March.

The pace of change within the primary sector is continuing to be driven by advances in new digital technologies. While New Zealand has been a world leader in traditional farming systems, it is critical for the sector to maintain and grow productivity through the smart adoption of these new innovations. . . 

You can download the poster here.

Saturday soapbox


Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.

Image may contain: 1 person, sunglasses and text

It’s the clothes’ job to fit you. Not your job to fit the clothes. – Monique Doy

November 25 in history


1034 – Máel Coluim mac Cináeda, King of Scots died. Donnchad, the son of his daughter Bethóc and Crínán of Dunkeld, inherited the throne.

1120 – The White Ship sank in the English Channel, drowning William Adelin, son of Henry I of England.

1177 – Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Raynald of Chatillon defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard.

1343 – A tsunami, caused by the earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea, devastated Naples and the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, among other places.

1491 – The siege of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, began.

1667 – A deadly earthquake rocked Shemakha in the Caucasus, killing 80,000 people.

1703 – The Great Storm of 1703, the greatest windstorm ever recorded in the southern part of Great Britain, reached its peak intensity. Winds gusted up to 120 mph, and 9,000 people died.

1755 – King Ferdinand VI of Spain granted royal protection to the Beaterio de la Compañia de Jesus, now known as the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary.

1758 – French and Indian War: British forces captured Fort Duquesnefrom French control. Fort Pitt built nearby grew into modern Pittsburgh.

1759 – An earthquake hit the Mediterranean destroying Beirut and Damascus and killing 30,000-40,000.

1778 – Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, English author and activist, was born (d. 1856).

1783 – American Revolutionary War: The last British troops left New York City three months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

1795 – Partitions of Poland: Stanislaus August Poniatowski, the last king of independent Poland, was forced to abdicate and was exiled to Russia.

1826 – The Greek frigate Hellas arrived in Nafplion to become the first flagship of the Hellenic Navy.

1833 – A massive undersea earthquake, estimated magnitude between 8.7-9.2 rocks Sumatra, producing a massive tsunami all along the Indonesian coast.

1835 Andrew Carnegie, British-born industrialist and philanthropist, was born (d. 1919).

1839 – A cyclone in India with high winds and a 40 foot storm surge, destroyed the port city of Coringa. The storm wave swept inland, taking with it 20,000 ships and thousands of people. An estimated 300,000 deaths resulted.

1844  – Karl Benz, German engineer and inventor, was born (d. 1929).

1863 – American Civil War: Battle of Missionary Ridge .

1867 – Alfred Nobel patented dynamite.

1874 – The United States Greenback Party was established consisting primarily of farmers affected by the Panic of 1873.

1880 John Flynn, founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, was born (d 1951).

1880  Elsie J. Oxenham, British children’s author, was born (d. 1960).

1890 Isaac Rosenberg, English war poet and artist, was born (d. 1918).

1903 – By winning the world light-heavyweight championship, Timaru boxer Bob Fitzsimmons became the first man ever to be world champion in three different weight divisions.

Fitzsimmons wins third world boxing title

1905 – The Danish Prins Carl arrived in Norway to become King Haakon VII of Norway.

1909 P. D. Eastman, American author and illustrator, was born (d. 1986).

1914  Joe DiMaggio, American baseball player, was born(d. 1999).

1915 – Augusto Pinochet, Chilean dictator, was born (d. 2006).

1917 – German forces defeated the Portuguese army of about 1200 at Negomano on the border of modern-day Mozambique and Tanzania.

1918 – Vojvodina, formerly Austro-Hungarian crown land, proclaimed its secession from Austria–Hungary to join the Kingdom of Serbia.

1924 – Sybil Stockdale, American activist, co-founded the National League of Families, was born (d. 2015).

1936 – Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, agreeing to consult on measures “to safeguard their common interests” in the case of an unprovoked attack by the Soviet Union against either nation.

1940 – World War II: First flight of the deHavilland Mosquito and MartinB-26 Marauder.

1943 – World War II: Statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina was re-established at the State Anti-Fascist Council for the People’s Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

1947 – Red Scare: The “Hollywood Ten” were blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.

1947 – New Zealand ratified the Statute of Westminster and thus became independent of legislative control by the United Kingdom.

1950  Alexis Wright, Australian author, was born.

1950 – The “Storm of the Century“, a violent snowstorm, paralysed the northeastern United States and the Appalachians, bringing winds up to 100 mph and sub-zero temperatures. Pickens, West Virginia, recorded 57 inches of snow; 323 people died as a result of the storm.

1952 – Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer and politician was born.

1952  – Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery play The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London later becoming the longest continuously-running play in history.

1958 – French Sudan gained autonomy as a self-governing member of the French Community.

1960 – The Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic were assassinated.

1960 – John F. Kennedy Jr., American lawyer, journalist, and publisher, co-founded George Magazinewas born (d. 1999).

1963 – President John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

1970 – In Japan, author Yukio Mishima and one compatriot committed ritualistic suicide after an unsuccessful coup attempt.

1973 – George Papadopoulos, head of the military Regime of the Colonelsin Greece, was ousted in a hardliners’ coup led by Brigadier GeneralDimitrios Ioannidis.

1975 – Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands.

1977 – Former Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was found guilty by the Philippine Military Commission No. 2 and sentenced to death by firing squad.

1982 – The Minneapolis Thanksgiving Day Fire destroyed an entire city block.

1984 – 36 top musicians recorded Band Aid‘s Do They Know It’s Christmasin order to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

1986 – The King Fahd Causeway was officially opened in the Persian Gulf.

1987 – Typhoon Nina pummelled the Philippines with category 5 winds of 165 mph and a surge that destroys entire villages. At least 1,036 deaths are attributed to the storm.

1988 – German politician Rita Süssmuth became president of the Bundestag.

1992 – The Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia voted to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia from January 1, 1993.

1996 – An ice storm struck the central U.S. killing 26 people. A powerful windstorm affected Florida and winds gusted over 90 mph.

1999 – The United Nations established the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to commemorate the murder of three Mirabal Sisters for resistance against the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic.

2000 – Baku earthquake.

2005 – Polish Minister of National Defence Radek Sikorski opened Warsaw Pact archives to historians. Maps of possible nuclear strikes against Western Europe, as well as the possible nuclear annihilation of 43 Polish cities and 2 million of its citizens by Soviet-controlled forces, are released.

2008 – A car bomb in St. Petersburg killed three people and injured one.

2009 – A storm brought 3 years worth of rain in 4 hours to Jeddah sparking floods which killed over 150 people and sweep thousands of cars away in the middle of Hajj.

2015 – Pope Francis made his first official visit to Africa.

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