Maggie Barry’s valedictory

National MP Maggie Barry delivered her valedictory statement:

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore): Thank you, Mr Speaker. E te Whare, tēnā koe. E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, e ngā hau e whā, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. To the leaders, to the many voices, to all the diverse people and communities of the four winds, I honour and respect and I greet you all.

I will begin by acknowledging my family and friends here in the public gallery. Many who have come to this Chamber tonight to witness my final speech, were also here for my maiden speech. I am grateful for your ongoing love, friendship, and support. It has been my honour to serve the people of the North Shore, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity and for having enough confidence in me to elect me three times, for trusting me to represent the interests of t their beloved community since 2011. In particular, I thank Gary and Leslie Monk for their ongoing friendship and support. It has meant a lot to me. To the president, Peter Goodfellow and the board member Alister Bell, for all their unquestioning help and loyalty, thank you. To Don McKinnon, a mentor and friend, and, of course, Lady Clare McKinnon, thank you. I acknowledge David McKeown, who’s been an outstanding North Shore electorate chair, a man of integrity and great fairness. I’m grateful for all he’s done for me and for all of North Shore National, and I’m also very glad he’ll be there to support the new candidate, Simon Watts, who is here in the gallery tonight.

I wish Simon all the very best for the election, as, of course, all my talented and highly competent National Party MPs and colleagues. They will thrive. I am sure, under the competent and dynamic leadership team of Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee. I’ll be campaigning right through until election day to contribute to a National victory. So don’t worry, team. I won’t be slackening off.

To be an effective MP, of course, it is vital to have the right people walking and working cooperatively alongside you. I acknowledge at this point my staff who are here in the gallery, Miriam Wiley, Jack Boltar,and the indefatigable Pat Humphries. They have certainly been the three musketeers, and I thank you for your skills, your energy, and your loyalty. Monica Miller was for seven years alongside me as my electorate agent in Takapuna, and to Sally Guinness was with me from day one in here in Parliament, and in charge of our Beehive team, Gail and Alex/ Brent and Kayla, et al.

I have always been a hard worker and I have high standards and expectations of myself, as I do have anyone who works for me. The job of an MP is far too important not to have highly competent and dedicated staff, and I was fortunate to have worked with two of the very best. I thank you, Monica and Sally, wholeheartedly for your loyalty and for always going the extra mile.

The most constant and significant influence on my political life has been my good friend Peter Kylie. It was indeed serendipitous that I was made member of Parliament for the very electorate where Peter lives. There was an outside chance it might reflect badly on him if I didn’t do well. So he’s always taken a keen interest in my wellbeing and has kept me safe from harm. Peter, I thank you for your friendship, your support, and your wise advice from the beginning until the end.

As I said in my maiden speech, this parliamentary precinct, as part of my old hood. Thorndon is my tur, Thornton is my tūrangawaewae. Dad was an accountant at the railways and my mother’s florist shop was just a few doors up from here on Molesworth Street. Our family home was around the corner in Tinakori Road, and I went to the primary school next to the church on Hill Street where my parents were married and buried from. Growing up, these leafy grounds of Parliament were part of my everyday childhood landscape, and having now spent the best part of my fifties here as an MP, you might say I haven’t come very far. But today it feels a little bit like I’ve come full circle as this chapter in my life now comes to an end.

I had been planning to wear the same frock for my valedictory as I had for my maiden speech, but alas, it seems to have shrunk rather a lot, unlike its owner, who should have done a lot less Bellamy’s and Copperfields and a lot more nil by mouth and exercised steps. But I have gained so much more than just a couple of kilograms here, in my time in Parliament. Having been in the media, examining politics closely for 30-odd years before stepping up to be an MP, I was well aware of how rare it is for members to be able to choose their time of leaving, as I am doing after six years in Government, three as a backbencher and three as a Minister inside Cabinet, and now a final term in Opposition.

I’ve been here through good times and through tragedies, the earthquakes, global financial crisis, mosque shootings, and now the COVID challenge. At its best, I think this Parliament delivered in a way that our team of five million New Zealanders can be very proud of. But at its worst, being in Parliament can be frustrating, dehumanising, and brutal. As we’ve all been reminded recently, the pressures that come with the privilege of being in the service of the public can take a heavy toll on MPs and on their families. Please don’t be too quick to judge. It’s a tough life in here, tougher than you might think from the outside, and I think that the long hours and the unrelenting 24/7 scrutiny adds up to the sort of life that doesn’t suit everyone.

In this place, you do need a loyal subtribe of your own where you can take shelter from the storms. An essential part of my survival strategy has been the weekly get-together with my class of 2011 intake year group. Thank you all for those hundreds of Wednesday nights in trusted company, trying to make some sense of it all. It’s still work in progress, of course. I value the honesty and the camaraderie, if not always the food—Goldie’s coleslaw, toasted sandwiches; they are not height of the cuisine that I’ve been used to, but good on your Goldie. That’s how he keeps so thin, I suppose.

Look, I’m not what you might call a career politician, like the predecessor, perhaps, who spoke before me. I didn’t sign on for a 30-year lag with a gold watch at the end, although I am looking forward to getting my souvenir traditional farewell silver tray soon. I have unbridled admiration for those stayers with stamina—my old friend and father of the House with the big brain and the big heart, Dr Nick Smith; our ever ebullient and fast on his feet deputy leader, the nimble Gerry Brownlee—both are National’s lifers, and we need their parliamentary debating skills, their institutional knowledge, as well as their strong sense of fairness in this House.

For my part I was raised to be a participant, and not so much an observer or a bystander. I was expected to contribute to the community and to try to help those less fortunate. I didn’t joined the armed forces as my grandfather and father had done in the two world wars. Instead, my contribution to serving my country when the time was right for me was to stand for public office. The notion of service might be seen by some as rather quaint and old-fashioned, but to me it has meant trying to be a voice for the vulnerable, for the people who don’t have a voice in this House. I’ve wanted to speak up for our seniors suffering silently with elder abuse, and to strongly advocate as well for the survival of the critically endangered plants and birds that partly define who we are as New Zealanders.

I acknowledge John Key. Thank you, sir, for believing in me and backing me from the start, and for the trifecta of portfolios you gave me for my birthday in 2014. It was the best present ever—or, so far, anyway. The commemorations of World War II coincided with my time as the Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage. I was privileged to represent my country on many formal occasions, perhaps most memorably, at the Western Front battlefields. It was a moving experience reading the Ode of Remembrance at the Menin Gate in Belgium, where almost every night since 1929, they have sounded the bugle for The Last Post and recited the ode to express their gratitude and to remember the sacrifices of the fallen, including some 12,500 New Zealand soldiers buried there.

I will never forget the sadness, standing in the windswept, empty carpark of a Belgian cheese factory in September 2015. There was no marker, nor memorial, to show the significance of that place, which was the battle site of New Zealand’s worst ever day of military loss. One year later, I was able to return to Passchendaele and unveil the first of many Ngā Tapuwae plinths, as part of our footsteps in the Anzac Trails, which tell the stories of our courageous soldiers of the Great War. It was also a proud moment for me as the MP for North Shore to dig in the first plant in New Zealand’s memorial garden at Passchendaele, part of a project that had been driven by a determined group of my fellow Devonport RSA members, Chris Mullane and Mike Pritchard amongst them. It was a bronze flax, just in case you were wondering.

With my lifelong interest in plants and nature, a highlight of my political life was as the Minister of Conservation responsible for Predator Free 2050. We launched it four years ago this week, and at the heart of National’s bold vision to save our precious vulnerable national species, to achieve that goal, we can and must eradicate the unwanted eco-invaders—the rats, the stoats, and the possums who don’t belong here and are eating our songbirds and our taonga plant species to the brink of extinction.

Sir Paul Callaghan said getting rid of the pests was essential, but it would be our Apollo moon shot, and he was right. The late Sir Rob Fenwick, who I first met on a television garden show 30 years ago, and who had a profound influence on my thinking, was a visionary who made an enormous contribution and helped convert our distant moon shot prospect into something down to earth and well within reach. We are, of course, only the custodians of this land. We are the kaitiaki, the guardians, of our grandchildren’s natural heritage. We owe it to them to do better and to try harder to save our kiwis and our other endangered native species. I encourage people to put aside their prejudices about genetic modification and also prejudices about 1080. There is no time to waste.

I’ve enjoyed being part of National’s most effective policy advisory group, the Bluegreens, and at the annual forum earlier this year I was humbled to be given the inaugural Takahe Award for tireless work encouraging all New Zealanders. Thanks to Chris Vern and the Bluegreens for all you have done. I hope that in my time here, I have made a worthwhile contribution to preserving our natural heritage. I acknowledge the Department of Conservation’s (DOC’s) greatest director-general, Lou Sanson. DOC is in his DNA, and he’s been the right man for the times to lead New Zealand’s conservation heroes and warriors.

One of the most sobering realisations as Minister for Seniors for three years was knowing the extent of the abuse and the neglect of our elderly. We would not be the country we are today without their skills and without their hard work and toil and their wisdom. For those people who have come before us, we truly do stand on their shoulders, and yet why is it that 70,000 of them over the age of 65 say they have been the victims of physical, psychological, or financial abuse?

I don’t believe we value our seniors enough and I don’t believe that as a society we are doing enough. We need to do more to keep them safe, and that’s often from their own families.

I know from my own experience with my mother, Agnes, and her 10-year journey with dementia how important it is to put the person at the heart of our policy decisions. It’s a philosophy I’ve tried very hard not to ever lose sight of, as an electorate MP for North Shore as well as a Minister.

My concern for the vulnerable and the elderly is at the heart of my opposition to a proposed law change to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide. For more than 20 years since the death of my father, I have been involved with end of life care as patron of Mary Potter Hospice and, later, of Hospice New Zealand. I chaired 28 days of public hearings into the euthanasia bill, and I’ve heard and I understand that people want more and different choices at the end of their lives and to have their suffering eased.

New Zealand has simply not done well enough in the care for the dying, and we must do better, which is why I have put together, with the palliative care community, a member’s bill to guarantee and enshrine New Zealanders’ access to world-class palliative care wherever and whenever they need it. The member’s bill is now in the ballot in the name of my friend and colleague Simon O’Connor.

Properly funded end of life care is what needs to happen before, in my opinion, we push the nuclear button on the option of euthanasia. I acknowledge Sir Bill English. Along with Lady Mary English and Professors Sinead Donnelly and Rod McLeod, it’s been a great privilege to work with you over a long number of years in our opposition to euthanasia, and I know that we all hope the public will vote against that referendum on assisted suicide at the upcoming election.

In the 10 years I have been in politics, my son, Joe, has grown from beginning in college to being a university graduate, and as I said in my maiden speech and reaffirm here tonight, Joe has taught me more about myself and about life than anyone else in the world ever has. I thank him for being him, and how proud I am of the fine young man he has become. I know his father, Paddy—alongside him, here in the gallery tonight—shares that same pride in our son.

Your life is not your own when you’re an MP, and that’s as it should be for a role as important as this one. But I’ve missed, now, enough family events and milestones, and the time is right for me to get together and get stuck into the bucket list with my best friend and my husband, Grant. We first met doing Outward Bound, and I knew then that he was the man I could go into the jungle with—I could trust him implicitly. We’ve certainly been in the parliamentary jungle together for the best part of 10 years, and he has never once failed nor faltered. He has always had enormous faith in me, and for that I am hugely grateful. In politics, as in life, I am excited about the prospect of walking alongside him in this next chapter of our lives together.

My time in this place has been short, and yet sometimes it seems an eternity. You don’t get everything right every time and you can’t always get everything that you hope for and dream and strive for, but I know that I have worked and fought hard, tried my best, and not given up on the issues that are important to me. Whether I have succeeded or not is up to others to decide.

I have no regrets. I’ve done my dash, and I’m leaving Parliament with my integrity intact and in the certain knowledge that being the National Party’s MP for North Shore has been a rare privilege and a lifetime’s highlight. I thank you. Fare thee well. Haere rā.

One Response to Maggie Barry’s valedictory

  1. Janet Jones says:

    I have followed with interest the life of Maggi Barry as a public person, from the days of Nation Radio and I have always admired her personal communication skills. I would just like to congratulate her on her commitment and wholehearted dedication. Well done Maggi!

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