Resfeber – the restless race of the traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together; the tangled feeling of fear and excitement before a journey begins.
No tears over RMA overhaul – Peter Burke:
News that the controversial Resource Management Act (RMA) is to get a complete overhaul has been welcomed by many primary sector organisations.
Last week, Environment Minister David Parker released a report by a panel headed by retired Appeal Court Judge Tony Randerson which proposes that the Act, which has been in operation for thirty years, should be scrapped and replaced by two new laws – a Natural Built Environment Act and a Strategic Planning Act.
Its recommendations include a proposal for each region in the country to put forward a combined development plan, consolidating the myriad of local council plans that currently exist.
At present there are about 100 policy statements and plans put up by local authorities and under the new proposal there would be just 14 combined regional and district plans. . .
United front over UN’s call to eat less beef – Annette Scott:
New Zealand is right behind the global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef taking a stand on the United Nations call to eat less beef.
The UN has published claims that the meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies.
The Global Roundtable is taking a stand on this and is raising its concerns directly with the UN.
The NZ Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) is right behind condemning the UN campaign and its accusations of the impact of the meat industry on the environment. . .
Fifty dairy farms in Canterbury’s Selwyn and Hinds catchments are taking part in a five-year DairyNZ project influencing change on hundreds of farms in the region.
One of the partner farmers, Tony Dodunski, operates close to a lake considered one of New Zealand’s most important wetland habitats and has, just two years into the project, made great gains in reducing nitrogen loss.
Dodunski owns Beaumaris Dairies, a 219ha farm near Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, and has cut his nitrogen loss from 32kg per hectare to 17kg per hectare: “Our plan requires us to achieve a 30 per cent reduction by 2022, so we are already well over that,” he says.
His property – low-lying and with more than 10km of drains feeding into an 11km wetland at its lowest point – borders a Department of Conservation (DOC) reserve near Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. . .
Fifteen years ago, South Taranaki dairy farmers Donna and Philip Cram began their environmental journey by wanting to stop finding cows stuck when walking through streams on their property.
Now the couple’s passion for sustainable farming practices, improving environmental and water quality, and a predator-free district, has seen them aiming to set up a catchment group in the Oeo Catchment.
Donna has had national and regional roles in DairyNZ’s Dairy Environment Leaders – and they’ve galvanised their farming and school communities. . .
Cheesed off by cheap imports – Sudesh Kissun:
NZ cheesemakers are banking on anti-dumping legislation to bolster their battle against cheaper imported cheeses.
Simon Berry, managing director of Whitestone Cheese and spokesperson for New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association on EU tariffs and trade, says up to 25% of retail cheeses are imported – mostly subsidised European cheeses.
With imported cheeses often selling for around half the price of local ones New Zealand producers are struggling.
Berry says Kiwi cheese producers can’t compete with cheap European product flooding into the market and wants an anti-dumping duty to be placed on some imported speciality cheeses. . .
When Daisy Higgs first moved to New Zealand from England more than 15 years ago she never thought she’d end up falling in love with farming.
But now the 25-year-old says she can’t imagine another way of life, and she’s encouraging other Kiwis to give it a go too.
After developing a love of animals while growing up with her family on a lifestyle block in Taranaki, Higgs decided to major in animal science at Massey University.
However, when she realised there were more jobs in the agriculture sector she shifted her focus, finishing her studies with a major in agriculture and a minor in animal science. . .
Red meat is not the enemy – Aaron E. Carroll:
There are people in this country eating too much red meat. They should cut back. There are people eating too many carbs. They should cut back on those. There are also people eating too much fat, and the same advice applies to them, too.
What’s getting harder to justify, though, is a focus on any one nutrient as a culprit for everyone.
I’ve written Upshot articles on how the strong warnings against salt and cholesterol are not well supported by evidence. But it’s possible that no food has been attacked as widely or as loudly in the past few decades as red meat.
As with other bad guys in the food wars, the warnings against red meat are louder and more forceful than they need to be. . .
National MP David Carter delivered his valedictory statement:
Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National): The fascinating thing about a political career is that as it starts you never know when it’s going to end. Not even Winston!
I arrived here in unusual circumstances. Ruth Richardson suddenly resigned as the MP for Selwyn in a way that was designed to cause the maximum disruption for the Bolger Government. The by-election was a baptism of fire and lasted three weeks. Media immediately coined it the “mother of all by-elections”. It was short, sharp, and profiled nationally every night because its result was critical due to the Government’s then one-seat majority. The only humour providing any relief to the tension was the last minute selection of the New Zealand First candidate, Sir Tim Shadbolt, who was not too ashamed to say he had never read a New Zealand First manifesto and he had no idea of New Zealand First policies. Some things never change!
I recall the day I came into the Chamber to be sworn in. It actually wasn’t this Chamber. It was the Chamber used while this building was being renovated, now select committees one and two in Bowen House. As I returned to my seat, Lianne Dalziel, who sat about there, interjected with that awful shriek that the lefties often manage, “You won’t be here for long!” Well, 26 years may not be long for Lianne, but it’s long enough for me. I do know what led to that comment. We were moving to MMP, unchartered territory. No one at that stage knew the new electorate boundaries and what the future would hold. Luck was on my side. I won Banks Peninsula in 1996. So what may well have been a short 26-month career, the time between the by-election and the first MMP election, has become the 26-year stint.
I came with one driving ambition that had gnawed at me since my days at Lincoln University. I wanted to be Minister of Agriculture. This country’s primary sector is New Zealand’s economic jewel. It is the very economic foundation that has made this country the country that it is today. I had personally farmed through Rogernomics in the mid-1980s and hold no grudges whatsoever to the then Labour Government for the pain the farming sector had to endure. It had to be done. Labour should be proud of this era of reform, not dismissive of it. The last three years under this Government have been difficult. This Government seems ignorant of the way the farming sector wants to—and is willing to—grapple with the ongoing challenges of water quality, climate change, and market access. So as an industry, we will meet those challenges. So for the next Government, work with the sector, not against it.
My first promotion was to junior whip, a fascinating role and a way to really understand and appreciate the ambitions of your own colleagues. Parliament is a tough environment, but your own caucus is an even tougher environment. It was during the voting on the 140 amendments to the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Bill in 1998 that I realised how tenuous the National – New Zealand First coalition Government was. The level of cooperation from then New Zealand First whip, Ron Mark, was non-existent. We never knew whether we had their support on amendments or not, and their vote was critical. Little wonder that, only months later, the coalition imploded, delivering my next opportunity.
Under the Shipley Government, I was made Associate Minister of Agriculture. Nearly there—except she didn’t call it that. She appointed a Minister of Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control, and I was the Associate Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control—the first National Government ever without a Minister of Agriculture. No wonder farmers said we had deserted them. In hindsight, the electoral loss about a year later was inevitable.
The Opposition years were tough. I have a vivid memory of our first caucus after the 2002 election. We started the meeting in the caucus room with 39 people: the successful MPs, the retiring MPs, and those that had been beaten. As we farewelled those leaving one by one, our numbers finally dwindled to an Opposition of only 27 MPs. It was a slow, hard crawl back but we won under John Key in 2008 and I achieved my political ambition: Minister of Agriculture. I then proceeded to change the title: Minister for Primary Industries. No criticism this time. Farmers accepted it. They trusted me.
I came with a strong agenda and recall three things with some pride: water storage, getting science working to find solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and improved biosecurity. I still can’t understand the resistance to water storage and irrigation. In any other developed nation, the vast resources of the Canterbury Plains and the Hawks Bay Plains would have been irrigated generations ago. Yes, I accept that irrigation brings intensification. But again, with science and with the will of modern farmers, we can find a way to mitigate environmental impacts of more intensive agriculture.
I championed the establishment of the Global Research Alliance (GRA), an international initiative that brought together agricultural scientists from then 30 different countries to seek ways of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists working in collaboration will find solutions far more quickly than scientists working in isolation. Now over 60 countries are involved in the GRA. The only problem with the initiative: my then Cabinet colleague Tim Groser claimed all the credit and he had bugger all to do with it!
Biosecurity is critical to this country. Disease incursions will continue to occur. We can’t stop them all, but we can certainly tackle incursions better by establishing a good working relationship between Government and industry. Mycoplasma bovis has been a good example of this. The discovery of Psa in our kiwifruit industry in November 2010 could have been one of my darkest moments. But it’s actually one of my proudest. I got instant support from Cabinet for a $25 million spend matched dollar for dollar by industry, and so started the industry’s effort to find solutions—and look at the strength of the kiwifruit industry today.
I do recall my darkest day: Tuesday 22 February 2011; the day an earthquake destroyed my city of Christchurch. Within an hour I was in the basement of the Beehive, waiting for John Key as we were to travel down together by air force place. My phone went. It was Jaime Gilbert’s family to tell me that our friend Jaime was dead—crushed by falling masonry. The Prime Minister and I spent the day touring the devastation, standing for a long period of time in front of the smouldering CTV building, knowing there were people dead or dying in that ruin. But the toughest part: I didn’t get home till well after 9 o’clock that night to hug Heather and our four kids. They each had their own traumatic experiences of the day they wanted to share with me. I wanted to get home a lot earlier, guys; you wanted me home a lot earlier. I’m sorry, but it’s a cost of political life.
Chris Finlayson said there are two fundamental reasons for a valedictory: to say thank you and to give a lecture. The lecture first on two quick points: number one, the design of the emissions trading scheme. In hindsight, Parliament got it wrong in 2005 when it gave large emitters the opportunity to offset their emissions with the planting of pine forests. I know why we did it; we needed time for those emitters to find solutions. At the time, we thought that gave us a 30-year window to meet our international obligations. We ignored the fact that the majority of the sequestered carbon is released upon harvesting. Now in 2020, half that window of the 30-year opportunity has passed without any progress by emitters to reduce their emissions. In the meantime, valuable pastoral land was planted into forestry—a decision that won’t be for one rotation of pine planting; it’s more likely to be a permanent change of land use. In other words: we found a temporary solution that will have a long-term, permanent downside for New Zealand.
Number two: the continued lease of Bowen House. If common sense had prevailed, we’d be well on the way to finally being in our own fully owned parliamentary complex, rather than some MPs being housed over the road in a commercially leased Bowen House. To continue leasing Bowen House from an overseas investor is wrong and it’s expensive. To continue to use the vacant land behind this building for nothing more than car parking is wrong and an inefficient use of resources. During my time as Speaker, plans were developed for a modern, purpose-built office block immediately behind here and linking to this building, and I want to acknowledge the former Parliamentary Service officials who led this project: David Stevenson and Jim Robb.
My job was to get the political support necessary for the project to proceed. All political leaders, with the exception of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, agreed. It’s hard to see why they wouldn’t. The economics of this project were absolutely compelling. So in the 53rd Parliament, while MPs are decamped from Bowen House for its earthquake strengthening and double-desked somewhere in the library or in the basement of this building, don’t blame me. Instead, ask the question why the project didn’t proceed, and if it was nothing more than a personal vendetta against me by Mr Peters, that is shameful. What is beyond doubt is the greatest beneficiary of the decision to stop the project is the current owner of Bowen House.
Now for the thanks to the hundreds of people who have helped me through my time in Parliament. Over 26 years, there are a lot of them. I simply cannot mention them all. To those that make this building work: Parliamentary Service, security, the travel office, messengers, and VIP, that you so much. To the Inter-Parliamentary Relations team—and particularly you, Wendy Hart: the source of huge institutional knowledge on the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—thank you.
To members of the National Party, thank you for your commitment to National and to me. To the various electorate chairs, campaign chairs, office holders of the Selwyn electorate, Port Hills electorate, and Banks Peninsula electorate, I owe you everything. To all my staff over the years, both in Christchurch and Wellington, I couldn’t have done it without you. I want to particularly note Marion Bishop in Christchurch, and, of course, the fearsome, legendary Lisa Kinloch here in Wellington. To all the staff of my ministerial office, we were a great team, but I particularly note Vanessa Rawson, Gavin Forrest, and Thomas Pryor. To Juliane Jutz for your assistance over the last three years, and particularly with the logistics of leaving Wellington and organising today. Roland Rodd: the glue of any Speaker’s office. To my political adviser, mentor, and friend, Roger Bridge: when I needed sound advice, you were there to provide it. Without it, I wouldn’t have survived 26 years in this place.
To Heather, I can’t really find the right words to say. I know my choice to enter politics was not where you thought our lives would head prior to that Selwyn by-election. I still remember the look on your face as I looked down at you from the stage at the West Melton hall on my selection night, having won selection. That look of apprehension, almost fear, is imprinted on my mind. You knew our lives had changed, but I hope for all the downsides there’s been some reward and achievement in watching me complete my political ambition. Thank you for on so many occasions being a solo mum. To Sophie, Laura, Isabella, and Morgan, I don’t think you’ve suffered too much without my daily guidance. In fact, I think you might have been better off without it. The irony of life is as I return home you embark on your own exciting lives, which I know will bring much pride to Heather and to me.
As I conclude, I want to make some comments on my almost five years as Speaker of this House. It was never a position I aspired to, but having been elected as Speaker, I realised the honour and the responsibility that this position holds in ensuring the democracy of our country. When I recall the other six Speakers that I’ve served under, all had their own individual style. I think the style of a Speaker is, in actual fact, a reflection of the personality of that person. The biggest challenge for any Speaker is moving from a career as a political operator to being truly a-political. The job is to be Parliament’s person and not influenced by earlier political loyalties.
Of critical importance to democracy is the opportunity for an Opposition to hold a Government to account. The allocation of supplementary questions at question time is a valuable resource—a chance to ask those searching, probing questions that if asked and answered, will actually ensure a sharper, more highly performing Government. So I certainly hope the Speaker of the 53rd Parliament will reconsider the recent practice of taking supplementary questions off an Opposition or ruling out questions on some spurious basis, just because the question may be an embarrassment to a Minister. Having said that, I certainly accept that every Speaker at some stage is accused of bias—it goes with the territory. Indeed, it did here last night. As I reflect on my time as Speaker, I can say without hesitation I did my best for our democracy. In hindsight, I think I was probably tougher on Government members than on Opposition MPs. As to any accusation of bias, my conscience is absolutely clear, and that’s the important thing.
So colleagues, I wish you all well as you embark on your election campaigns. This time I’m thrilled not to be part of it.
Hon NICKY WAGNER (National): Thank you, Mr Speaker.
[Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Tonight, after 15 years, I say haere rā to this place. Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to speak and thank you to everyone who’s come tonight. It means a lot to me. I’m delighted to celebrate this evening with my good friend David Carter. He was the first MP I ever met and he’s always encouraged and mentored me. He even delivers flyers for me at election time. Thank you, David.
Being an MP, of course, is an enormous privilege and it’s hugely demanding and it requires the support of many; thank you so much. Firstly, it’s just plain hard work. It’s physically exacting, 24/7 commitment, and it’s hard to get enough sleep. Emotionally, it’s challenging. I think it’s a treadmill of events, enormous adrenaline-fuelled highs and desperately mentally destructive lows, and always in the public eye. We need to look after ourselves here and look after each other. And I do have to say, I’ve always had the support of the class of 2005 and my mates in this caucus.
I came here because MPs can actually make a real difference for the people in their communities. Working through our electorate offices, we can fix stuff. We can sort out housing problems. We can deal with health and education issues. We can remove barriers for disabled people. And we can even diffuse neighbourhood clashes. You name it, we do it. I want to acknowledge all those constituents who have trusted me with their issues and every one of my staff who’s worked so hard to solve them.
In particular, I want to mention my long-serving office managers Heather Wellington and Nicola Olds. Now, Nicola’s wit is matched by boundless compassion for people, and she’s a true advocate for those who are in need. Now, Heather joined me when I first became an MP and she, her organisation skills, and her can-do attitude helped me get established in Christchurch, and then she moved to Northland, but she returned each election to volunteer to help me in my campaign, and I think that’s real dedication. Thank you very much.
And of course, Kirsten, who worked so hard on our communications during the earthquakes. You know, our newsletter really became a lifeline to so many. The same can be said of my current team, led by Karen Duff, with Marion Bishop and Boyd Becker. We tallied up the other day and figured that our office had worked with over 7,500 constituents and organised and hosted over 500 different events.
Electorate offices are the public-facing part of an MP’s job. They receive the good and the bad. They help people who are at their wits end. They support the vulnerable in our communities, but they also cop the abuse and deal with the threats. My team are extremely hard-working, enormously capable, and totally loyal, and I appreciate each and every one of them.
I never imagined or prepared myself to be a politician. As a local businesswoman, I was drawn into running in 2002, because I was incensed by the way that the Labour Government, I felt, was neglecting Christchurch and particularly small business and the small business community during the winter of discontent under Helen Clark. I was then elected on to the list in 2005, and that campaign, like all that’s followed, could not have been possible without the help of friends, family, and the wider National Party. Christchurch Central gave me the opportunity to stand and they have actively supported me ever since. I would like to thank my current chair, Brooke Law, and also a special thankyou to Stuart and Julie Laing and Murray and Joan Spackman. Those people have served continuously on the team since I was first selected and they’re still going strong, supporting our new hard-working candidate, Dale Stephens. So go well, Dale. I’d also like to thank the wider National Party, President Peter Goodfellow and the board, and our favourite regional chair, Roger Bridge.
Being a new MP was a steep learning curve. So much to do and so little time to do it. One of the issues that was vexing Christchurch Central at the time was boy racers. I worked with the police and neighbourhood groups on a member’s bill. It was never pulled from the ballot—none of my bills have ever been selected—but it was picked up by the then Minister, Judith Collins, when we came into Government. And, you know, the boy racers never saw it coming.
I also worked closely with the local Afghani community after a Christchurch taxi driver was stabbed to death. I supported his widow and family, but I also lobbied for the installation of taxi cameras. And, you know, it was CCTV technology that finally solved a longstanding issue of payment problems and horrible violence against drivers. We just don’t see it any more.
One of the most heartbreaking cases I had was the plight of a Kurdish family. One son had been left behind when they came to New Zealand and they sought my help because, in desperation, he had turned to people smugglers and had ended up in a boat that sank in the Black Sea. He survived, but he lost his wife and child. Of course, the whole family was distraught and eight of them practically camped in my office. Could we rescue him from Turkey? Could we bring him home? It was a really long and difficult negotiation, but the joy when he arrived really made it worthwhile. He got a job immediately and has been contributing to this country ever since.
The 2008 election was an exciting one. I became a Government MP and I soon learnt that it was infinitely more productive than being on the Opposition, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister John Key and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English. John was ambitious for New Zealand, full of energy, with a strong vision for a confident, successful, and outward-looking nation, and always driven to make the boat go faster. And Bill was ambitious for New Zealanders, knowing that the system had to do better for those that struggle, and totally committed to social investment. He was convinced that the Government could do better to understand and respect individuals and families, and invest in them to help them get ahead. The drive to make New Zealand a better place for all New Zealanders underpinned everything our National Government did, and New Zealanders responded to the challenge. Despite the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes, the economy grew and more jobs were created than New Zealand had ever seen before.
I feel enormously privileged to have been able to work with the National Government from 2008 to 2017. We worked hard. We were effective, the country prospered, and New Zealanders rewarded us with their votes. I felt a small taste of that success because, in 2011, I became the first National MP to win the electorate of Christchurch Central—with the smallest of margins; a draw on the night, and then a whopping win of 47 votes in the recount. I well remember the night in Premier House when John Key proclaimed that the most unexpected, the most exciting thing about the 2011 election was winning Christchurch Central.
The present Government is keen to rewrite history and say that the National Government didn’t deliver for New Zealanders, but the voters said otherwise. Each election from 2008 to 2017 National’s vote increased, and in the 2014 election, in response to the earthquake recovery work of Gerry Brownlee, Christchurch turned blue. Every electorate gave National their party vote, and I was honoured to be re-elected with a majority of over 2,400 votes. In the 2017 election, National gained 1,152,000 votes—the most votes that any party has ever received in the history of New Zealand. Now, you tell me. Was it a system failure, a miscarriage of justice, or a betrayal of democracy that National and Bill English ended up on the Opposition benches?
Life in Christchurch has been challenging over the last 10 years. We’ve had multiple earthquakes—with liquefaction and flooding—followed by the Port Hills fires, then a mass shooting, and now a pandemic. We are battered, and we’re still a little bit munted, but we’re still there and we’re still strong. So kia kaha, Christchurch.
It was those 15,000-plus earthquakes that really shaped my work as a local MP, getting out during the emergency, throughout the aftershocks, physically delivering water and digging liquefaction, or managing to connect people to the services they needed. They were long, tough, and dusty days. Back then, we wore masks for the dust, do you remember? We’re now wearing masks for the pandemic. Everyone had lost someone or something. We were all upset, but we were all together. We all had to unite as a community, and people were magnificent. I have never been so proud of my community. We shared a toilet among our neighbours, and if you ever want to test whether your street would unite or divide, make them share a portaloo.
There was a constant circuit of public meetings full of people desperately looking for information, for advice, and for help, and together with my electorate team, we helped hundreds of people who had just run out of options. And then months and years of rebuilding, of insurance claims, of fixing and upgrading roads and services, restoring community assets—we engaged far and wide across the community, we worked with the community forum, we got their advice and guidance on the decisions that we had to make on laying out the blueprints for the city. I really thank all Cantabrians who came together to put forward ideas and took an active, future focus on the recovery and regeneration.
As a local MP, I was heavily involved in everything, but the highlight of my career was the opportunity to serve the Christchurch community, firstly as the associate Minister and later as the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration. Our focus was on rebuilding homes, families, and communities, and to deliver the blueprint, the plan to rebuild Christchurch as a modern, people-friendly, and 21st century city. We wanted Christchurch to be a city of opportunity, with an energy that attracts, that encourages, and that inspires people to come, to live, to work, and to raise a family there. We can now see the shape our new city, and I know we’re on the right track. That was confirmed for me when we recently welcomed home our oldest son and his Melburnian wife to Christchurch, and now we have another one-eyed Cantabrian granddaughter on the way.
One of my greatest challenges was to broker the agreement to reinstate Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral in the square has long been a powerful symbol and heart of our city, and there was a real sense that, until its future was decided, Christchurch would feel broken. I worked with Bishop Victoria and city stakeholders, and developed a cross-party parliamentary group to deliver a recovery package. The journey was long, and it wasn’t until 9 September 2017, only a fortnight before the election, that we finally got the decision to restore. I think the whole city celebrated because, regardless of their opinion, everyone needed a decision so the city could move forward.
As a Minister, I’ve also held responsibilities for statistics—the only ministry that counts!—customs, disability issues, and associate roles for conservation, health, and tourism. I loved being the Minister of Customs. It’s the oldest Government department—180 this year—but, with Carolyn Tremaine as its comptroller, it was forward-thinking and innovative. During my tenure, we rolled out SmartGates in our airports and completed the Trade Single Window, a world-first electronic platform for cargo and excise. But my most important work was to rewrite, modernise, and streamline the Customs and Excise Act. That was a huge job, but I’m really proud of the quality of work that was produced. Our customs officers are remarkable people, who do so much to protect our country, and their work is not often recognised. I always enjoy the story of a suspected drug mule who, when questioned by our perceptive customs officers, said he’d come to New Zealand to play golf and view our wildlife. Further questioning revealed he didn’t have golf clubs, he’d never visited a golf course, and he was really keen to see our native giraffes!
As the Minister for Disability Issues, I quickly learned that disabled people want more choice and control over their support services, and more opportunities to live a good life. But mostly they just wanted a job. And, supported by both John Key and Bill English, I developed a two-pronged strategy. With John Key and Business New Zealand, I launched the Disability Confident campaign. It was to empower and educate employers, and give them the tools to open doors and welcome disabled people into their businesses. That, coupled with the employability scheme that we rolled out across the country, enabled hundreds of disabled people to get jobs and for the employers to get first-rate, loyal employees—a win-win. Even today, people seek me out and thank National for supporting them to get a job.
With Bill English, I worked on rolling out the Enabling Good Lives programme. That’s a scheme that provides individualised funding and navigators to help disabled people design their own unique good lives. We believed that the scheme would benefit all disabled communities, and I do hope that this work will continue, because it has transformed the lives of people that have been involved. With the right support, disabled people can shape their own lives with enormously positive results. I’ve been privileged to watch Yaniv Janson develop as an artist. Supported and encouraged by his family and his support worker-cum-art teacher, his talent has blossomed over the years. His work sells readily—I bought a couple myself—and I was delighted to be able to help him mount an exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Yaniv’s work has achieved artistic recognition on the world stage, and he’s been able to build a satisfying and sustainable career. Congratulations, Yaniv.
Of course, it’s the ministerial staff that makes things happen for any Minister, and I want to acknowledge all the various private secretaries who worked in my office, including Danielle from the Office of Disability Issues, Maurice from the customs department, and Mike from the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery. Also, all my press secretaries and ministerial advisers—you were a great team; thank you very much. I particularly want to acknowledge and thank Beryl Bright, my senior private secretary. Beryl has been in this place since 1984, and her knowledge of Parliament and the standing of Cabinet, and her reputation are immense. She’s a legend, respected and loved by so many. Also Cath Bell—Cath started working with me as an executive assistant when I arrived in 2005, and stayed with me through thick and thin until she retired in 2017. A dear friend, she now lives in the South Island; so some new adventures ahead, I think.
I’ve done so much with so many wonderful people since I became an MP, but—as always—there’s so much to do and so little time. I wanted to talk about the fantastic work of the Department of Conservation—conservation boards, Predator Free New Zealand. I wanted to outline the steps that we’ve made towards Smokefree 2025. I wanted to reflect on the invaluable insights that I’ve learned about Te Ao Māori and hākari from being on the Māori Affairs Committee and, more personally, from working closely with Ngāi Tahu as we regenerate our city, but the clock is ticking, I am aware.
So, to my family, who should of course be first but always tend to be last when you have a job like ours. Tonight, I am missing my two brothers, Hamish and Jonathan, and their families, who are locked down in COVID in Australia and can’t be here, but I’m grateful to my husband’s four sisters, all who are here. Both sides of the family have embraced and supported me, our children, and now our grandchildren, over so many years. And to my husband, Billy—I hit the jackpot when I married you. You were a good man then, but it’s amazing what 47 years of training has done for both of us. We are better people for each other, and look what we’ve produced. Two fine young men who have brought their fabulous wives into our lives and, in turn, produced our two little granddaughters, with another one on the way. I used to be the only woman in my family, and I always felt that you three ganged up on me, but now the gender balance has reversed—so look out!
In the immortal words of John Prine, Billy’s favourite Country and Western singer, “Against all odds, honey, we’re the big door prize” and I’m never gonna let you go. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
National MP Jian Yang delivered his valedictory statement:
Dr JIAN YANG (National): The 8th of August, just three days from now, will mark the ninth anniversary of my political career. Number eight is considered a lucky number by many Chinese. I’m supposed to be doubly lucky because the anniversary has double eights. I do think I have been lucky, but I’m not sure but I have been doubly lucky. On 8 August 2011, I received an unexpected call from National Party president Peter Goodfellow inviting me to stand in the upcoming general election. The first sentence I said to Peter was, “Thank you, but I have no interest.” Peter was somewhat taken aback but suggested that we should have a chat, and I agreed. My wife Jane was horrified when I told her about Peter’s invitation that evening. At that time, I was associate dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. Jane was very much satisfied with our life and would hate being the wife of a politician. Her position was very clear: I would have to choose between her and politics. To me, the choice was obvious, so I was quite sure what my position was when I met Peter a few days later. Peter was very genuine and explained to me the importance of a Chinese MP to the National Party. In the end, I said politely to Peter that I would consider his invitation. I briefed Jane about my meeting with Peter, and that was it—I declined the party’s invitation.
However, Peter did not give up. I subsequently had two more meetings with the party’s leadership. I was touched by the sincerity of the party. I then consulted with a small circle of my friends and colleagues. My former head of department, who was a New Zealand politics expert, said to me, “If I were you, I would grab it with both hands.”
I realised that my military academy background in China could be an issue, so I brought up the issue with the party leadership in my meetings with them. I also clearly named Air Force Engineering University and the People’s Liberation Army Luoyang foreign language institute in my list candidate application form. I have been transparent to the party from the very beginning. As I said in my maiden speech nine years ago, I am a Kiwi made in China. I came to New Zealand in late February 1999. In 2004, I received my New Zealand citizenship and gave up my Chinese citizenship. I filled out my citizenship application form as required. Unlike it was being reported, I actually did not put down the civilian or partner universities in my citizenship application form.
However, I was not sure to what extent I had been accepted as a New Zealander until 2008. I joined a Track 1.5 security dialogue delegation to Tokyo and Beijing from late July to early August 2008. The delegation was organised by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, or NZIIA. I joined the delegation as chair of the Auckland branch of the NZIIA and as an international relations scholar. Other members of the delegation included academics and retired senior diplomats. At a meeting with our Japanese counterparts, the head of delegation asked me to introduce New Zealand foreign policy. I was puzzled and said, “I don’t think I’m the right person to do this. I’m Chinese, and we have a few former New Zealand diplomats here.” A retired senior New Zealand diplomat immediately said to our Japanese counterparts, “Jian is the new face of New Zealand.”
A few days later, the New Zealand embassy in Beijing hosted the delegation and invited some Chinese experts to the function. Again, I was asked to introduce New Zealand foreign policy to Chinese guests. I said, “I have an identity problem. You are inviting a Chinese to talk about New Zealand foreign policy to Chinese experts in front of senior New Zealand diplomats.” The New Zealand ambassador then said, “Jian, I’ll ask you one question: what passport do you hold?” “New Zealand passport”, I said. “Then you are a New Zealander”, said the ambassador. From then on, I have never been troubled by my identity. I am a New Zealander.
Nevertheless, there have been speculations about my loyalty to New Zealand, and we have seen various conspiracy stories. Last September, I accompanied the then National leader Simon Bridges to visit China. We told our Chinese host that we would like to meet a Politburo member in Beijing. A few days before the meeting, we were told that Mr Guo Shengkun would meet the delegation. I did not really know Mr Guo’s portfolios. So I did a quick search online and discovered that he was in charge of justice and law and order. Back in New Zealand, conspiracy theories, however, claimed that I had organised a meeting between the National Party leader and the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s secret police. Simon, I’m sorry that you had to defend yourself—things went slightly off the plan.
Recently, it is claimed that I have not talked to English media for two years and that I only talk to Chinese media. The truth is, as the National spokesperson for statistics, I have talked to Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB, Stuff, Newshub, and other English media well over 10 times in the past 18 months or so, more than many backbenchers in this House. I only declined the media requests—English or Chinese—whose sole purpose was to question my loyalty to New Zealand. I have made it very clear that I have been loyal to New Zealand. I do not need to explain again.
It has been a great honour to represent New Zealand’s Chinese community as a National MP. I have put heart and soul into serving the community. I am pleased that I have been able to assist numerous Chinese constituents. I am proud that I have set up the Blue Dragons to better engage the Chinese community to support the National Party. I am also proud that I have enabled the Chinese community to better understand and participate in New Zealand’s democratic politics. It has been tremendously rewarding to be warmly received wherever I go in the Chinese community, and I am deeply grateful to the Chinese community for its consistent support to me.
As a first generation immigrant, I feel extremely privileged to be able to participate in the making of national policies and laws, and to chair two important select committees, the Education and Science Committee and the Governance and Administration Committee. I also had the opportunity to meet numerous outstanding New Zealanders, including those from the Chinese community. As a member of Parliament with Chinese heritage, I made my contribution to New Zealand – China relations. My trips to China with Rt Hon Sir John Key and various Ministers and colleagues are some highlights of my political career. I enjoyed each of these trips. There are many memorable moments, from meeting the Chinese President and Chinese Premier to seeing Paul Goldsmith’s facial expression when he was served a whole sea cucumber.
In March 2012, I accompanied Trade Minister Tim Groser to visit China. I helped organise a Chinese press conference before we left. Minister Groser happily announced to the Chinese media, “We will pay a visit to our old friend, Mr Bo Xilai.”, who signed the New Zealand – China free trade agreement when he was China’s Minister of Commerce. A few minutes later he received a message saying that Mr Bo had just been dismissed.
I am particularly grateful to Tim for his trust. While in China, Tim said that I could speak Chinese without being translated just to save time. “I trust you, and I want you to talk about your story to highlight the diversity of New Zealand society.”, Tim said. It didn’t work very well. New Zealand, as a nation, should have an informed debate about China. Superficial, ill-informed, and biased reports and commentaries about China will not serve our national interest well. As Professor Paul Clark concludes in his article published in the New Zealand Herald just a week ago, “Scaremongering is not the way to get real about China.” We do have some outstanding China experts in New Zealand with the academic integrity of being evidence-based, fair, and honest.
China experienced some turbulent and chaotic times in its contemporary history. Like many Chinese, my grandparents and parents suffered. As I mentioned in my maiden speech, my grandfather was a general of the Chinese Nationalist Party, China’s ruling party at that time. He was arrested and put into prison with the change of Government in 1949. My parents were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants during the great cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. I myself would not be where I am had China not opened up and started its reforms in 1978. I am certainly not an exceptional case. A simple fact is that tens of millions of Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty since 1978.
It is time for me to thank those who have helped me in the past nine years. I cannot mention all of them. I thank all National Party board members, in particular, National Party President Peter Goodfellow for his support at every step. I thank my colleagues, particularly the year 2011 classmates. They have given me unfailing support over these years. I thank all Blue Dragons. Representatives from Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, and Queenstown branches are here today. In particular, I thank Frank, Chris, and James. I thank the vibrant Chinese community, which has made a great contribution to this country. Some representatives are here today.
[Mandarin text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
I acknowledge my youth MP, Sally, who is here. She is following in my path and is doing her BA majoring in international relations. I also thank my friends Tony, Phil, and Ambassador Brown. I thank in my two assistants, Shu Kim and Shan. Not many MPs have not changed their staff for nine years. Shu Kim and Shan have been my loyal colleagues and most trustworthy advisers. I also thank Shan’s wife, Susu, and Shu Kim’s husband, Blair, and daughter Isabel. They have become our close family friends.
My parents and brothers who still live in China have always been supportive of me. My father is 90 years old with dementia and my mother is in a wheelchair. I have not joined them for Chinese New Year for nine years. Hopefully I will be able to do so for the coming Chinese New Year. Finally, I thank my wife Jane and two daughters, Suzie and Evelyn. My two girls have got used to me not being around. Evelyn just made it today. Apparently her biological sciences lab is more important than my ridiculous speech.
My wife, Jane, has been my strongest supporter during the most difficult time. This does not necessarily mean she liked my political life. She has always been a private person and values her privacy. I once told a shop owner that my wife often came to her shop. The shop owner later figured out who my wife was and asked Jane. Jane was so stressed that she stopped shopping there, and the shop closed down before long. Jane has come to Wellington only twice in nine years. Nine years ago, she was here for my maiden speech saying, “Take care.” Nine years later, she’s back for my valedictory speech, saying “Welcome home.”
Before I conclude, I would like to wish the National Party all the best. In terms of values, the Chinese community is very close to the National Party, and the National Party has been firmly supportive of the Chinese community. To our new leader, the Hon Judith Collins, I’m here to say you have my full support, Judith.
I’m proud of my Chinese heritage. I feel fortunate to have had the life-changing opportunity to study in Australia. Most importantly, I am privileged to be able to live in New Zealand, a truly great country, and one I call my home. It’s time for me to put down politics and enjoy life with my family. History will be the best judge of my nine years in the New Zealand Parliament. Thank you. Xiexie.
Sir John Key is warning that the economic crisis as a consequence of Covid-19 will be far worse than the health crisis.
“We are in the very early part of what is going to be a very significant contraction of the economy here in New Zealand and globally,” Key said.
The former National Party leader and three-term prime minister said consumer confidence and buoyant equity and property markets were being propped up by low interest rates and were not a true reflection of the real economy.
“Don’t underestimate how weak some parts of the sector are.”
The wage subsidy is also masking potential business failures and unemployment.
Key, who is chairman of ANZ bank, said that in New Zealand about a quarter of all its customers had experienced a 20 per cent or more reduction in their income due to Covid-19.
About 10 per cent had their income reduce to zero, he said. . .
Some people who have lost jobs have found others paying a lot less, some are working more than one part-time job for poorer pay and some have not been able to find new jobs.
Treasury and the Reserve Bank should be more involved in day-to-day conversations around the Covid-19 response in the same way the Ministry of Health held daily briefings, he said.
New Zealand needed to do everything it could to prevent community transmission but that did not mean the borders needed to be closed to everyone except returning New Zealanders, he said.
“I am not advocating that we recklessly open the borders and allow people in. That would be crazy for our economy.”
But New Zealand could do a lot more by quarantining on a much larger scale, he said.
Covid-19 must be kept at the border but that doesn’t mean that we can’t let more people in it means looking at ways to let them in safely.
This could include much cheaper options than the flash hotels that are currently being used.
It is possible there are disused buildings that could be repurposed and how hard would it be to locate purpose-built prefabs somewhere secure? The military should be able to advise on this.
The government threw all it could at the potential health crisis, it has failed to put nearly enough attention and resources into minimising the economic crisis .
That failure will lead to a different health crisis – increases in stress related illnesses, alcohol and drug dependency and other conditions exacerbated by poverty and unemployment. It will also result in less money to fund health services and that will lead to delays in diagnosis and treatments that will affect quality of life, ability to work and reduced life expectancy.
The government told us it took battling Covid-19 so seriously, not just to prevent a health crisis but failing to deal with it would have a disastrous economic impact.
It must now take an equally serious approach to the looming economic crisis to stave off the health crisis that will result if it doesn’t.