Denise Lee’s maiden speech

November 18, 2017

Denise Lee’s maiden speech has been widely praised for good reason.

I think it is worth reading in full, but have bolded the part where she describes the sudden death of her son, the aftermath and how that influenced her.

Tena koutou katoa

E tau nei tetahi pirere no Tikapa Moana.

Na ka kopangia maitia e te aroha o Maungakiekie, Maungarei hoki

Ka irihia ki a wai a Tamaki Herenga Waka

Ka irihia ki a wai a te Manukanuka Hoturoa

Na ka ungia nei ahau, hei mangai, hei taringa, hei kanohi mo te hunga ra,

No reira

Aroha ki a ratou kei te Tupou o te Tini

Ka mihia ki a tatou

Kia ora mai tatou katoa

Greetings to you all

A bird (fledgling) from the Coromandel has alighted here

Enfolded by the mana of Maungakiekie & Maungarei

Christened with the sacred water of Tamaki

Christened with the sacred water of Manukau

Sent here as the mouthpiece, the ears & the eyes for the people there.


I acknowledge those who have gone before

I mihi to us

Mr Speaker, greetings to us all. And congratulations on your new role; you are one of seven members here in the 52nd parliament who sat with my father back in the 80s & 90s.

Many of us have had family precede us here, fathers, grandfathers, cousins, but unusually two of my colleague’s fathers taught me in primary school, one of them moving on to become an MP, the other, my favourite teacher of all time. Well, now he happens to be in the building because his son is about to deliver a maiden speech.

No matter where you are in NZ, we are all somehow connected, somehow local, we inevitably know each other.

I drove into the local petrol station after the election to return yet another hired trailer used for signs. The station attendant approached me and remarked “hey are you that lady from the signs, the one that won? I’ve been watching you. If you know how to back a trailer like that you deserved to win!” I laughed, introduced myself to Lester and he told me he was a regular middle New Zealander working hard to make a living, and now that I was elected, “Miss lady from the signs” he said, “please don’t forget about us.”

Pressing a little further about what he meant, I discovered it meant he felt okay about working hard as long as he had enough to take his family on a holiday. He didn’t want law makers to take away that opportunity. It wasn’t complicated. He was outgoing and optimistic and felt strongly that he wanted to keep more of what he earned so he could choose how to spend it.

Lester is indicative of many others in my electorate of Maungakiekie. I’m honoured to have been the Auckland city councillor for the hard-working area, and now their member of Parliament and I thank them for the faith they have placed in me to continue as an elected representative.

May I acknowledge the immediate and highly-regarded past member of Parliament the Honourable Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga who joins me here in support today. Faafetai lava Sam.

I have learnt a few things about Maungakiekie along the way.

When we’re told the Manukau harbour is the poor cousin to the Waitemata, we don’t accept it. We straddle both.

When we know we’ve got NZ’s largest regeneration project because some of our social indicators are poor, we embrace it. We stick together to face change.

When we’ve got the nation’s largest industrial area contributing to GDP, we value it. We punch above our weight.

We’re highly diverse in age, culture, and income. The level of investment and activity in our part of New Zealand is unprecedented. Between the scale of Housing NZ’s build in Oranga to Tamaki Redevelopment Company, to the AMETI transport project and the huge and long-planned for yet controversial East West Link, we are a very busy part of New Zealand.

Maungakiekie contains much life-blood of our nation.

While the scale of these projects value into the billions, the true value of any electorate is always back at the local level. Panmure, Ellerslie and Onehunga, the three main village centres (Mt Wellington let’s work on one), have a distinct community feel that is hard to find in a fast-paced busy city.

Intent on keeping and fostering that village feel, before I ran for office, among other things I co-created a charitable trust which brokered local residents and business owners to pull off social projects for good, a far cry from another former role I had working with high net worth clients at Morgan Stanley in Philadelphia.

We were highly motivated to model to our own city-kids the importance of service. Town clean-ups, small business make-overs, teen mum support, community gardens, we did it all.

We were organic, responsive, innovative and frugal, everything the local government-employed community staff weren’t and a big reason why I am thoroughly committed to the principle of allowing community to produce the answers.

When I was awarded a NZer of the Year local hero award, I had someone approach me after the medal ceremony and ask me “do you get this from your Dad?”

I come from a long line of civic duty family commitment. It appears there really is something in the blood. Grandad lied about his age to serve in World War 1 as a 16 year old alongside his five older brothers. He came back after being gassed in the trenches, built much of Paeroa, and became the Mayor.

His son, (my father) became the Mayor after him.

Provincial life was unhurried and at times quaint. I recall our girl’s Brownie pack having to parade past Dad standing in front of the council chambers, dressed in his mayoral chains as part of annual town commemorations.

Each year we were taught to acknowledge the Mayor with the usual two finger Brownie salute. I figure there’s no better time than my maiden speech in parliament to finally let Dad know, a mere 40 or so years later, that one parade my younger sister Angela and I decided, in jest, to momentarily turn the fingers around.

Lucky for us your dubious eyesight didn’t catch our slight of hand Dad. Even more lucky, our 75yr old head Brown Owl, well known for her paralysing death stare, didn’t either.

I was 11 when Dad went to parliament as the MP for Coromandel. I was fascinated right from the start, in a large part due to the interesting people politics attracted. Unlike today it was often the biggest, most dynamic membership-based show in town. Ross Miller, a long-term electorate Chairman for Dad, and an unfailing advocate for my own journey, is here today and will recall with clarity a certain Miss Elsie Wylde. This woman deserves to be immortalized in Hansard.

At the tender age of 80 she would fill every room with her presence, boom out interjections, always be right with political predictions and should anyone dare to object, she would loudly and publicly remind them she taught both them and their children at school, recalling their lack of academic abilities.

I’d like to say it was her political discourse that grabbed my attention most but in all honesty it was hard to go past the time she ate beetroot at a pot luck event and without knowing it, the beetroot juice slipped from the corners of her mouth and down her deeply ingrained wrinkles, producing a tributary stream effect. Thoroughly memorable.

Although I had observed and participated in politics, studied it, sat at the feet of political icons like Rob Eady and enjoyed party membership life, at some point it needed to become my own journey. And that it did, in the form of the unexpected, the inexplicable and as official records still record today, the unexplainable.

One night I awoke as a young parent and decided to check on my two year old son Riley only to discover he had died in his sleep.

What ensued was a series of random interactions with a cold-hearted function-driven system. The failure of police inquest officers, pathologists and coroners to sensitively inform and communicate their process to two shell-shocked parents still mystifies me today.

Loss comes in all forms, not just death, but loss of careers, loss of confidence, loss of relationships and marriage, my own succumbing to the high percentage of those that end upon the death of a child.

With all our collective legislative wisdom, there shouldn’t also have to be loss of faith in a system supposedly designed to protect those that need it at precisely the time when they most need it.

Trying to keep up with where Riley’s body had gone, what they were doing to it, what they were retaining from it, receiving an abruptly-worded police letter informing us of our Coroner’s court hearing date, it was all too much.

No explanations, no ‘frequently asked questions’ brochure, just a summons. You’ll understand I thought we were being put on trial for the death of our son.

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death, trying to understand the legalities and desperately wanting to just stay away from the world to get on with grieving, my sense of indignance grew. I was the one who asked to meet with the police, the pathologists and others to get a handle on who else may have to face what we did.

This indignance formed a seed that merged into a big part of the driving force that sees me standing here today. I’m subsequently relieved the coronial system has improved for people, the 2006 Coroners Act and later reviews better protect the interest of grieving families.

Politics really did become personal for me then. A flick of the pen, wording of an amendment, an exchange in the debating chamber – parliament’s processes affect everyday lives.

I’ve had the pleasure of being in Auckland Council’s cabinet as Deputy Chair for Planning, covering Auckland’s housing, transport, and infrastructure. $45 billion dollars of assets to make the eyes water, but what is reality for residents? Fixing the broken curb so car tyres don’t get scraped, speeding up consents so the house extension can just get built, and going to the park expecting to see the lawns have been mowed.

The settings are wider here, but however you measure it, the expectation is that we will make a difference in the everyday lives of New Zealanders. We will foster the right economy for jobs and income, which in turn fosters hope and the fruition of dreams.

I am immensely proud to stand with the National party who have overseen substantial growth in their recent term of government, despite international trends to the contrary. 10,000 new jobs each month for the last 18 months is extraordinary.

I am surrounded by a host of incredible supporters who appear to have decided I am a good investment of their time, energy, and unfailing commitment.

I can only hope I return the favour. To the National party, thank you for backing me to back Lester and backing people to choose their own future.

What I most appreciate about you and our leader the Rt Hon Bill English, is the relentless commitment to the politics of hope. It should always outweigh the politics of fear, even when the latter sells more media space.

To my core local volunteer team, you’re everything I would wish for. As chance would have it, we’re dominated by females.

Dr Lee Mathias, how you have the time to run boards, a business and back women like me, I do not know. Sue White, politics is obviously in your blood too, but for all the right reasons. Your friendship and that of your talented daughter Ainsley I hold dear.

Louise Millar, my Chair, our kids went to school together, you always say yes, and no one can sport a pair of red bands in the city like you do. Josh Beddell, the lone male voice, we all know you love it.

To my personal friends outside of politics, let’s keep it that way. You don’t like the policy detail and I like the escape. You also remind me this place is a bubble, so if I ever get out of touch, pop me.

And to my funny, often irreverent, and close-knit family, I adore you. My two sisters Rochelle and Angela and your clans, we have many more adventures ahead and I am proud of our strong and fun-filled bond.

Remember the time we ran around the Beehive as teenagers and I fell on Robert Muldoon when he opened his secret private elevator door? It’s time for the next generation of kids to let loose on parliamentary security.

Mum and Dad your rock solid presence and commitment to our family is a very large reason I am here today. In an age of transience and relativity you have been present for us and stuck to your convictions, the greatest and most admirable of which is that you love and serve others before yourself.

When we’ve hit hard times as a family, and there’s been plenty, you have adapted. I cannot thank you enough for the way in which your character has forged our family destiny and that you have supported me in the pursuit of mine.

And finally to my own precious children, my son Riley who as the good book says ‘lives beyond the veil’, you are a gift.

My daughters Sydnee and Makenna, your world is not the one I grew up in. I spent weekends rat shooting at the Paeroa dump, you navigate the virtual world, streaming mass international content 24/7 under the watchful eye of the Google and Facebook empires.

It is your world that will rapidly change what we do here in these halls and I am proud to have two incredibly talented young women to guide me in how to think ahead. I love you.

In closing, I wish us all well Mr Speaker, God-speed to the 52nd Parliament of the world’s most attractive nation.


Who knows best?

November 15, 2017

The last Labour government was criticised for nanny-statism and the new one is already in danger of courting the same criticism:

Parenting 101 from your friendly Labour Government.

New parents may relish the idea of both parents being home together, able to bond as a family in those first few weeks of a newborn’s life.

But the Government advises “no”, that’s not necessarily in the interests of your baby.

That’s why it intends to vote down a National Party amendment to the Government’s paid parental leave extension, that would let both parents take their paid leave together.

“Our concern with that is the likelihood it would reduce the amount of time that baby has to bond with their primary caregiver,” said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

Who knows best what’s best for babies and their parents – the parents or the government?

If both parents were off at the same time, it would reduce the total amount of time that baby’s parents would be on leave. National’s amendment would allow for parents to make a choice – it does not compel them to take leave at the same time.

There’s no compulsion, no we-know-best. It would just give flexibility to parents who could choose to take none, some or all of the leave at the same time, depending on what suited them and their babies.

In all likelihood, Labour doesn’t really believe it knows better than parents what suits them.

So they’d put politics before parents, and babies and risk the accusation of nanny-statism because it’s not their idea.

That’s simply pettiness.

Fair not equal, equal not fair

November 13, 2017

How very sad for everyone involved that a dispute over a will ended up in court:

A woman who claimed it was unfair her brother was left the family farm while she received $1 million and a bach has again failed to get a bigger slice of their parents’ estate.

The Talbot family has been farming in South Canterbury for generations. The principal farm, Kingsborough Farm, was initially bought by the siblings’ grandfather in 1915.

It was run by Edwin and Pamela Talbot until their elder years when their only son, Graham, took over the management and financial responsibility of Kingsborough from 2006.

When Edwin and Pamela died in 2014 and 2015, respectively, they granted probate of their estates to Graham in their wills – something that had previously been discussed among the whole family.

“The evidence at trial established that Graham worked long hours on Kingsborough, that he took minimal drawings, and that it is likely that the farm would have had to have been sold if Graham had not left school to work on it,” the Court of Appeal’s decision said. 

This is not an unusual situation.

One or more family members works on the farm, taking minimal drawings, ploughing more  back into the farm; making a significant contribution to the maintenace, development and capital growth of the property; and earning a bigger share of the estate than other family members who sacrifice and contribute nothing.

Jillian and her sister Rachel – an “unwilling but necessary” participant in the court proceedings – had not shown an interest in working on the farm, which their parents had wanted to keep in the family.

“It was their intention from at least 1999, and probably earlier, that Graham, as the only child who had shown any interest in farming Kingsborough, should receive the family farm, and that Rachel and Jillian should share equally in the remainder of their estates.”

The couple left Jillian and Rachel over $1m each with Jillian also being given the family bach.

The Court of Appeal said the key issue for it to determine was whether or not adequate provision had been made from the estate to meet Jillian’s needs. . .

“In our judgment, a sum a little in excess of $1 million is, on any objective assessment, and at the least, a moderate amount. It is not provision so small as to leave a justifiable sense of exclusion from participation in the family estate,” the decision said. . . 

The farm was worth $4 million.  That wouldn’t be a large property and it’s probable an equal division of the estate would have forced more debt on the business than it could sustain.

Farm succession and inheritance can be complex and in situations like this equal isn’t fair and fair isn’t equal.

It’s not about us

September 9, 2017

We understand that being in government isn’t about us, it’s about what we do for people, making a difference to their lives because National is a party that cares about people and gets things done. I strongly believe that if we can build on our current success we can offer better opportunities for everyone.” – Bill English.

In my time in Parliament I have learned and grown a lot, often from the people and communities I’ve met with all over NZ. You have always shown me how unique New Zealand truly is.

When I look ahead, I am still inspired by just how far we have come as a country together. We worked through the GFC, we banded together after the Canterbury earthquakes, and we will continue to face future challenges with determination and optimism.

This election is important. Our campaign is for every New Zealander who wants to bring their dreams to life. It’s a campaign for Kiwis who are prepared to work hard and back themselves. It is a campaign for you. – Bill English

Bill’s resilience, his intellectual grunt, and his great capacity to get things done is why he is the right person to lead the government and our country. NZ National Party.

Government needs the right leader with the right team.

Bill English has proven he is that leader with that team.


September 3, 2017

I didn’t listen to him because he was my father & wouldn’t know anything until I was much older….  © 2014 Brian Andreas – posted with permission.

You can buy books, posters, cards, ornaments and more and sign up for a daily dose of whimsy like this by email at Story People.

Chosen for Fathers Day and dedicated to all the good fathers who are patient enough to wait until their children are old enough to know enough to listen.

PM Dad and daughter

August 30, 2017

Prime Minister Bill English was interviewed by his daughter Maria live on Facebook this evening.

You can see it here.

Apropos of Maria, she sang the National Anthem a capella at the National Party campaign launch on Sunday.

You can hear her here.

Keep running the right way

August 26, 2017

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