Chris Auchinvole’s valedictory


Chris Auckinvole  Auchinvole delivered his valedictory speech last week:

Thank you Mr Speaker, thank you very much indeed for the call to give my Valedictory statement.

Because it’s a privilege that is given to retirees. 15 minutes of uninterrupted discourse, where the opportunity is given to say it, the way it really is, the way I see it, and I intend to do that now.

If we glance overseas, back to Westminster, where our Parliamentary system began, before it was improved by the New Zealand system, we see that the Parliamentary media over there have adopted the sobriquet of “Pale, Male, and Stale” for those that Mr Cameron has decided should no longer hold their Cabinet Warrants. How cruel, how cruel is that to sensitive people? Well, if you can’t take the heat, don’t stand in the kitchen. This is politics 101 after all.  Mind you, all jokes aside, I have always thought the members of the media try to see in others that which they least like about themselves. Let’s think about that for a moment. Every day at quarter to two as we come to the House I have in my dairy ‘available to media’. I approach the milieu of people and cameras and microphones. Sometimes they say, “G’Day Chris”, that’s it! There have been perhaps three times when I have had that wonderful surround sound of microphones and cameras, very exciting, unfortunately it was always over a tragic association with Pike River rather than the sort of fun our Minister have.

Does the Westminsterial sobriquet apply over here?  Are retirees Pale Male and Stale on this side of the world? On this side of the house? I don’t think so Mr Speaker, Oh No!  I don’t think so! Well not yet at any rate, but, as my old friend Roy Hodgson in Rūnanga used to say, a good old coal miner, ‘Hang on, let’s have a think about that.’ So I’ve given it a bit of thought.

Well Pale, OK I certainly do not have a ruddy or dark complexion, but roseate enough on a frosty morning not to be described as pale.

Male? I make no apology for being a male. I hope I’m seen as a considerate, compassionate and communicable male; I make no apology for that. If I have faults, and I’m sure I do, well I don’t think  I can blame my gender for my behaviour without it being a cop-out. There ain’t nothing wrong in being a bloke if you behave yourself properly!  I am pleased nonetheless that our new National Candidate for West Coast Tasman is Maureen Pugh, thereby enhancing the opportunity for gender balance in the party.

Stale? Don’t think so. I have achieved more for the electorate in the last year in the cumulative improvement in West Coast Tasman health infrastructure than ever before – and haven’t we had such a wonderful Minister of Health! I have contributed as much on an annual basis to Select Committee work, in the last year as in any other, and have spoken more frequently in the Chamber. I had a speech that went trending on Twitter, Lianne Dalziel had to say it was trending and not trendy, and it was viral on Internet in the opinion of TV3– and this was after I had announced my retirement. So Stale? No.

So, if that is the successful rebuttal of the Westminsterial criticism of gentlemen of European ancestry of a certain age and career achievement, if I have successfully rebutted that, why the hell am I retiring? That’s a good question but here is the answer because it is a question that does require answering.

When I joined the National Party, signed up by Keith Holyoake, who said “Be careful when you sign that membership form, you may end up in Parliament” – that was in Kaikohe circa 1968, I actually made a commitment to work to support the Party – not to seek to support myself, but to support the Party.  I am now 69 years old, and while so many people say I don’t look it, well I am.

Well I don’t know of any other, National MP’s, who are 69 years old, but as we sign up to three year brackets of tenure, would you really want to still be trundling around Parliament at 72? You’d need quite an ego if you thought you couldn’t be replaced effectively by a younger person. I guess the only other extenuating circumstance would be if your were a party leader if you had a Scottish mother from the Isle of Skye, but even then you’d be pushing it.

I guess Mr Speaker, this is the reality. Keeping a balance of diversity, age, gender, and ethnicity in a caucus is a long game, not short one. And haven’t we all benefited from the inclusion of people of diversity and different ethnicity in this Parliament?  And I’ve got one sitting right here, Kanwal Bakshi, who makes a huge contribution and National has certainly changed under the John key leadership. Each of us has to think now, about the future of our Party, and the part we want to play. With my own retirement and the retirements of colleagues from National now, the real effect will be first in 2017 when National will have an incredibly fresh team, all with at least three years’  experience as MP’s youthful yet mature, vigorous and energetic, may I say, multi-shaded, gender-balanced and fresh. That’s the way it will be on this side of the House. I have no wish to be Partisan, but hey, consideration should be given to how we will look as a Party in comparison with one another in three years’ time, or indeed in six years’ time, because you have to plan that far out for refreshment and strength, Should some of Parliaments older incumbents cling to the backs of their seats, and some of us to have a tendency to do that. Speaking entirely for myself, I wish to be part of a refreshment process rather than a stagnation process within the Party – and should people not, which will occur that people don’t and allow replacements come in, I think that the best way to do that is to retire at my present stage.

So while I am not personally seeking re-election, I am of course, still steeped in the process of the election cycle. The political messages thought that are put out by all parties have a different emphasis, if one is thinking as a voter rather than one to be voted for. It gives you a different slant on things. It’s interesting to see the way parties want to differentiate from one another. One of my regular phone callers on the Coast brought this to my attention when he asked “ What about those parties that want to bring back Smacking – is it ‘cos they want us all to smack kids, or do they have a secret dream of being smacked themselves if only the law allowed it? You just don’t know nowadays do you?”  He does has a point.

The other point he made Mr Speaker, and I am absolutely sure it will not cause any offence, is to ask why some parties insist on having Binding Referenda. He said “It sounds to him like the way people always try to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do with natural resources on the coast when they don’t even live here themselves.” And went on to say “The really strange part is that the parties that say we should have Binding referenda are always minority parties and by their own mandate they shouldn’t accept to be in Parliament cause they did not achieve majority support.”  He has a point! He has a point, and I really look forward to continuing to benefit from West Coast wisdom, and the philosophical observations of people once outside and home again.

Mr Speaker I do not intend to speak any further on new and emergent parties that hope to hold us in thrall to their whims and wants – in my view MMP is a reality that I think would be a pity to lose, but as well as providing opportunities for new philosophies one of it’s vulnerabilities is that it can attract charlatans from time to time, but the electorate is, I trust developing a maturity in the way we use and view MMP.

So what Mr Speaker, have I been able to contribute and what have I gained from my nine years in this place?

For me the most significant part of the Parliamentary process, as a back-bencher, is the Select Committee system. This is our Second House, our Senate, our House of Lords, as this is where the public have a direct interface with the legislative process. This is where the public are asked what they think of the legislation being put forward. In my experience, the adversarial relationship between Parties and individual members is subsumed to less of a partisan system, where members each consider the evidence put before them in submissions from people, often based on a personal or observed experience. I have always been impressed by the sincerity and depth of explanation the public provide. Organisations too, be they Corporate bodies, commercial organisations, or community groups, come in with carefully prepared and sharply focussed submissions to argue a point. Each and every submission is considered, weighed, then reported back to the committee by the appointed officials who are assisting the committee.

I like to think my main opportunity to make a contribution has been through the Committee process, and I am extremely grateful for the appointments that I have had to those committees and have developed a deep appreciation of colleagues from all sides of the house in the way we have the capacity to work together through the committee system. It always a bit of a surprise when you come out of the committee system, I remember when we did the review of the – I won’t bother dealing with the individual acts – but some of the complex ones when we worked together very well as parties, we come out and suddenly you here people speaking as if they wanted nothing to do with it, and how dreadful it was. And I remember saying to a Minister once, “this wasn’t a reflection of the way they spoke in the committee”, and they said, “Chris, they’re not speaking to you in the committee, they’re speaking to their membership in the public and it’s not in their advantage to looks as if we all work together too easily.”

Representing people, be they individuals or entire electorates is a big privilege, and the West Coast Tasman electorate will always be special for me and it’s a delight to see people have actually come up from West Coast and Tasman to be with us today and ill think well give them a little clap as it’s a hell of a long way. Particularly nice to see three young Nat’s, there’s four young or more young Nat’s in the back, and they’ve been with me I think since third form and they’re at university now and doing very well.

The West Coast Tasman electorate will always be special to me. There were aspects of political opportunity that held special appeal for me when I first arrived in 2005, but I chose to concentrate my attention on serving the electorate, and have stuck with that prime intention. All politicians in my experience wish to achieve the best they can for the people they represent –  each Party having separate ways of achieving that –  and I have always been comfortable promoting the policies of National. There have been good times in the electorate, and times of awful tragedy – both the good times and the tragedies are part of the political journey as an MP, and it has been very pleasing to me Mr Speaker to have seen the level of agreement between parties in processing the Pike River Royal Commission recommendations towards workplace Health and Safety reform.

Mr Speaker it has been a great time to be in Parliament over the last nine years. New Zealand plays a significant part in world affairs as a small nation with a developed and still developing economy. People are not afraid of New Zealand. New Zealand views are listened to and sought.  I think it fair to say that we have been well served by Foreign Ministers from all parties over the last few decades and we are regarded as a very responsible world citizen. I hope that the influence we have built up can be used in some of the complex and tragic dynastic problems that are occurring at the moment between governments to the detriment and horrifying physical cost to all their citizens.

Finally Mr Speaker, I looked up Valedictory in my Chambers dictionary – normally it is the final speech of a graduand leaving their place of learning – for me that’s a fit leaving here. Thanks directly to my National Colleagues, and to the Prime Minister and his staff for the leadership provided. There is no greater call than that your country needs you, and gosh, New Zealand does need John Key, thank goodness we have you as Prime Minister!

This is a dynamic place. It managed without me before I arrived, and it will manage without me after I’ve left. Well alright! You’re so kind. Members and staff will concentrate on themselves, the job in hand and their individual and collective Party aspirations as before and that is what should happen. I will be no more memorable than any other politician who has served here or moved on.  I don’t expect the majority of you to remember me in any shape or form, BUT I will remember each of you, each and every one of you, and all the transactions we have engaged in, and I will treasure all the exchanges we have had, I promise you that, be it at Select Committee, in the Debating Chambers, in Copperfield’s, Bellamy’s, or the gym, on social occasions, on formal occasions,  in private conversation, in private meetings or in public engagement, with Security Staff, Parliamentary Services Staff, the Travel Team, the media team, with Brent’s Messengers, the Clerk’s Office, IT Help services,  bless them, the  Comm’s Unit, Research, the Library, the exemplary  In Style Taxi services headed up by Paul Rossiter, Air NZ Koru Club, the electorate teams, the Young Nats, my office staff past and  present and, and bless them, those who have left us – the late Dan Strong, my electorate chair in Motueka, and late Margaret  Dougan who supported me in Motueka. To the voters of West Coast Tasman and  National who provided me with nine years of representation for the West Coast Tasman electorate, to my darling wife Elspeth and my family, I thank you and I thank each and everyone mentioned, no matter which Party you choose to belong to, or which path you choose to walk along. Thanks for nine unforgettable years! Thank you Mr Speaker.

Valedictory roster


Parliament’s Business Committee has released the roster for valedictory speeches from retiring MPs:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Cam Calder

4.15pm – 4.30pm John Hayes

4.30pm – 4.45pm Chris Auchinvole

4.45pm – 5.00pm Colin King

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Chris Tremain

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Kate Wilkinson

Thursday, 24 July 2014

4.45pm – 5.00pm Dr Rajen Prasad

5.00pm – 5.15pm Darien Fenton

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Dr Pita Sharples

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tariana Turia

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Paul Hutchison

4.15pm – 4.30pm Hon Phil Heatley

4.30pm – 4.45pm Eric Roy

4.45pm – 5.00pm Shane Ardern

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Tau Henare

5.15pm – 5.30pm H V Ross Robertson

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tony Ryall

The Herald opined that valedictories should be the preserve of “deserving” MPs:

No fewer than 14 National MPs are retiring at the coming election, plus a couple from other parties. While the turnover is refreshing for public life, it carries a cost if every departee gives a valedictory address. . . .

Few voters could name many of those retiring this year. Many are leaving because they have not been able to make much impact and accept that they should give others a chance. More credit to them, but valedictory time should be reserved for those who have made their mark and will be missed.

That is very ungracious and also shows a depressing level of ignorance about the role of MPs.

Most of the good work MPs do never makes the headlines, much of it can’t because it’s helping people over matters which must remain private.

Maiden speeches and valedictories are among the best speeches given.

All MPs deserve the opportunity to do one and in doing so show their work and parliament in a far better light than it’s normally portrayed.

Too late for turn around?


 Chris Trotter thinks it’s too late for Labour to turn voters around:

What John Key’s managed to do over these last three years in make National in a way New Zealand or at least New Zealand as it is seen by nearly two thirds it would now appear of the voters. And those who are in the other parties in a strange way are almost now out of that definition and that it is an absolutely fatal place for a political party to find itself in and it makes it extremely difficult both for the party and the party’s leader to get back in the race.

I think you’ve got to go back to that 2005 to 2008 period, the last term of Helen Clark’s government,  when New Zealand really fell out of love with Labour. More and more people, even traditional Labour voters began to see Labour as not really representing them, whereas John Key’s performance really made him one of us, he’s our sort of guy, he really talks our language.

And that has just consolidated over the last three years to the point where it’s a flat line you know of National’s support and it’s you know about 20 percentage points above the flat line of Labour’s. . .  it’s quite an achievement on National’s part . . . it’s almost as if he’s made Don Brash’s statement of 2005,mainstream New Zealand is National, which was wrong then but is right now. . .

You really do get the impression that New Zealanders have looked at Labour, decided a) they don’t really sound very much like us, like me; and b) they’re just not ready, look at them, they’re all over the place. . .

John Key’s personal popularity, an acceptance that National has had an unprecedented series of serious events outside its control to deal with and the Kiwi sense of giving a first-term government a fair go are all conspiring against Labour.

But its failure to learn from the lesson the electorate gave it in 2008, disunity and ill-discipline have turned off all but its hard core supporters.

They have less than eight weeks to persuade voters to trust them. But how can a couple of months of words turn around opinions based on several years of  misguided and increasingly unpopular actions?

Would the West Coast want a maverick MP?


If no publicity is bad publicity, Damien O’Conner has had a very good week.

Instead of accepting a list place which was unlikely to lead to a seat in parliament or quietly opting out of the list he chose to make a fuss which would get him noticed.

His remarks about Labour being dominated by  a gaggle of gays and some self-serving unionists have got him extensive coverage in papers, on radio, television and the internet.

But what he said says a lot about him and his relationship with the Labour Party which the West Coast-Tasman voters he was supposedly trying to appeal to would do well to think carefully about.

Good electorate MPs work hard for their constituents, go many extra miles on their behalves and will do all they can to advocate for them. But good MPs also know the importance of collegial support and of picking their fights carefully because no matter what they do, they are able to achieve little if they’re isolated from their caucus colleagues and party.

O’Conner’s reaction to the list place he’d have been offered had he not opted out of it shows that he has a much higher opinion of himself than his party does and their views will be even less favourable now.

That leaves West Coast-Tasman voters with a clear choice. They can vote for Chris Auchinvole who won the seat from O’Conner in 2005, has the respect of his fellow MPs and party and, on current polls, is more likely to be in government.

Or they can opt for the maverick they rejected three years ago who has set fire to the bridge between himself and his party and, given the trend of polls, is more likely to be in opposition.

It’s better for an electorate to have a government MP and while being represented by a maverick might get their MP and issues noticed it is unlikely to get them sorted.

The man who can get things done or the one who can just talk about it? No contest.

Degrees of separation


One of the men who died in the Pike River mine is the cousin of one of our staff.

That won’t be unusual in New Zealand where our small population results in very few degrees of separation and that is why today it’s not an exaggeration to say the country mourns.

If we don’t know someone, we’ll know someone who knows someone who died, who is grieving, and/or who is helping.

Kiwiblog has delivered some well deserved bouquets to some of those involved.

I second that and make particular mention of the politicians.

We usually see what divides them but from the start of this tragedy we’ve seen the common humanity which unites them. West Coast Tasman MP  Chris Auchinvole and list MP Damien O’Connor have been there as MPs and Coasters doing what they can to support the people they serve.

As Prime Minister John Key said:

 New Zealand stands shoulder to shoulder with you. Though we cannot possibly feel this pain as you do, we have you in our hearts and our thoughts. Like you, we had all longed for that miracle to occur-that your men would be returned home to you. Tonight, on behalf of the people of New Zealand, we send our sympathy to the children who have lost their fathers, to the parents who have lost sons, to the wives who have lost their husbands, to the girlfriends who have lost their partners, to the siblings who have lost their brothers.”

A time to hold back


The imperative to get the news and get it first sometimes has to be put on hold.

The interviewer on TV3 did his best to get some of the names of the miners trapped in the Pike River mine from those he was interviewing this morning. All have held firm because their families want privacy.

That should be respected.

There aren’t many degrees of separation in New Zealand so many will know people, or know people who know people, who may be among those trapped.

But our understandable interest in the names must come second to the needs and wishes of the families and rescuers.

The media have a right to keep us up to date with what’s happening but they should respect the decision not to identify the miners and families.

West Coast MP Chris Auchinvole told the interviewer that he and  the Ministers, Gerry Brownlee and Kate Wilkinson who had come to the Coast, were there to help but keeping out of the way until needed.

They recognise there is a time to hold back and the media should too.

One step back two steps forward


If the government had carried on with plans to investigate mining potential on schedule 4 conservation land it would have been accused of not listening to the people.

Now that it has taken heed of the vociferous opposition to the plan and not only said there will be no mining on this land but added more to it, it’s been accused of doing a u-turn.

It’s one of those damned if they did, damned if they didn’t situations but Trans Tasman has found some positives in it for the government:

. . . Brownlee says “NZers have given the mineral sector a clear mandate to go and explore that land, and where appropriate…utilise its mineral resources for everyone’s benefit.”

Therefore, on his analysis the biggest backdown since National came to office was “a valuable exercise” and he could be right. It hasn’t lost anything which really matters, it listened and it learned, and its opponents have been cut off at the knees. And the industry, far from being disappointed, says it’s getting what it has wanted for a decade-aero magnetic surveys of regions expected to yield deposits worth billions.

One step back from schedule 4 land has led to a couple of steps forward in other areas. Northland MP John Carter and West Coast Tasman MP Chris Auchinvole are showing a lot of enthusiasm for the possiblity of mining in their electorates.

And Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said city people shouldn’t use his region to ease their environmental consciences:

 . . . Aucklanders need to deal with what he calls “the mountain of carbon emissions” their highways are spewing out before blocking a small amount of mining on the West Coast.

He says it is not right that urban people should stop the region’s development.

Mr Kokshoorn says the area proposed for exploration was only “a few thousand hectares” out of the two million hectares of conservation land on the West Coast.

He said there is a currently a balance between eco-tourism and mining on the West Coast and further mining would not compromise the environment.

He said the Government’s decision not to mine on schedule four conservation land was hugely disappointing.

People who marvel at natural beauty as they drive through it at 100 kph or take a closer look on an occasional holiday have a right to their views. But while they stand up for the environment they forget the sustainability stool has two other legs – the economic and social ones.

Local people need work which mining could provide and the infrastructure and services which would come with it.

They have a far greater interest than visitors in ensuring mining doesn’t come at the cost of the environment because it will be done in their backyard, and no-one’s suggesting mining at any cost.

The Resource Management process will be able to ensure mining is done with minimal disruption and damage and the requirement to leave the land in the same or better state when the work is finished.

Labour’s newest MP brings diversity to caucus


Labour’s newest MP isn’t brand new, Damien O’Connor was the MP for West Coast Tasman until the last election when National’s Chris Auchinvole won the seat.

O’Connor was formally declared elected to parliament as a list MP  yesterday to replace Michael Cullen.

He adds to the diversity among his party’s ranks – he’s a middle-aged, Pakeha, rural man and – I think – the only one in Labour’s caucus who has been a farmer.

Inequities over staff increases

One of the unfortunate consequences of MMP is the larger area of electorates. The difficulty and added expense of servicing them has not been recognised by extra resources for their MPs.
However, thanks to one of the clauses in the agreement between National and the Maori Party  that will change.

All Maori MPs and all MPs in general seats which cover an area greater than 20,000 square kilometres will be entitled to an extra staff member, equivalent to three full time out of parliament staffers.

The Electorates which will benefit from this are:



Te Tai Tonga




West Coast-Tasman


Te Tai Hauauru










Te Tai Tokerau




Tamaki Makaurau


The MPs representing them are Rahui Katene, Bill English, Chris Auchinvole,  Parekura Horomia, Jacqui Dean, Colin King, Tariana Turia, Te Ururoa Flavell, Hone Harawira,  Nanaia Mahuta and Pita Sharples.

The area the bigger ones cover definitely justifies more help. But there are 21 general electorates which cover bigger areas than Tamaki Makaurau.

That raises the question of why an electorate covering a relatively small area of 730 square kilometres needs an extra staff member if these, which are bigger, don’t:

East Coast


Taranaki-King Country




























Dunedin South










Bay of Plenty







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