Penny Simmonds’ maiden speech


National MP for Invercargill Penny Simmonds delivered her maiden speech yesterday:

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Oku Rangatira

Nga mihi nui

Ki a koutou katoa

Karanga mai karanga mai

Mr Speaker and parliamentary colleagues, I proudly represent the people of the Invercargill electorate, which takes in the communities of Invercargill, Bluff, Stewart Island, Riverton, Tuatapere, Otautau, Wyndham and Edendale. Its boundary to the east is the Catlins Conservation Park, to the west it extends into Fiordland National Park and to the south it takes in Rakiura National Park.

It is a region of stunning rugged beauty, important rural and manufacturing industries and innovative, hardworking people.

It is a region that produces its wealth from farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, tourism and aluminium smelting. Much of this wealth comes from the consistency of our rainfall, which, despite the often unflattering comments by the misinformed about our climate, is the lifeblood of our industries. As our famous Mayor, Sir Tim Shadbolt prophesized many years ago, water will one day be more valuable than oil!

My foray into politics has perhaps been more of a surprise to me than to many of my supporters. After several decades of involvement in the communities of Invercargill, and Southland, many saw my move into politics as logical or even inevitable, however it was anything but for me.

I loved my work at the Southern Institute of Technology, SIT, and in various community organisations such as the Community Trust, Hockey Southland and in the implementation of the Southland Regional Development Strategy.

However the foundation industries of our Southern community are coming to critical junctions, where decisions will be made that will impact on several generations of Southerners, and I want to be part of that decision-making, not just subjected to them.

I would, however, Mr Speaker, like to first refer to the influences of my early years growing up on a farm in Riversdale in Northern Southland. Ours was not a traditional farming family with land passed down through generations. My parents’ first farm was a returned serviceman’s settlement block, acquired after my father served in the Army in World War II and after many years of working as a shearer. My father was the oldest of five siblings and when his own father died at a young age, my father, at the age of only 14 years, became the family breadwinner. This experience, and the kindness shown to him and opportunities given to him by many people in the Northern Southland rural communities, shaped the values of his and our lives. He carried a deep sense of fairness and looking out for others, until his own relatively early death.

My mother came from a large farming family of, well to be blunt, fairly stroppy, high achieving females. She, like her sisters excelled in many sports, with three of her sisters playing hockey for New Zealand, two of them captaining the New Zealand team. My father, and indeed most of the male in-laws in our extended family had to quickly adapt to being regularly thrashed at tennis, golf, bowls or any other sport they might have the misfortune to compete against their wives in. This laid the foundation for a highly competitive spirit and instilled the notion of “girls can do anything” long before it became a popular slogan. It also supported a number of us in subsequent generations to achieve national honours in hockey.

My mother was also a skilled pianist. She had to turn down a scholarship to study beyond her teaching letters at Trinity College in London. Due to her family’s financial circumstances they couldn’t afford it, and her mother was in a wheelchair. So her duty was to help the household. She did continue to use her skills as a music teacher and in local choirs and both she and my father, who also played several instruments instilled in us a love of music.

The one element that stood us apart from most of the community was our oldest sibling being intellectually handicapped as a result of decisions made during a difficult birth. This extended our world into the families, institutions and bureaucracy of dealing with disabilities. This has continued for our family with the birth of our youngest daughter, Briony, who has Down’s Syndrome.

Apart from that, my upbringing was pretty standard fare in a Southland rural community. We were neither wealthy, nor poor. We understood the need to work hard but also to support those who needed it. We immersed ourselves in the community through school, sport, music, church and social activities. We learnt the value of family and community engagement and support.

It was that understanding of the value of interconnectivity with community which drove me in my 30 year career at the Southern Institute of Technology.

I started as Chief Executive when the then Southland Polytechnic, although financially stable, had experienced two consecutive years of declining student numbers. With only 1400 equivalent fulltime students it didn’t have far to fall to reach an unsustainable level and risk closure.

Our SIT team, over the 23 years I was Chief Executive, secured the support of our local community to implement a number of innovative schemes and initiatives which impacted positively on individuals, their families, local industries and organisations as well as the community itself.

Our Zero Fees Scheme, supported by Community funders, Local Authorities and many individual businesses, and championed by my good friend and mentor, His Worship, Sir Tim, was a pivotal community initiative. Mayor Tim’s account of my devising the scheme in the shower, has an element of truth to it. I did after all, at that time, have a very young family of three daughters and uninterrupted time to think and plan was a rarity, although I can assure you, Mayor Tim was not privy to my daily ablutions.

Our Zero Fees scheme was not a lone initiative. It was part of an overall strategy to rejuvenate the economic, social and cultural elements of our community after the devastation of the 1980s which we were still suffering the effects of.

The establishment of a strategic partnership with Te Wānanga O Aotearoa in 2001 through the assistance of two other people pivotal in my career, the late Koro Riki Cherrington and Ngāi Tahu kaumātua Michael Skerrett enabled a raising of awareness, knowledge and capability in tikanga and te reo Māori in our communities. The Wānanga gained many friends when they were large, wealthy and influential. However, the founding members, Rongo Wetere and his family, and other early managers of the Wānanga never forgot that we worked with and supported the Wānanga when they were small and struggling.

A Woolf Fisher fellowship enabled me to visit a number of innovative educational institutions in various parts of the world, including the Canadian distance tertiary education delivery in Nova Scotia, using technology to overcome the tyranny of geographic isolation. Modelling this lead to SIT developing its own distance learning delivery faculty, SIT2LRN, which has proven to be invaluable, enabling SIT to deliver cost-effective, quality tertiary education and training throughout New Zealand and across the world, as well as blended on-site delivery and seamless delivery for SIT students during the 2020 Covid lockdown.

SIT’s international strategy, brought to our local communities international graduates with diversity, vibrancy and skills to address industry skills shortages. Again working with the community, SIT brought the international students into Invercargill to study, not Auckland as many other institutions did, simply clipping the financial ticket. The need to work for and integrate with the local community was always top-of-mind.

I am extremely proud of what SIT has been able to achieve for Invercargill and Southland over the two decades and more I was Chief Executive, and my reason for recalling these achievements today is to underpin why I made a decision to stand for the Invercargill MP role.

I believe in the value and importance of our communities in the south and I have unashamedly fought to strengthen and support our people, industries, organisations and communities in my various positions at SIT, and in other community leadership roles I have held.

At times my parochialism and intransient attitude to changes imposed from Wellington may have been interpreted as disruptive or even cantankerous. But I learnt many years ago how important it is to push back against “Wellington knows best”.

I looked back to the development of the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter in 1971, the economic development brainchild of long-serving Invercargill Mayor Neil Watson and then MP Ralph Hanan, set up in conjunction with the Manapouri power station, and currently under threat, and with it the jobs and livelihoods of several thousand Southlanders and their families.

I also looked to our Southland rural sector, the economic bedrock of Invercargill and Southland’s wealth and prosperity, which survived the reforms of the 1980s and pulled itself back to a powerhouse once more, ensuring that Southland punches well above its weight consistently contributing around 15 per cent to NZ’s GDP with less than 1.2 per cent of New Zealand’s population.

The South’s rural sector is justifiably proud of its long history of economic success. But our rural sector is facing significant threats that seem to ignore, or not understand, the unique climatic and geographic challenges of the southern farmer, and give no credit to the incredible progress already being made by farmers working together with scientists to improve environmental outcomes.

And I look to the threat of SIT, the organisation I had the privilege to lead for over 23 years, losing its autonomy and innovation, being swallowed up in the ideological mega-merger of institutes of technology and polytechnics.

While there may be better alternatives to the status quo in each of these industries, I know that the decisions must be driven by Southlanders to ensure the benefits stay in the south. The decisions must also be pragmatic, science, technology and engineering based, not reacting to emotive sound bites from people who don’t understand either economics or science.

Ngai Tāhu’s Murihiku regeneration project provides the opportunity for a partnership to drive our future from the south. As Tā Tipene O’Regan said recently: “we are facing a once-in-many-generations opportunity to reset the way we manage energy”.

We need to ensure that the clean energy from Manapouri and the abundance of freshwater in the south is harnessed to provide jobs and prosperity for the south. However, the Crown’s plans to spend over half a billion dollars on upgrading transmission lines to take power north does not fill me with confidence that they share our vision for the south’s clean energy and freshwater.

It is these important local issues and pending decisions that led me to stand for the Invercargill electorate at a time when my role at SIT could no longer achieve the things that I considered important to Invercargill. I saw an opportunity to further our community’s needs and support our farmers and industries as the local MP.

In securing the role of MP for Invercargill, I extend my thanks and gratitude to the Invercargill National Party executive, my campaign team, the regional chair and the hundreds of members and volunteers whose hard work made this transition possible for me, and I thank my caucus colleagues, and in particular our leader, the Honourable Judith Collins, who have helped ease my way into the intriguing world of politics.

I also acknowledge my long suffering family, who for years have put up with me being away on business for significant family events like birthdays and anniversaries, and despite this have encouraged me in my new endeavour. My thanks to my husband Marty, twin daughters Alex and Whitney, their spouses Kurt and Rowan, our little mokopuna Flynn, Lily and Harrison, and of course our very special youngest daughter Briony. Briony’s support person, Jicinta Veale, must also be acknowledged as playing a large part in enabling me to do what I do.

A career politician has never been my aim, but then a career chief executive wasn’t my aim either, and I lasted 23 years in that role. In both instances I have been driven by what the roles enable me to do, rather than the role being an end in itself.

The position of Chief Executive of SIT enabled me to do what I loved – contribute to the economic, social and cultural development and wellbeing of our southern region through the benefits SIT provided for our students, their families, our industries and our community.

It was an honour and a privilege to work in tandem, with the community to implement many innovative initiatives and I acknowledge all my SIT senior management colleagues who were instrumental in these achievements. In particular I thank those in the gallery here today still supporting me, Bharat Guha, and Teri McClelland, as well as my good friend and colleague Patsy Eade and the many supportive SIT Council members I had over the years.

I will always be indebted to our famous Mayor, Sir Tim Shadbolt, who was with me through these golden years at SIT as well as the very influential Ngai Tāhu and SIT kaumātua Michael Skerrett.

I will be driven in this new role as Member of Parliament for Invercargill to continue my advocacy for the people, industries, organisations and communities of the Invercargill electorate.

I come to the role with the experiences of a farmer’s daughter and a farmer’s wife, a mother and a grandmother, an educationalist and a soldier for several years in the Territorials, a businesswoman, a community leader, and a sportsperson.

But most of all, I come as a passionate Southlander who will not stand by and allow the place that I proudly call my home to be adversely impacted upon by poor political decisions. Our farmers, rural communities, SIT, our productive land, fresh water and clean energy are worth standing up for.

In concluding, I will chant a waiata written for me by the late Koro Riki Cherrington. It refers to the people and rivers of the south and the pathway of the whales. Murihiku, the southern region is of course the important and powerful tail of the whale of Aotearoa. Something best not to get in the way of.

Kia Ora. Thank you.

Penny Simmonds Nat candidate for Invercargill


National’s candidate for Invercargill is Penny Simmonds:

. . . Penny is the Chief Executive of The Southern Institute of Technology and has been in the role for 23 years. She has spent decades working hard to ensure the Invercargill electorate continues to grow and prosper but with its own unique voice.

It is very exciting to welcome Penny to the National Party, she was born and bred in Southland and is so clearly passionate about the electorate.

“I’m delighted to be selected as National’s candidate for Invercargill. I’m looking forward to getting out and making sure our community, both Invercargill, Stewart Island and our new rural areas in Western Southland, have a strong voice advocating for them in Wellington,” Ms Simmonds says.

“The Invercargill electorate has been and will always be best placed to understand our needs and the best way to deliver for them. Too many decisions are made in Wellington without understanding the uniqueness of our community.

“Not only has education been a core focus of mine, I have also been heavily involved in sport within the community, as Chairperson of Hockey Southland, and the President of NZ Hockey. Having been involved with farming all my life, the value of our agriculture and horticulture industries are also top of mind for me.

“I’ve been involved over the past few years with the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDs) to help Southland be recognised as the best place to live, work and play in the world, because as all Southlanders know, it really is.

“Our electorate, alongside the rest of New Zealand, is in unprecedented times, and now more than ever we need a strong voice who will stand up and represent it.

“I know our community well. Right now it’s hurting. But Invercargill, Stewart Island and our rural communities are known for being hard working and resilient, and the National Party will support you and back you every step of the way.”

Biographical Notes: Penelope Simmonds

Penelope (Penny) Simmonds was born in Southland is now the Chief Executive of Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and was appointed in 1997. SIT has campuses in Invercargill, Gore, Queenstown, Auckland and Christchurch as well as a successful distance learning faculty through SIT2LRN.

Prior to her appointment as CE, Penny was in a management position at SIT from 1990-2997. Penny was an Advisory Board Member of Venture Southland and has been involved in the Southland Regional Development Strategy since its inception and is now on the Shareholders Advisory Board of the newly formed Economic Development Agency for Southland. Penny has been a Trustee of the Community Trust of Southland since 2012, and Director of Southern Lakes English College.

Penny was Chair of Hockey Southland for 10 years finishing that role in 2017 when she also completed two years as President of New Zealand Hockey. Penny is also a former Director of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and former Board Member of the Southland District Health Board and Southland DisAbilities Services.

In 2000 Penny was a recipient of the Woolf Fisher Fellowship in 2000 and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2016 New Years’ Honours List.

Penny is married with three adult daughters and two grandchildren.

This is very good news for the electorate and National.

In spite of what last night’s poll said, the government is very, very unpopular in Invercargill, not least of all for seizing control of SIT, the success of which is largely due to Penny’s work.

Little hints


Labour leader Andrew leader can’t quite bring himself to tell Northland voters not to vote for his party’s candidate Willow-Jean Prime but he’s dropping little – or should that be Little? – hints:

Mr Little told TVNZ One’s Q+A programme that Labour will not pull its candidate Willow-Jean Prime from the by-election contest, despite a Q+A Colmar Brunton poll showing Mr Peters would win if she was not in the running.

However, he called for left voters to be “realistic” with their candidate choice.

“They’ve got a vote they should use it. If they want to vote to send a message to the Government …

“They are intelligent enough to see how they can do that.” . .

Every election Labour has criticised National for electoral accommodations in Epsom and Ohariu but now he thinks it would be too his advantage, Little is indicating he’s willing to do just that.

He’s throwing his candidate under the wheels of Peters’ bus, not to help Labour or Northland but, as Rodney Hide points out, to get a New Zealand First list MP in Invercargill and give more power to Peter Dunne:

. . . A Peters win would destabilise the Government and power up a Wellington electorate MP. Ohariu would benefit – not Northland. On winning Northland, Peters would resign as a list MP to clear the way for the next candidate on New Zealand First’s list. That candidate is Ria Bond … from Invercargill.

That’s right. In choosing Peters, Northland voters would be electing an MP from Invercargill.

Those in the Far North would elect a candidate from the deep south.

But it gets better.

Peters lives in Auckland. Parliament is in Wellington. That’s how he divides his time. Kerikeri is 250km north of Auckland. So Peters is asking the people of Northland to vote for an Aucklander to elect an MP from Invercargill and empower an MP from Wellington. . .

This would not bring down the government but it would make it more difficult for it to pass legislation and give Dunne and the two other government partners – Act and the Maori Party – a lot more bargaining power.

That won’t help Labour this term, nor will it make it any easier for it and its potential coalition partners to gain enough seats to govern next term.

In fact it might make it more difficult because the Little hints make him look downright shifty.

When National campaigns in Epsom and Ohariu it is open about campaigning only for the party vote and it ensures its candidates are high enough on its list to get into parliament.

Little isn’t being open, he’s trying to have a bob each way. He hasn’t clearly said voters should ditch Prime for Peters but nor has he said they shouldn’t. Yet he’s prevaricating enough to handicap his candidate and there’s no list seats up for grabs in a by-election to compensate her for her wasted efforts.

And what’s in this political playing for the people of Northland?

. . . Peters is 70 this year. It’s a long way from Auckland to Northland. It’s even further across the electorate. Peters will be bogged down and busy doing the bare minimum needed to be local MP. I doubt the region will be much troubled by him.

And he would lose in 2017. Northland will return a National candidate in a General Election.

It has been 40 years since Peters stood for Northern Maori. He’s late in rediscovering the north but his campaign is exciting.

I believe he prefers a close second. Winning would be altogether too much work.

Little is willing to sabotage his candidate to help Peters who will have neither the will nor the energy to service the large Northland electorate and its many communities while also attending to the demands of party leadership.

We can but hope the people of Northland will have learned from Tauranga voters who saw through him and send both him and Labour a message: they need an MP who lives in the electorate who will be in government and who will represent them well and work hard for them.

There’s only one of those standing – National’s Mark Osborne.



Peters standing to give Invercargill MP at Northland’s expense


New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is standing in the Northland by-election.

. . . He said today that standing in the by-election was not an easy decision, but he had a long held concern for “Northland’s forgotten people”.

National had forgotten Northland for years, and the region was stagnating, Peters said. . .

He will be hoping that Northland voters have forgotten, or never knew, about the vagaries of MMP.

Should he win the seat he will become an electorate MP and the next person on NZ First’s list will get into parliament. That’s Ria Bond from Invercargill.

Quite how Peters will persuade the good people of Northland they will be represented by voting him in as an electorate MP with his reputation for talking big and doing little and in the process losing an MP from their end of the country and gifting parliament one from the other will remain to be seen.

Labour has confirmed Willow-Jean Prime as its candidate, and the Act Party will stand Whangarei orchardist Robin Grieve.

The Green Party and the Maori Party are not standing candidates.

If Labour sabotage their candidate in an attempt to unite opposition votes behind Peters it could happen.

Voters often punish the governing party in a by-election and a new candidate usually doesn’t attract the same level of votes a sitting one did.

The 2014 election results show:

NZ First didn’t bother standing a candidate in Northland last year. Mike Sabin won the seat for National with 18,269 votes and a majority of 9,300 over Prime who got 8,969 votes.

National gained 17,412 party votes; Labour got 5,913 and NZ First 4,546. the Green Party managed to get 3,855 votes and its candidate gained 3,639 votes.

National members in the electorate will select their candidate tomorrow.

The five in contention are: Grant McCallum, Mita Harris, Matt King, Mark Osborne and Karen Rolleston.






Sarah Dowie’s maiden speech


Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie delivered her maiden speech yesterday:

Mr Speaker, Prime Minister, Parliamentary Colleagues and the National Party team.

As I deliver my first words in this awe inspiring Chamber, I am mindful of the journey that I have travelled to be here.  I am reflective of the definitive decisions I have made, the key opportunities I have seized, my discipline, my faith in the end goal, and the overwhelming loyalty of my supporters. 

Many try to get here and fail but with the support and sacrifice of my husband Mark, my children Christabel and Hunter, the help of my parents Ann and Alan Dowie, my National Party friends – in particular, Garry Thomsen. Anne McCracken and Jon Turnbull for their colossal efforts and now, with the mandate of the good people of the Deep South, I am standing here – humbled, feeling surreal. I also acknowledge our party president Peter Goodfellow and board member Roger Bridge for their encouragement and wise counsel.

Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election.  I have learned much already from your own experience as a Minister and Member in Opposition and, I now look forward to learning from you as to the rules of engagement in the House. 

I am Invercargill electorate’s first elected woman MP and the moment is not lost on me.  The Invercargill electorate has, in the past been coined conservative, but is now charging forward into a new era. 

The Invercargill electorate is a mixture of both urban and rural.  It takes in the Catlins to the east with its ecological fame. It includes a yellow eyed penguin colony, a Hector’s dolphin pod, and the petrified-forest. Riverton and westward encompasses rolling hills, wind-swept forests and stunning rugged coastline scenes.  To the north there is Edendale and Wyndham’s fertile plains.  To the south is Bluff with its oysters and traditional port activities, as well as Rakiura that contains our newest and most remote National Park.  Finally, there is the city of Invercargill, our southern-most provincial city – steeped in Scottish tradition and one which holds on to that pioneering spirit. 

It is an electorate of can do’s, aspiration, innovation.  Businesses carving out new niches, capitalising on the tried and true of the primary sector, education, and tourism.  Developing and manufacturing new products for export. It is a quiet storm which is building to success. 

However, Southland will be tested moving forward – we need to build on the industries we have and ensure we develop opportunities for the future.  Industry productivity is challenged through a failure to attract more skilled people and families to the province.  While Southland’s economy needs to continue to grow based on its strengths in an environmentally sensible way it must also diversify to sustain it.  It also faces some real challenges in funding for essential services, especially when the spread of those services is across isolated areas. 

Despite these challenges, Southland continues to box above its weight per capita by generating over 12 per cent of New Zealand’s total export receipts.  We enjoy higher than average household incomes, high employment rates and we are some of the happiest people in the country, according to the latest annual Regional Economic Activity Report. 

There has been much media coverage in recent days and months about the cost of housing in Auckland so I say to those  Aucklanders who want a great lifestyle and affordable housing … does Invercargill have a deal for you!

I am deeply passionate about the region and will fiercely advocate for development that has already been identified to create more varied jobs, generate more wealth and more opportunities for Southlanders.  I will assist and support those who have innovative new ideas and I will be vocal on the delivery of effective essential services across the region.  That goes for anyone who wants to bring their businesses to one of the most cost-effective provinces in the country.

Mr Speaker, I intend to champion Southland’s progression to make it a province of choice for our people and families to thrive in and gain their fortune.

I am a proud mother of two pre-school children and while I am acutely aware of the juggling that I will have to do to ensure I do the job well but also to maintain that all important relationship with my family, I am not afraid to say that having children has changed my perspective for the better and driven me to contribute at this level. 

It is very hard to articulate the change in perspective as a mum but it’s a bit like going from watching black and white television to colour.  Or for the Generation Y’s out there, digital to HD.  I intend to use this breadth of view and colour in my approach to policy making.  One that is holistic.  I don’t view my life in a silo and hence I am supportive of the Government’s efforts to break down the silos of Government in its problem solving.  My opinions are mainly moderate, centre-right, and my approach to policy making will be for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

I am also the daughter of two police officers and by trade a solicitor, so law and order and justice is in my blood.  I was raised with a strong ethic of  ‘you reap what you sow’.

The consequence of crime and the reality of it was in the forefront of my upbringing.  My mother’s first husband, Constable Donald Stokes, was brutally murdered at age 23 while in the line of duty in Dunedin in 1966.  I was raised with his photos on the walls yet the tragic end of his life has been etched into my mind from a young age. 

On 13 November 1990, death on the job was again a reality as my father received a call from HQ to advise that one of his best friends, Sergeant Stewart Guthrie, had been shot dead at Aramoana.  I remember him methodically and soberly getting dressed in his uniform and walking out the door.  The sum of the following 22 hours, with helicopters flying across the airspace of Dunedin and the general unknown, was not lost on anyone in Dunedin.  However, it was obviously more pronounced for those with loved ones who were murdered or connected in some way. 

The sacrifice of brave men and women who put themselves on the front line to defend our liberties and the way of life which we hold dear in New Zealand is never far from my thoughts.  I take this country’s security and our personal security very seriously and as such I promise to uphold it, making sure that the Police and other agencies have the resourcing and tools required to mitigate threats and reduce crime. At the same time, I want to assure equal access to justice and the rule of law.   New Zealand as a safe and fair community is something to always be vigilant about.  

But nurturing and growing a safe community is not enough on its own, well not enough for me.  I believe in the concept of social justice in so far as it relates to enabling every New Zealander the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life and achieve their hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  This cannot be done, however, by keeping people down on an endless series of hand-outs.  It’s about creating an environment where people are supported to take responsibility for and to navigate their own lives.  For they are best placed to make those decisions.  It’s about helping people gain the skills to get them into work and, with a bit of can do attitude they will find they have options.       

I believe as did the Honourable Ralph Hanan, Invercargill’s last Minister in –

“…. Further(ing) the real progress of all the people …”

Mr Speaker, I am here to serve all New Zealanders to build on the wins that this Government has already achieved.

I am here because it is our duty to build a New Zealand in which the next generation, our children, are proud of. Where there is opportunity to get ahead in a country that has a heart to help those less fortunate but also rewards those that have the determination to work and make their own luck.  I want our children to be pleased with the legacy we have left but also have the fortitude to build on this Government’s platform and drive forward initiatives for the betterment of all.   

On a lighter note, I remember Sunday nights at 7.30pm in front of the telly with mum and dad watching Our World, a series of fascinating nature documentaries that are probably responsible for fuelling my interest in science.  I studied ecology at the University of Otago and coupled with a law degree it became a powerful combination in helping my all round understanding of environmental issues and conservation.

It was a desire to still use my law degree but more of my science degree which saw me working for the Department of Conservation for five years.  However, the department at that time is certainly not what it is today.  The culture back then was that of dogmatic “no” and ultimately I became frustrated when well put together, environmentally sensible proposals were shut down with no logical thought to the greater picture of conservation. 

It should be noted that I believe there is a place for preservation in New Zealand but there is also a place for sustainable development.  The idea of protectionism which, is often seen as competing with development, recreation, and enjoyment can be effectively balanced.  We are ultimately part of our environment – we are not separate from it.  We are dependent upon the environment for our wellbeing and our living.  These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

However, this frustration was nothing but a godsend as it catapulted me back to private practice and wanting to stay involved in environmental issues at a higher level, I joined the Bluegreens.  Our rationale is that economic growth goes hand in hand with improving the environment and therefore, resonates with me. 

Inevitably I was drawn into the main stream of the National Party, party conferences, policy days, and candidates’ training – the final step that sealed my fate as to seriously consider politics as a career.  I am therefore sincerely grateful for the advice and friendship of Glenys Dickson whose gentle, well-timed, and highly effective nudges steered me here today. 

As Amelia Earhart once said: “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

So Mr Speaker, what I have learned in my short 40 years on this earth and what attitude I will bring to Parliament is:

I believe a superior understanding of the rules wins every time – I guess therefore Mr Leader of the House that I will be a regular attendee at Procedures Meetings.

I believe you should play the cards you are dealt, play them well and then wait for the re-deal.  With hard work and perseverance, eventually things must go your way.

Fight hard but fight fair and never lose sight of who you are or where you are from.  Humility is a characteristic that should never be underrated. 

I believe that one should be kind because you never know when you may need kindness in return to get you by. 

On winning the seat of Invercargill I was told by a friend to “dream big”.  In response I defer to one of the most powerful symbols of triumph over adversity, someone who achieved and inspired despite the odds. 

Helen Keller said: “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” 

I promise to listen, to learn, to work, to dream and to do my best to soar. 

Mr Speaker, thank you.

All I want for Christmas . . .


A happy juxtaposition of hoardings at Wallacetown in the Invercargill electorate:

jkchristmas 1







Captions are welcome – witty not nasty.

Sabotaging own candidates


There’s something amiss with Labour’s selection process.

Nominations for the Rangitata seat were opened, closed without anyone applying and re-opened.

Nominations for Invercargill were opened, closed with the previous candidate, and former MP, Lesley Soper applying but reopened when the news the electorate MP, National’s Eric Roy, was retiring. Someone else applied but Soper was selected anyway.

Nominations for Tamaki Makaurau opened some time ago, were held open pending the outcome of TVNZ’s inquiry into Shane Taurima’s use of his work place and resources for political purposes.

Since then the party declined to give Taurima the waiver he needed to get the nomination and now the party is seeking further nominations:

The NZ Council of the Labour Party has resolved to invite further nominations for the Labour candidature in the Tamaki Makaurau seat, with the support of the Tamaki Makaurau Labour Electorate Committee. . .

Further nominations suggests they have already got at least one but, as in Invercargill, aren’t widely enthusiastic about whoever it is.

The seat is held by Pita Sharples who isn’t standing again which, means Labour would have had a better chance of winning it.

However, the Maori Party has already selected its candidate, Rangi McLean, who will have had the best part of a month campaigning before Labour’s candidate is selected.

Once more Labour is giving every appearance of sabotaging its candidate by its inept handling of its selection process.


If party didn’t want her, why would electorate?


Lesley Soper, the woman Labour didn’t really want to run for Invercargill, has been selected as its candidate.

The Labour Party reopened nominations for the Invercargill electorate in January, citing the retirement of National MP Eric Roy.

A selection meeting held yesterday saw her go up against Michael Gibson.

About 200 members of the Labour Party and unions affiliated to it attended the meeting and a floor and panel vote both opted for Ms Soper. . .

Mr Gibson, who had previously said he wanted to rejuvenate Labour in Invercargill and overhaul the party, could not be reached for comment last night.

Labour was happy for Soper to do the donkey work in a contest they knew she couldn’t win against Eric Roy.

When he stood down they thought the electorate might be more winnable so re-opened the selection.

They struggled to get anyone to put a hand up and, locals tell me, got someone at the 11th hour.

Several weeks later they’ve finally held a selection and chosen the woman they showed they weren’t confident was the best one to run against a new National candidate.

This begs several questions:

* If she wasn’t the preferred candidate in January, why is she in March?

* Was she chosen because she was the best of the two nominated, or because she’s a woman and the other wasn’t?

* If the Labour wasn’t really confident about Soper representing the party, how can the people of Invercargill be enthusiastic about her representing their electorate?

* Why didn’t the party prepare the unsuccessful candidate for a comment?

* If a party can’t run a selection smoothly how can it run the country?

Labour has handicapped its candidate from the start.

Meanwhile Sarah Dowie, National’s candidate, selected by the members in the electorate with no influence from head office, unions or anyone else, has the support of her party and is working hard to win the support of the electorate.

Sarah Dowie for Invercargill


Sarah Dowie has been  selected by National Party members as their candidate in Invercargill.

As the party’s regional chair it was my duty, and pleasure, to chair last night’s selection meeting.

The official media release says:

The National Party has announced local legal professional Sarah Dowie will be its candidate for the Invercargill seat at the 2014 general election

Ms Dowie was endorsed by a meeting of local party members in Invercargill tonight.

“National is taking nothing for granted in Invercargill this year, and the selection of a candidate of Sarah’s calibre reflects that,” says National’s Southern Region Chair, Ele Ludemann.

“The electorate and the party have been well served by retiring MP Eric Roy. Sarah will be working hard to win the support of the community to continue that strong local leadership. She is well aware of the challenges ahead, but I know we have the right person.”

Ms Dowie says she is immensely proud to have been selected to contest the electorate for National.

“Invercargill is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. I enjoy people and am passionate about this community,” says Ms Dowie.

“I believe we have some real opportunities ahead as a region. Our challenge is to ensure strong leadership and responsible policies which create more jobs and growth.

“I would be thrilled to earn the trust and support of our communities to serve them in Parliament, help secure those opportunities, and keep Invercargill’s strong voice in John Key’s National Party.”

Sarah Dowie – Biographical notes

Sarah Dowie is an Invercargill-based solicitor. As the daughter of two police officers, justice and law and order issues are part of her DNA.

After graduating from Otago University and being admitted to the Bar in 1998, Sarah established a successful career practising commercial and environmental law.

39-years-old, Sarah lives in Invercargill with husband Mark Billcliff and their two pre-school children. Mark is a former first class cricketer and Southland representative, who now gives back by coaching local youth.

Sarah is an appointee to the Otago-Southland Lotteries Board. Instinctively community-minded, she also provides free legal services to community groups.

She is a former manager for the Department of Conservation in its tourism and concession wing and is now a trustee and Deputy Chair of the Dog Island Motu Piu Conservation Trust, which is working to eradicate pests on the island and restore it as a viable habitat for tuatara.

An active member of the Invercargill Rotary Club, Sarah currently holds the Directorship of Youth/New Generations. She is also a member of the Invercargill Women’s Club, attends All Saints Anglican Church, and is a former executive member of the Waihopai Playcentre.

In her acceptance speech, Sarah paid tribute to Eric and said his will be big shoes to fill.

The unofficial photo shows how big the shoes she will have to fill are:

shoes 2

For the record, his shoes are size 15, and Sarah is up for the job.

Sabotaged before they start


Labour’s plan to reopen nominations for its Invercargill candidate when sitting MP Eric Roy announced he won’t be contesting the seat again has several flaws.

The grapevine tells me they had someone in mind when they reopened the selection but he wasn’t willing.

In the end they got Mike Gibson to contest the selection against former MP and several-times candidate Lesely Soper but the party’s process has sabotaged which ever of the two becomes the candidate:

. . . Though technically a candidate is not decided until Labour’s selection committee says so, and that hadn’t happened, there’s no getting around the fact that this was a tough, even humiliating, position in which to put Ms Soper.

Should she again emerge as the Labour candidate, attempts to cast her as the victor in a more vigorous, and therefore superior, process will be subverted by the lingering impression that it was more like a fruitless “geeze is this the best we can do” approach once Mr Roy was out of the picture.

Whereas if the late-showing-up contender for the Labour candidacy, Michael Gibson, gains the nomination he faces taunts that he wasn’t up for the harder fight. . .

A new candidate wants the best possible start to his or her campaign but whoever wins the nomination for Labour in Invercargill will be handicapped by the baggage of the selection process.

Meanwhile, the retiring MP thanks his constituents for allowing him to serve them:

. . . I have had many memorable experiences during my time in Parliament, but the most satisfaction has come from acting as an advocate for our wonderful city and the province as a whole.

A lot of what MPs do goes unseen.

Sometimes this is because of confidentiality requirements, such as when I was involved in the negotiations between Tiwai and the Government in 2013.

Sometimes it is because people are coming to see you for deeply personal reasons – such as their immigration application, or problems they have faced with a government agency.

Sometimes, it’s just not newsworthy.

All of it, however, makes a difference to someone’s life, and I have always been committed to doing the best job I can for my constituents, rather than being focused on headlines. . .

The unedifying process Labour is going through to select its candidate fuels the negative view that many have of politics and politicians.

These words from a Eric are a counterpoint to that and a reminder that good MPs do really serve the people who elect them, and those who don’t, and make a positive difference to people’s lives.


Dunedin has a choice


Dunedin City councillor Andrew Whiley writes:

The residents of Dunedin have a choice to either embrace the concept of the city being a hub for offshore gas companies or accept the alternative and encourage the companies to set up their hub in Invercargill.

Neither the residents of Dunedin nor the Dunedin City Council are in the position to say if gas exploration goes ahead off the coast of Otago.

That decision has already been made – like it or not. The decision in our control is where these exploration companies will base themselves.

Will it be Dunedin or Invercargill? Which community will reap the rewards of playing host? The residents of Dunedin, the DCC and the council’s economic development unit must support and embrace all new businesses keen to establish in our city.

The employment opportunities and family and economic benefits this exploration hub would bring to the city are significant. . . .

Industries such as ship repair, provedores, construction, engineering, helicopter services, software and IT will all increase as will road and rail freight movements and airport and port traffic.

There will be strengthened links to Otago University in health sciences, earth science and surveying plus more dollars spent in the city’s accommodation, entertainment and hospitality industries.

Dunedin has been lamenting the loss of businesses and jobs, it now has the opportunity to gain many more back.

But what about the ethical debate about using fossil fuels, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and the future of the planet?

These are all serious issues and ones that governments, corporations, scientists and universities around the world are all working on to address. Globally, most of us are now aware of these challenges and are worried about the role of CO2 in climate change.

We should actually welcome exploration and production of natural gas as it can contribute to a significant reduction in those emissions. According to a report from the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions issued in June 2013, ”Increased use of natural gas in the US energy supply is contributing to a decline in greenhouse gas emissions”. . .

Dunedin is ideally suited to play host to the support industries for offshore exploration and we will see a dramatic increase in smart minds staying in Dunedin to be a part of the future in the energy and engineering sector.

These minds will look outside the box and will look at positive alternatives that can make for a cleaner and greener future.

So a plea to the Dunedin and Otago region: let’s embrace the opportunity to play host as the southern exploration hub for the companies that are coming.

If it isn’t Dunedin then it will be Invercargill!

The south will benefit wherever the base is but Dunedin could make itself the more attractive option if the city, and its leaders, made the company welcome.


Roy to retire


Invercargill MP and Deputy Speaker Eric Roy has announced he’ll be retiring at this year’s election.

Eric won the seat of Awarua in 1993, one of only two new national MPs elected that year and he became a Junior Whip.

The seat was absorbed into the new Clutha Southland electorate in 1996. Eric stood for Invercargill, was unsuccessful, but gained a list seat.

He lost that in 2002, spent three years working hard to build support in Invercargill and won the seat in 2005.

He has held it since, was appointed Assistant Speaker in 2008 and promoted to Deputy in 2011.

He survived cancer and now does a lot of work with cancer support.

Eric is at the conservative end of the national party spectrum. He has been described as a fishin’ huntin’,  Christian, reflecting his love of the outdoors and outdoor sport and his faith.

He’s a good man, a very good MP and leaves big shoes to fill – literally and figuratively.

However, he won the seat with a 17,275 votes and a majority of 6,263 at the last election and National gained 16,140 party votes, around 50%.

Eric has turned a red seat blue and because of that the selection for his replacement will attract a lot of interest.

It will be decided by National Party members in the electorate.

Bad and good


Yesterday’s ODT led with the bad news of job losses at Macraes mine.

That’s followed up by today’s story of more job losses in firms which service and supply the mine.

Yesterday’s paper also had the good news story of Shell’s decision to drill in the Great South Basin.

This is how life goes. Good things happen during bad times and bad things happen during better times.

But the outlook for those people who have lost jobs or business because of Oceana Gold’s slow-down at Macraes is better now the economy is improving than it would have been even a year ago.

It would be better still if Dunedin was showing a warmer welcome to Shell.

The city is vying with Invercargill to be Shell’s base and mayor Dave Cull is at best lukewarm:

. . . Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull – who remained personally opposed to the increasingly difficult search for fossil fuels – said he was nevertheless ”cautiously optimistic” the city could benefit from Shell’s plans.

He was encouraged the company was prepared to invest up to $200 million in its search for natural gas, and not oil, off the city’s coast.

However, with the test drill not scheduled until 2016, and any full-scale extraction – if it eventuated – a decade away, he cautioned against too much excitment, too soon.

”What comes out of it, in terms of job creation and business and economic development, will depend on the size of what they find.

”If they are going to be drilling, this is pretty good, and clearly Dunedin is very well placed to offer the services and facilities that they might need,” he said. . .

Two councillors are even less enthusiastic:

. . . including Cr Aaron Hawkins, who said the council had a ”moral obligation” to protect the interests of future generations.

”I don’t think it’s fair to clamour over a few jobs now and leave our grandchildren to pick up the tab environmentally and economically.

”Frankly, I think that’s a very selfish way of looking at economic development.”

Cr Jinty MacTavish agreed, saying the city would not spend money to try to attract the ”unethical” tobacco industry, and should avoid the oil and gas industry for the same reasons.

”It’s an unethical business and I wouldn’t like to see Dunedin setting out to attract it.” . . .

Contrast this with the reaction from Invercargill.

Yesterday’s Southland Times devoted its whole front page to telling the story – consortium backs $200m basin well –  and followed up with enthusiastic welcome for drill plan.

Today’s story is headlined drilling holds promise of job bonanza.

Shell will make its decision on where it’s based on a variety of factors, one of which will be the attitude of the city.

In good times and bad, you have to do what you can to help yourself.

Invercargill is doing that, Dunedin must do better.

Longest day, shortest night


Today is the southern hemisphere’s summer solstice giving us our longest day and shortest night.

Sunrise in Invercargill was at 5:50am  and it will set 15h 49m 06s later at 9:40pm.

The sun rose in Auckland at 5:59am and will set 14h 41m 33s later at 8:40pm.

Aren’t we blessed in the south – a whole hour more of light than the benighted north.

Loyal or hopeful?


Labour’s giving up on Invercargill but there’s still the odd loyalist down there who’s not giving up on the party:


This is former MP and candidate, Lesley Soper,  who’s saying since there’s no leadership meeting scheduled for Invercargill she’s hoping to have a video of the candidates’ speeches from one of the meetings elsewhere at a local meeting.

Is she being loyal to the party which has shown no loyalty to her, or is she hopeful a change of leader will bring a change for the better in her list ranking?

Labour’s abaondoned the south


Labour’s holding 12 meetings around the country to let its three aspiring leaders meet members.

But in further evidence the party has abandoned the south, the southernmost meeting is in Dunedin.

Sterling service from the local MPs, Clutha Southland’s Bill English and  Invercargill’s Eric Roy have painted the south of the south blue.

But if Labour had any interest in that part of the country you’d think the leadership meeting would be a good opportunity to garner some interest and reconnect with Southlanders.

The cost of getting to Invercargill can’t be the excuse for not going because the three candidates are travelling the country on the public purse.

Policy for the few


Labour’s housing policy restricting the purchase of houses to New Zealanders and Australians is policy for the few.

It is dog-whistle politics for xenophobes and for those wanting to buy homes in the few areas where high prices make it most difficult.

In spite of what the party would have us believe, Invercargill is not one of those.

Photo: John Key is in denial if he seriously believes offshore speculators in the housing market are not a problem worth tackling.

Labour has abandoned the provinces and obviously doesn’t know what’s happening in the south.

House prices aren’t out of control and there is no housing crisis.

There will be a lot more people in Invercargill keen to see the value of the homes they own go up to increase their equity and the value of the investment, or who are wanting to sell for a reasonable price than there are first-home buyers struggling to find something they can afford.

There will be a lot more people in the rest of the country – yes even Auckland and Christchurch – who feel the same way.

Run-away house prices aren’t good for the economy and do make it difficult for people to get on the first rung of the property-owning ladder.

But they aren’t a nation-wide problem and where they are a problem restricting sales to New Zealanders and Australians will make little if any difference.

The problem is one of supply and demand in a very few areas and that will only be solved by freeing up land for development and building lots more houses.

Buddy for party not electorate

In the last few weeks the news that Trevor Mallard is to be Labour’s buddy MP for Invercargill has had the odd mention.

That it’s more than eight months since the election and the party is only just getting round to appointing buddy MPs reflects poorly on both its organisational skills and its concern to provide a service to the electorate.

That they add insult to injury by choosing Mallard, the man who is still reviled for multiple school closures in the south when he was Minister of Education is even worse.
There might have been good reason for many, perhaps most of the closures and amalgamations, but they were done in a way that showed little concern for the people and communities affected.
Why then choose Mallard, especially when there are several South Island-based MPs who could service Invercargill more easily?
Credo Quia Absurdum Est has the answer in an email from a mate:
. . . Mallard has been sent down under the guise of buddy MP to make sure Lesey (sic) Soper doesn’t stand again.  The feeling is there must be someone down there to take her place, or HQ will parachute someone in.  Mallard couldn’t care less about Invercargill – the powers that be want her gone from standing at the next election and he’s just the bastard to do it. . .
A party that had any respect for the electorate and democratic principles would find a candidate who could win on his or her own merits.
It would also be more concerned about serving the people rather than its own ends with a buddy for the electorate rather than the party.

Labour enveloped in more SMOG


It’s not easy being a candidate in a party which values your service as an MP so poorly it put you in an unwinnable place on the list three years ago.

It’s even harder when you’ve got nothing to be positive about your own campaign and party which leaves you trying to drag down your opponent.

You have to get what publicity you can, even if it’s negative, and the cheapest way to do that is with a blog.

But if you don’t want to score a SMOG (Social Media Own Goal) you have to be prepared to accept a range of comments, especially those which correct any errors you might have made.

Labour’s Invercargill candidate, Lesley Soper, doesn’t do that. She moderates the comments so only those supportive of hers stay on show.

But one of the commenters was canny enough to take a screen shot of some comments which didn’t pass moderation and sent it to Credo Quia Absurdum Est who has published them for the world to see.

Though all this is very small beer compared with the leak of the party’s IT policy a day ahead of its release.

The bad old days


Jamie Mackay introduced last Thursday’s Farming Show with a reminder it was the anniversary New Zealand’s bloodiest farming protest (from 4:31).

June 9, 1978 was the day 250 farmers frustrated by on-going strikes at the freezing works drove 1500 sheep into the main street of Invercargill and slaughtered them.

Those were the bad old days when unions ruled and the rest of us paid for it in frustration, inconvenience and lost productivity, wages and opportunity.

My father had retired by 1978 but he’d been a carpenter at the freezing works. As a tradesman he was usually able to continue working when the freezing workers struck but he used to come home with stories about the stupidity of many of the strikes, called for little on no reason, sometimes over an issue somewhere else.

They had a propensity to call strikes at the most inconvenient time when stock were prime or feed was short and delays were costly in both financial and animal welfare terms.

Repeated strikes weren’t peculiar to the freezing industry, but on the wharves, railways, ferries and anywhere else where unions held sway.

Changes to employment law in the 1990s by National curtailed much of the union silliness. Labour reversed some of the changes, giving more power to unions which isn’t always to the benefit of workers.

Unions aren’t all bad. Businesses with large workforces often prefer to deal with one bargaining agent than lots of individuals. Unions can often achieve more for workers collectively than they’d be able to get for themselves individually; they can be a strong advocate for a worker with a grievance and they can bring about improvements in workplace safety and conditions.

But their actions sometimes appear to be more about flexing union muscle than doing what’s in the best interests of their members. Prolonged strikes are an example of that when wages lost through time off end up costing more than the wage rise over which a strike is called.

National has moved the employment pendulum back towards the centre with improvements to the law since 2008 and is now intimating it will campaign on making more progress:

Prime Minister John Key has indicated National will campaign on further changes to labour laws – and will not rule out reinstating a youth minimum wage or changes to collective bargaining.

At the Seafood Industry Council conference yesterday, Mr Key said making the labour market more flexible was a priority as the economy began to grow and National intended to unveil further changes in the election campaign.

There is debate about youth rates but there is no doubt that youth unemployment has gone up much more than that for other ages since youth rates were removed.

Offsetting Behaviour has several posts on the issue including youth rates revisited with graphs which clearly show youth unemployment has been worse than general unemployment since the removal of youth rates. Check My Sources explians how young workers are being priced out of the labour market.

In an interview with Sean Plunket on The Nation yesterday John Key said:

We know that there are people that are 18 years of age on an unemployment benefit and I think as a country most of us would sit around and say that’s crazy, they should be in work, they should be in training, or they should be back at school.

It would be much easier for young people to get work if employers weren’t forced to pay them the same rates as they pay more mature workers.

A little more flexibility in labour relations which won’t be welcomed by unions but will be better for employers and their staff would also be welcome.

We’ve come a long way from the bad old days when unions held the country to ransom but there’s still room for improvement.

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