Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie):
O le a ou le toe faloina le afaloloa
pe lalafo foe ole savili,
aua o lea ua taoto le aupeau,
I le e’e papaaao ole paia ma le mamalu
ua ali’itia ai le maota nei,
ma oute fa’atulou atu I lau afioga I le fofoga fetalai,
le mamalu ole saofaiga a le Palemene,
ma lau tapuaiga Aotearoa.
Fakaalofa lahi atu kia mutolu oti
Moe tau kapisiga
Kua tolotolo mai he aho nei
Kehe higoa he iki
Ko iesu keriso.
[Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
It is an honour to address this House for the last time, as the MP for Maungakiekie and as a proud National Party member. While I have been a public servant for the last 10 years, my first taste of the National Party was in the mid-1990s. I remember being invited along to a meeting by a colleague at Russell McVeagh. I turned up to a regional policy committee meeting and in the time-honoured tradition of political parties, I was co-opted onto a committee. Unlike Ms King opposite I avoided being made the secretary, and I was instead assigned as the events organiser. I was dispatched to organise a guest speaker for the next month, and I thought: “That’s easy.” I would invite my university professor of economics and supervisor of my dissertation—none other than Professor Tim Hazledine. I could not make the presentation, but I was notified that the meeting was a mild success with some robust questioning of the learned professor.
I then thought that, if they enjoyed Tim Hazledine, I could invite another professor from university who supervised my other dissertation, so I notified the committee that Jane Kelsey was next month’s speaker. Well, the reply from HQ was swift and it was abrupt: there are no delegates available for that meeting and the board room is fully booked out next month, anyway. Suffice to say, I was not asked to organise a National Party policy meeting again. But lesson No. 1 in politics: watch the company that you keep.
I left for overseas and I returned to help campaign for my old school friend and current colleague, Mr Paul Goldsmith. Paul ran in Maungakiekie in 2005. It was to be a dress rehearsal for 2008, and I learnt a lot from doorknocking with Mr Goldsmith and, of course, I learnt a lot about canvassing for the party vote. He also learnt a lot from me. I remember telling him on election day that I was scrutineering at a booth in Ōranga, and he asked me: “Where is Ōranga?”. I told him that it was in our electorate, and he mumbled in his Goldie-like way that maybe he had overlooked it on the map. Twelve years on, I am assured by David Seymour that Paul is as scrupulous with that Epsom map as he was with the map in Maungakiekie.
Of course, 2008 was the year of change in New Zealand. A dynamic John Key swept to power on a platform of lower taxes, better front-line services, fiscal discipline, and setting national standards in education. I was grateful to be swept along during that wave of aspirational leadership and positive change, behind a group of committed volunteers and supporters to win Maungakiekie, a traditional Labour seat. I remember that night at Skycity well, and I said to my mum: “Happy birthday, Mum. You’ve got a thousand people at your party and it didn’t cost me a cent.” Mum, I know you cannot be here today; you are watching in Auckland. Get well soon. I love you.
At this point, can I acknowledge the contribution of the many thousands of National Party volunteers who got me here. I want to acknowledge the presidents, Goodfellow and Kirk, and regional chairs, Alastair Bell, Scott Simpson, Alan Towers, and Andrew Hunt. I want to acknowledge Roger Bridge, Peter Kiely—I could go on. You know who you are. Thank you very much for your support of me and the party. Of course, I have also got to acknowledge my electorate chairs Cheryl and Seamus, and also my really good friends Dr Lee Mathias, Graham Malaghan, Mark Nicholson, Mark Thomas, and the hundreds locally who supported me and my campaign.
On 11 November, after the election, I travelled to my first caucus. I remember congregating with other new MPs at the Koru lounge. It was my first time in the Koru lounge. A couple of Pacific women who voted for me came up to congratulate me on my victory. They said: “Well done on your hard work. You’ve made Pacific people proud and you’re going to make a fine MP.” But I quickly learnt as a new MP to try not to let this get to my head. They gave me their business cards and said to call if I needed their help, even for campaigning. Well, I was feeling pretty chuffed, and as I walked away they wished me well and said: “God bless you, Su’a William Sio.” True story—true story.
But at that first caucus meeting the advice for new MPs was to work the electorate; you will be measured on those first 3 years—and so will you, son—and especially that first year. And, as you do, I set about attending every school fair, prize-giving, Rotary club dinner, and sports club function on offer. It also allowed me to listen to queries, hear opinions, and receive feedback. I enjoyed the work and I reminded myself that this was what public service was about: dealing with the issues of people in need.
In my maiden speech I spoke of the nature of public service and of servant leadership. My mantra in public service, as many of my staff will attest to, is that I wake up each day asking what I can do and what our team can do to improve the lives of New Zealanders and their well-being, and also how to better serve their needs. I believe that if you help one New Zealander, you have had a successful day; if you help thousands, you have had a stellar day and you can retire. I knew that if I could do that with vigour and compassion that I would be re-elected with an increased majority. Serving in Maungakiekie required a lot of patience, active listening, care, and compassion. I would see some of the pain and suffering and abuse that are sadly a part of our society.
I remember doing human hoardings at Panmure roundabout one morning just before the 2011 election. An elderly woman approached me. She said to come and visit a family who were living in her garage. I visited them that afternoon where I met a teenage mother who was living in a garage with her 1-year-old son. She was heavily pregnant and her son, who had a heart condition, was running around half-clothed on the concrete floor. As I went home to my family that night to celebrate my birthday, that sad family image was burnt into my consciousness and I was determined to do something about it. My staff and I worked with Housing New Zealand and other agencies to ensure that her needs were met. Thankfully, by election day I had increased my majority in my seat and, more importantly, this mum and her two kids had found a new two-bedroom apartment to call home.
I joined the National Party because I believe in the power of families and communities to care for our own, unencumbered by the Government. However, I believe, like many New Zealanders, that, when absolutely required, the Government can and should provide assistance and help. I want to thank my electorate staff at this point—most of you are here: Jenny, Josh, Ali, Pua, and Darrell—and there are literally hundreds more stories where we have improved the lives of the many that we have served through that office. Fa’afetai tele lava.
Looking back over the last 10 years, I was proud to launch the new blue recycling bin service. This initiative was done by our local council when I first got into council and it reduced the waste to landfill by about 20 percent—not bad, I thought, for a few months’ work in the council. I had become a blue-green by accident, but I was proud of what we had done on the council. Then, on the council, I advocated for the restoration of the Onehunga foreshore. This was an example of how, with the cooperation of the Onehunga Business Association and The Onehunga Enhancement Society, both Auckland Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency provided the first significant access to the foreshore since the 1970s. That 7 hectare park now provides beaches, picnic areas, and open spaces for families, and, crucially, it will provide them for generations of New Zealanders to enjoy. After first advancing this project as a councillor, I was finally honoured to help cut the ribbon in 2015 as a Minister of the Crown.
Last year also saw the replanting of trees back on to Maungakiekie, or One Tree Hill. It was an issue that meant a lot to many in my local community and one that I had championed and worked through with our Treaty negotiations Minister—and I salute you, sir. Through those settlements with local iwi and hapū and via the support of Auckland Council we were able to do that. The ceremony was witnessed by hundreds, and I had the honour to plant one of the tōtara trees, which I hope and pray will survive the rigours of the weather to once again stand tall on my maunga, Maungakiekie. Sometimes such public symbols divide, but I believe that these trees will unite my community, our city, and this nation.
Finally, in our local area we have seen the rise of the Tāmaki Regeneration Company. This is the first large-scale transformation project in New Zealand and it will deliver over 7,500 quality homes. But for me it is more than that. Its vision means partnerships with mana whenua, local residents, businesses, and service providers. I tell you these achievements not only because I was involved in a small way but because they involved local people, their views, opinions, and, most importantly, it involved their aspirations.
On 17 January 2014 I received a call that all MPs long to receive, and covet. I got a call from Prime Minister Key that I would be a Minister in his executive. I remember taking it while spending precious time with my daughter, Hope, at Potters Park. Getting an unexpected call from the Prime Minister like that is either one of two things: there is trouble on the horizon and you may be forced to resign or you have done well enough to get promoted. Thankfully, it was the latter.
However, trying to have a conversation with the Prime Minister while doing water play during a gale in a park full of kids was really hard, but having to explain to a 3-year-old why you were interrupting her daddy-daughter date was even more challenging. I want to thank Sir Toalesavili John Key for the opportunity. It was a huge honour to serve with him and other Ministers in this National-led Government.
Taking on the Pacific people’s portfolio and becoming Associate Minister of Local Government were a natural fit. I am particularly proud of the work that was completed by the ministry in implementing the Pacific Employment Support Services scheme. It is a scheme that focuses on motivating, training, and matching young Pacific people to jobs. It had an 83 percent success rate in terms of placement into jobs or further training. That is simply stunning for any job or training scheme.
Later that year I got another call. This time I was on a beach, following the 2014 election. I got the call from Sir John, who told me that I was being elevated to Cabinet. Hope and Jules started dancing in the background, and then Jules asked me: “What portfolios?”. I said “Corrections.”, and she said “Jeepers! What did you do wrong?”.
Some would see Corrections as a poisoned chalice. I believe it was a true honour. To the 10,000 men and women who serve in Corrections, some risking their lives every day—I salute you. It was a privilege to be your Minister, despite the challenges—and there were many—in that portfolio. I was proud of what we achieved. I recall visiting Rimutaka Prison one day. I sat there with six prisoners. They were about to be released, and I asked them—I said: “Look, what one thing would make a difference in your lives?”. One fellow said: “Actually, two things.” I said: “Two—OK.” He said: “Two things—a pack of cigarettes and a chocolate ice cream.” “But seriously”, I said. To a man, they said: “What we really want are jobs—we want jobs.” That was the key to getting out and staying out. That is why it was important to set up four more working prisons, host an employers’ summit alongside the Prime Minister, and double the number of educational learning places in prisons, while launching a secure online learning service.
I was also honoured to be the Minister for Ethnic Communities. I spoke in my maiden speech about the ethnic diversity of Maungakiekie and of New Zealand. This role allowed me to engage with the many faces of New Zealand’s ethnic communities, often through celebrations of culture, language, faith, and heritage. As a migrant to Aotearoa myself, I empathised with their plights and understood many of their issues and their ambitions.
Finally, in my health portfolio I was pleased I was able to pass the standardised packaging legislation. Of course, this was initiated by Dame Tariana Turia. Smoking kills, and it prematurely kills up to 4,500 to 5,000 New Zealanders a year. Standardised packaging is proven to reduce smoking rates, and I am glad that this Parliament supported that bill.
Of course, a ministerial office is a difficult place, where people are expected to serve under the most extreme of conditions. My staff did that, and more. I want to thank my staff for their contributions—and some of them are here today—especially Mark, Margaret, Gay, Lucy, Jess, Gail, Moa, Salote, and Colleen. I also want to acknowledge Caron, Alisi, and Luaipou.
I want to wind up this speech by giving thanks to the people of Maungakiekie for putting your trust in me to serve for the past 10 years. I believe I have left it in a better place, but you will be the judge of that. I know a lot of that progress is due to your resilience, your determination, and your spirit. I know that Peter, Amanda, and Sheryn are in the crowd today—thank you. I also leave knowing you are in capable hands with Denise Lee. She is one of us, a local—compassionate, hard-working, with a heart for people and public service.
From Parliament and all the people who make this institution a paragon of democracy to the over 700 people who serve this nation alongside us, the MPs, who often serve with very little kudos—thanks to the security staff, IT, Parliamentary Service, all the support staff, and, yes, even my favourite people, the press gallery.
To my parliamentary colleagues, this is said to be a caustic and a harsh place, but I have made many friendships across this Chamber. I will not name and shame you today, because I know some of you are seeking re-election. But I do want to wish you and your families well. To my caucus colleagues, you are a team of talented and gifted people whom I am proud to have served alongside.
We have had three terms because we have been focused on the things that matter to New Zealanders—jobs, affordable and accessible healthcare, quality educational services, and safer communities. We have been successful because we have been united in our resolve to serve New Zealanders of all hues. To gain a fourth term, you need to maintain that trust and confidence that comes with engaging with people for every hour of every day until 23 September.
May I acknowledge our leader, “the rock”, our Prime Minister Leuluaialii Bill English, or William Simon English—you are someone I admire and are one of my role models in this place, and I want to acknowledge you. You are a rock, and you are more stable and dependable than a rock star, I can say. My distant cousin, the original Rock, Dwayne Johnson—[Interruption] That is right. The Rock had a saying. He said: “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?”. On 23 September I hope “the rock” is not cooking that pizza, but that you are cooking up a fourth term for the National Party.
May I thank a few mentors—Michael Bassett, John Sax, Tino Pereira, Sir John Graham, and Tim Edney. These people offered me sage advice, as well as caring about me as a person. A special thanks to my church family at Royal Oak Baptist Church. I know some of you are here today. To Edith, Indrani, Erik, and Karen—your prayers are always felt. To my men’s group—Nick, Rob, Steve, and Ben—your support has been immense.
To old friends, Leilua Winston, Lilomaiava Yvonne, Jo, and Ngawati, Malia, and Sailauama—you have all believed in me from the beginning, and you are even more supportive of me at the end.
Finally, to family: my siblings Lolita, Brigitta, Ken, and Julie. Thanks so much for supporting and tolerating me these past 10 years. Thanks to my parents for your sacrifice, your dedication, and your love. We miss you today, Dad, and I know you are watching with Samaria up there. To my Uncle Aiga—after Dad left you stepped up as my go-to guy. Thanks, uncle.
To the Iiga, Sio, Mailo, Kasupene, and Stevenson families, thank you. To Mum Stevo—she is up there somewhere—well, you are the gold standard for mothers-in-law, I can tell you; fakaue lahi for all your love and support. To Luka, my son—ah, my son—you arrived last year. He has only got two speeds, as you have heard. It is either full speed or asleep, and he is due for a sleep. Hope, the apple of my eye and the passionfruit of my heart. I will never forget—I told you last December that I was leaving Parliament. It was priceless. You said: “Gee, thanks, Daddy. It’s about time.” You have taught me that public service starts at home. I love you, Tiges.
To Jules, my eternal love: well, we started this journey together, as you know. I proposed to you at the end of my first Auckland Marathon, and I said I was ready to run the marathon of life with you. Well, today I propose that I am ready to do an Ironman. What does that mean? Well, I suggest one thing. I suggest that we pursue one of your dreams and make it one of ours. I love you, bubs.
Finally, I want to thank God. Yes, it is unfashionable to talk about faith in the public square, but every day I thank God for life, family, friends, and the privilege to serve here and live in this wonderful country that is Aotearoa New Zealand. I thank Jesus for his sacrifice and the Holy Spirit for his counsel.
I want to end my speech with a Māori proverb and a quick Samoan farewell.
[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
It means: “To all members, be a champion for what you believe is right and, in doing so, be strong, but whatever you do, do it with love.” Finally:
Ia alofagia e le atua le moata nei
maua se tofa mai le Atua aua le fofoga fetalai ma sui mamalu o le Palemene,
ae ou ola I le alofa o le Silisili-ese.
Soifua ma ia manuia.
Thank you, and God bless.