Community Scoop

Maiden Speech – Holly Walker

Speech – Green Party

Mr Speaker, I never met Rod Donald. To many people, it will seem amazing that, just six short years since his tragic death, there is already a Green MP who never met Rod. To many, it will seem very sad – indeed it is.Holly Walker Ka titiro atu au ki Pukeatua e tu mai rā (I look to Pukeatua in the distance)

Ka whakarongo ake au ki nga ripo o Te Awakairangi (And hear the swirls of Te Awakairangi (the Hutt River))

I tupu au i raro i te raukura o Te Ātiawa i Moera (Where I was raised under the plumes of Te Ātiawa in Moera.)

Tēnā koutou katoa (Greetings to you all)

E te rangatira o te whare, e te mangai o te whare, tēnā koe (To the chief of the House, the Speaker of the House, greetings to you)

E nga mana nui, e nga mema, koutou katoa, tēnā hoki koutou (To my peers and members of Parliament, to you all, greetings also to you)

E ngā tini mate, kua wheturangitia ki te kupenga wairua, haere, haere, haere (To the many loved ones who are resembled in the stars in to the spiritual realm, farewell, farewell, farewell)

Ki toku kuia, ki toku poutokomanawa (To my grandmother, to my pillar of strength)

Ka piri tonu koe i taku ngakau, ka tata tonu koe i taku puna mahara (You are still close to my heart, still close within the spring of remembrance)

Ki a Rod Donald, ahakoa kihai maua i tutaki i whakamanawa koe i ahau i runga i tēnei haerenga (To Rod Donald, although you and I did not meet you inspired me on this journey)

Ki a kōrua, menemene mai, homai ou ihi, ou wehi, ou wana ki au (Especially you two, smile and rain down upon me your aura, your inspiration, your awe)

E moe kōrua ki te po i waenga i te tini, e moe, e moe (Sleep you two amongst the abyss of many, rest peacefully, rest)

Rātou ki a rātou, tatou te hunga ora (They amongst their own (reference to the spiritual realm), and us here the living)

Tēnā koutou katoa (Greetings to us all)

Mr Speaker, I never met Rod Donald.

To many people, it will seem amazing that, just six short years since his tragic death, there is already a Green MP who never met Rod. To many, it will seem very sad – indeed it is.

I first joined the Green Party – as both a member and a staff member – in January 2006, just months after Rod’s death. Although I never worked with him, his absence at that time was palpable. The party was reeling from his death, and reeling from a tough election result, which had seen our numbers in Parliament reduce from nine to six.

It’s often said that it’s not easy being Green, and in 2006 it most certainly was not.

I am therefore immensely proud of the way the Green Party has rebuilt in the intervening years, so that I now stand in this House as one of not six but fourteen Green MPs, representing the best election result the Green Party has ever achieved.

We have cemented our place very firmly as the third party of New Zealand politics, and in many ways as the true opposition.

I am now one of seven new Green MPs in this 50th Parliament, and, together with the second generation of Green Party Co-leaders, Metiria and Russel, we are an entirely new caucus from that first elected in 1999.

But Mr Speaker, while the faces have changed, the Green Party principles and values have not, and though I didn’t know him, I think it is safe to say that Rod would have been proud of the team that has risen to speak tonight.

Because I never met Rod, I never got to tell him that he was partly responsible for the formation of my political consciousness.

It was 1997, and I was sitting in a sweltering upstairs classroom at Hutt Valley High School watching a video in fourth form social studies about the 1981 Springbok Tour. Suddenly, there was a young Rod, resplendent in his fluro vest and orange bike helmet – clashing spectacularly with his shaggy red hair and beard. He spoke earnestly into the camera about why he was putting his safety on the line to march in the front lines of the increasingly terrifying anti-apartheid protests.

I was moved, fascinated, and strangely, jealous. I went home from school and told my mum that I wished we had issues like that to protest about these days.

She laughed and told me there were plenty.

I started paying attention and realised she was right.

So I have Rod to thank, in part, for setting me on the path to politics, and I also have my mum, Wendy Walker, who is here tonight, to thank for that and so much more.

Mum, thank you for your unstinting love and unbelievably dedicated parenting – especially in those early years when it was just you and me against the world. You have made me who I am today.

For reasons that are long since forgiven, my mum found herself on her own with a small baby in 1982. She had the support of her mum – my Nana, who passed away, aged 92, last year, sadly before she got to see her eldest grandchild elected to Parliament. Mum also had the support of her sister Heather, and many other family and friends, for which we both remain very grateful.

But when faced with bringing me up on her own, Mum was also able to rely on the proud tradition of the New Zealand welfare state.

For the first part of my life we lived in a council flat in Moera, and mum received the Domestic Purposes Benefit. This support guaranteed that I had the essentials – a safe home, enough to eat, warm clothes, and the loving ministrations of an attentive caregiver.

Every child – and I mean every, single one – deserves these essentials.

While I was a pre-schooler, mum used the Training Incentive Allowance to train as a Kindergarten teacher; she started teaching not long after I started school and has been a much loved and respected teacher at many kindergartens around the Hutt Valley since.

My colleague and co-leader, Metiria Tūrei, also used the Training Incentive Allowance when she found herself with a small baby and no qualifications; she got a law degree and has taken care of her family ever since.

Today, that support would not be available to them.

We all know that John Key grew up in a state house, and that Paula Bennett was a sole parent – now they are Ministers of the Crown.

With the fantastic education I received at public schools in Lower Hutt, I grew up to win a Rhodes Scholarship and get elected to Parliament aged 29.

But Mr Speaker, in the words of Russel Norman in his maiden statement to this House, these stories don’t mean that a state house kid, or a public school kid, or a DPB mum can do anything.

They mean that state commitment of resources towards housing, education and income support really does make a difference.

Naku te rourou, nau te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.

(With your basket and my basket the people will live.)

Mr Speaker, the commitment of state resources towards housing, education, and income support, the belief that when we guarantee the essentials to every child, we guarantee them opportunities for life, the abhorrence of gross inequality and injustice – these are the issues that drive me. I am honoured to be entrusted by my party with the portfolios of Children, Housing, and Youth, among others, so that I may make progress on these issues during my time in this House.

While these driving issues are primarily about social and economic justice, there’s a reason that I’m a member of the Green Party, and it’s not just because it was Rod Donald in that video I watched in fourth form social studies. It’s also because, like many New Zealanders, I was raised with a deep love and appreciation for our precious natural heritage.

For this, I have to thank my Dad – one of them – Simon Davis, who is also here tonight. He joined Mum in the not always joyful task of raising me when I was three years old. He took me outside, threw me in rivers, coaxed me up hills, strapped skis to my feet and pushed me down mountains, and showed me something extraordinary – that we live in most beautiful country in the world, but we have a responsibility to look after it.

So Dad, thanks for making me green, and for always pushing me out of my comfort zone, so that I’ve now found myself leaping off the biggest cliff yet and into Parliament.

Mr Speaker, I joined the Green Party because its policies on the issues I care about reflect my own beliefs, and I don’t have to compromise to adopt them.

Because the Green Party does politics according to Ghandi’s exhortation to us all to “be the change” we wish to see in the world.

Because when the Green Party thinks there should be a spokesperson for Children, it appoints one.

Because the Green Party takes gender equality seriously.

And because the Green Party is the only party that understands the inextricable links between our environment, our economy, and our people, and builds those links into everything it does.

Mr Speaker the world is changing. Green Parties around the globe are riding a wave of success, achieving their best results ever, and in the case of one German state, electing a Green Party Government. That tide that has been turning around the world is now turning in New Zealand. The future is Green, and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is ready.

But the increased ranks of Green MPs who have spoken tonight would not be here without the blood, sweat, and tears – and there were tears – of thousands of amazingly dedicated Green Party members and supporters.

I want to pay tribute to all of you who have put us here – to the provincial and national campaign committees, to the party executive and paid staff, to the National Campaign Manager Megan Salole and her team, to the Young Greens and other party networks, to all the other candidates – like James Shaw, whose extraordinary efforts saw the Green Party come second in the party vote in Wellington Central – and to the (non-violent) army of volunteers around the country, thank you!

In particular, I want to thank the members of the Hutt South Greens campaign team: too many to name, but many of whom are here tonight. Thanks team, for the leaflets delivered, meetings attended, meals supplied, stalls staffed, data analysed, sausages sizzled, and hoardings erected around the mighty electorate of Hutt South.

Ehara taku toa, he taki tahi, he toa taki tini.

(My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective.)

Mr Speaker, at this point it is appropriate to acknowledge the amazing kākahu that rests on my shoulders tonight. It was woven by long-standing Green Party member and leader Danna Glendinning over 22 months, under the guidance of kuia at Te Rau Awaawa in Hamilton, and gifted to the party at a powhiri in January. This incredible taonga is woven from the feathers of Pākehā birds, including caged battery hens, who have found a freedom in death in this kākahu that they never had in life. I am honoured and humbled to wear it in this House tonight.

Danna, thank you for this taonga and for everything you have given the Green Party over the years.

I will be doing everything I can to convert your hard work, and the hard work of Green Party supporters around the country, into good green change in Parliament.

And Mr Speaker that good green change is urgently needed. We are staring down the twin barrels of climate change and peak oil, and this Government is squandering the window of opportunity we presently have to lead the world, live up to our clean green image, and retool our economy to meet the challenge.

Our freshwater resources are in crisis, and this Government is burying its head in milk powder, encouraging the rapid intensification of commercial agriculture and the irrigation of our iconic landscapes, and trying to spin us the line that cleaning up our rivers is compatible with this approach when we know that it’s not.

We’ve seen disaster and destruction wreaked by oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico – and here on our own shores – and this Government is still soliciting big oil and gas to drill in our waters.

And New Zealand has one of the fastest growing gaps between rich and poor in the developed world and this Government is still pretending that its corporate welfare policies will “trickle down” when we know that they don’t and won’t.

In her maiden statement to this House, Jeanette Fitzsimons said this:

“Governments have allowed – [even] encouraged – the huge gap that has opened up between rich and poor and they can, and must, close that gap again.”

Yet here we are fifteen years later and the gap is wider.

Mr Speaker, I carried Jeanette’s old briefcase into the House today, and I am ready to get stuck in.

As you’ve heard from my colleages, reducing the gap between those who have the most and those who need is now one of the defining political issues of our time. Just last week, the New Zealand Herald ran a series of articles highlighting the yawning chasm that has opened up between the very rich and the rest of us since the failed neoliberal experiment of the 1980s and 90s.

The world is waking up to the realisation that inequality is good for no-one. Ground-breaking research has shown that the more unequal a country is, the worse it does on almost every social, economic, and health indicator. People in more equal countries live longer, do better at school, are less likely to be victims of crime, and suffer less from drug and alcohol abuse. Our own statistics in New Zealand bear this out.

Mr Speaker, equality and social justice in some form or other have been the preoccupations of my career so far, from speaking out as the editor of a student magazine (and it must be said, not always getting it right), to being a small cog in the wheel of the Treaty Settlement process, to writing a Masters thesis in Oxford on Māori disparity, to advising the last Green Party caucus on social issues.

Now I am here in this House to make reducing inequality and ending child poverty my mission as a law maker.

By the time I leave this place, may we have made real progress towards closing the gaps and guaranteeing the essentials to all our children. That is my commitment.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa.

(Let us keep close together, not wide apart.)

Mr Speaker before I conclude, there are some more thanks that cannot go unsaid.

They are to the many people who look after me and nourish me emotionally from wherever they are in the world. In particular, my sister Sian, and my brother Adrian. My other Dad, Tim, and my Australian whānau especially Sam and Roz. My parents in law Lesley and Rick. My sisters in law Bronwyn and Katherine, and Kitty, who’s part of the family whether she likes it or not.

But above all, my partner in life, and in Civil Union, David Haines.

Dave, I can’t even describe how much you give to me, not only on the crazy journey to this place, but in every part of our lives together – but you know. You shore me up, you carry me along, and you make everything possible. I’m afraid that I’m not always able to adequately reciprocate, and for that, I am sorry. But I love you, and I love that each challenge is an adventure we embark on together.

So Mr Speaker, I start my journey as a Parliamentarian, shored up by my loved ones, and ready to change the world, one step at a time.

Manaakī whenua.

Manaakī tangata.

Haere whakamua.

(Care for the land. Care for the people. Go forward.) ENDS

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