Speech – New Zealand National Party
Mr Speaker I rise with a great sense of history to present my maiden speech to this Parliament. My Rangitikei Electorate has had a representative in this house for 150 years, my family have lived in the lower Rangitikei for 160 years, I am the 27th …
National MP for Rangitikei
16 February 2011
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Mr Speaker I rise with a great sense of history to present my maiden speech to this Parliament. My Rangitikei Electorate has had a representative in this house for 150 years, my family have lived in the lower Rangitikei for 160 years, I am the 27th person to come here as a representative of the Rangitikei Electorate.
I am following some great people into this house and I want to particularly take this opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful role my predecessor Simon Power played in the affairs of both the Rangitikei Electorate and New Zealand. He made his mark here and left an impression on us all that will last a long time. Simon is a man who was, in his time in politics able to bridge the divide that the Westminster system of Democracy creates, I sincerely hope that in my time here I may be able to encourage consensus that sees this house able to make the best possible decisions for our collective futures.
I wish to thank all those who have helped make my first few weeks in this place as easy as possible, from all those security people who take care of us on a daily basis, to the Prime Minister, those who have helped me to get here and particularly all those who supported me during the election campaign, both with the campaign and my induction into the National Party. Special thanks to my wife of 38 years Sue, she is my no 1 campaigner, our family, Diana, Cam and Rachel, Angus and Harri and my mother Rosemary, two brothers and sister who are here today and who have put up with many hours of following, filling in for, making excuses for and supporting me in my somewhat unexpected career path to date. A career path probably instilled in my blood by my father John, a shy man who enjoyed Politics and played a part in Local Government in an all too short a life.
It’s appropriate to acknowledge my near neighbours Iain Lees Galloway and the Hon Chester Borrows who represent the Cities that will help forge the future for the people of the Rangitikei Electorate, for without strong leadership from our cities, rural New Zealand suffers. I must also acknowledge Tariana Turia whose electorate covers the Rangitikei and beyond and who is hugely respected for the work she does for our people.
The Rangitikei electorate for those who need to know contains 4,500,000 sheep, about 400,000 beef cattle, 175,000 Dairy Cows and 63,000 people of whom 28% are Maori. We are also the home to the North Island ski fields and the Tongariro National Park, the home bases to the NZ Army at Linton and Waiouru , the Airforce at Ohakea and New Zealand’s largest University in Massey. Our electorate contains the brainey part of Palmerston North, stretches over 300 kms north to Taumarunui and contains some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery. It also contains the bulk of New Zealands fragile hill country, ensuring the activities of our Regional Council are critical to the future of that sector.
My driver throughout my public life to date has been to create a better place for future generations of my family and yours to live and work in. I am a sixth generation New Zealander, have eighth generation grandchildren and I hope that my family will still be here, enjoying our wonderful but different country in eight generations time.
I will give you a brief synopsis of my life to date before getting into the things that really matter to me and those who encouraged me to aspire to a stint in our Parliament. My family have lived within two kilometres of the place I live in since 1850, they have lived in the house I live in since 1900, we are Rangitikei people. I was educated a pony ride (2kms on a metal road) from home before going on to boarding school for the rest of my school life. This was followed by a short stint at Massey University where I learnt a lot but passed little. I then farmed for quite a time before venturing into the commercial world via the motor industry with two very good friends of mine. And they’ve survived too cause they’re both here today. This led in turn to involvement as a Director of various insurance, property, finance and farming entities. One of those the Farmers Mutual Group, or FMG, the preeminent rural insurer in New Zealand and despite the events of the past year still a very strong and much needed entity in the industry.
Some nine years ago I was elected as Mayor of the Manawatu District following four years as President of the Royal Agricultural Society of NZ. My election as a Mayor taught me so much about people and the things that matter to them, about how to get communities working well, about disaster as we were hit by the massive 2004 floods and storms and needed a very large (at the time) recovery package put in place by the government of the day. It also opened other doors for me and I am currently Chairman of Special Olympics New Zealand, a position that has taught me so much about the disability sector in New Zealand. In my life to date I have also been president or chairman of various Racing Clubs, A&P Shows, rugby clubs, our local school and a number of other community based organisations.
Enough on me and onto why I am here:
I was offered an opportunity to stand for the Rangitikei Electorate seat when Simon Power unexpectedly resigned. It was something I had never aspired to but it seemed logical that I would take what I have learnt to date and use it in an effort to better our lives as New Zealanders.
Those learning’s are as follows:
My life time in Agriculture leaves me in no doubt that we will always be one of the World’s most efficient food producers and that we will continue to have a very important role to play in feeding pieces of the World, as its population grows rapidly. To continue to achieve this there are a number of issues that we must give attention to:
The environment, our people, and agriculture must travel hand in hand as we grapple with the effects we humans have had on our land forms, our rivers and our natural heritage. Ecological sustainability is the key to the future of agriculture and our economic fortunes and whether dealing with genetic engineering, the ETS particularly related to the food production sector or the environment we must use the very best science available to us to resolve these matters. They must be resolved expeditiously and it is vital for our country’s future wellbeing that we invest heavily in this area. Agriculture in New Zealand has had a financial battering over the past decade and must be treated carefully or it could still fail us, it needs nurturing, not with cash but with sensible well planned policy. Agriculture in recent years in New Zealand has not had a sufficient level of profitability to re-invest in its future through science and innovation – I am delighted to see the Government taking action in this area and look forward to the sector being able to play its part as well. Whilst on agriculture I want to make a plea for us not to encourage (through suspect policy) the planting of pine trees on land that can be used for food production – pine trees are difficult to eat! And they’re very difficult to get income out of as well.
I also urge you as a parliament to give time and thought to our equine industry. We are good at horses, it is international in almost every sphere of equine activity and it has great potential if nurtured in the correct manner. The horse, particularly through the racing and breeding industry is a very large employer in this country and I have yet to see a robot riding one (Mark Todd aside) or a computer mucking out a stable. Encouraging the equine sector to work with each other in a unified manner could boost this sector significantly as an export earner.
Rural New Zealand, its towns and its people are very important to our futures and we must endeavour to keep people living throughout our country. It is not in the national interest to push our population north, we must encourage people to live in our small rural towns and on our farms. To do this we must carefully consider the ramifications of much of our policy making, as often small changes can improve the lot of those people dramatically. I refer particularly to the manner in which telecommunications, electricity, education, health, law and order and transport services are delivered to rural New Zealand. An example of this is that the poor supply of electricity to parts of rural New Zealand is a major inhibitor to economic growth, with a number of areas in my electorate not having sufficient supply to enable new cow sheds or irrigation schemes to operate efficiently, part of the reason for this is a lack of sufficient land use planning, a factor that must be corrected. Another factor that is easy to overlook but a very important factor in the Rangitikei is the time our children spend on the school bus, and 2 to 3 hours a day is not uncommon, hence the ferociousness with which rural communities defend their small schools.
Briefly on the matter of our broader economy and a topic that I think we need to have some serious discussion on and that is our poor understanding of risk, how to evaluate it and how to manage it. This is one of the factors behind the increase in cost of local government to our community, to business as well and is driven to some extent by our interpretation of the Building Act, the RMA and occupational safety and health amongst others. Without the capacity to understand, manage and utilise risk businesses struggle to expand, most of the great businesses in the world took significant calculated risk to grow.
I don’t believe we should take anything for granted in life, I don’t believe we have any ‘rights’ in life – property or otherwise – we must earn them. I have a strong belief in what I call social order or justice and that often means that those who have, have to give a hand up to those who have not. Where I come from – unhappy people don’t make for a happy work force – and our country cannot operate effectively with an unhappy workforce. To achieve this we must have a strong progressive economy enabling us to pay what a person is worth. We can no longer continue to allow the well off to claim on the welfare systems by hiding income or assets. There is no place in New Zealand society for greed and we have seen and suffered from plenty of that in the past few years.
Through family experience and more recently through my role as Chairperson of Special Olympics New Zealand I have a particular interest in the lives and circumstances of our disabled community. There are an estimated 55,000 people born with an ID in this country, a large majority of whom are males. There are nearly quarter of a million physically disabled New Zealanders, we know that investment in this sector produces significant gains for the people and family involved and for our country as a whole. I will continue my strong advocacy for these New Zealanders and support them in their efforts to achieve better life expectancy and make a greater contribution to our society.
Sport and recreation is one of the gems in life – without it we do not survive, and we must continue to encourage young and old alike to participate in all levels of physical activity. To do this some key changes are needed to our traditional thinking around sporting infrastructure – we need diverse climate immune facilities and we need to provide easy access for people who wish to exercise from home, for example walking, biking, boarding. I call it door to door exercise – to achieve this our communities must be safe – our infrastructure must be safe, well planned and well maintained.
One could not have spent nine years in local government without acknowledging there must be a better way – and there is and it does not involve dramatic change. In past years local government has struggled with the costs of implementing legislation passed onto them by central government A good deal of it came care of the stringent but expansive conditions placed on councils by the Local Government Act 2002. There are at the same time many talented and able people doing a wonderful job in what is a complex and very demanding sector. I can only commend the Prime Minister for elevating the local government portfolio to an important place in Cabinet – and I think it’s the first time I recall it being in Cabinet in many years – and wish Minister Smith all the best as he confronts the many challenges that lie before local authorities throughout New Zealand.
In this country we are seriously testing our talented people resources by the number of governance bodies we have created and as a consequence we have the requirement for large numbers of chief executives, CFOs and elected members or directors. Many of these are becoming specialised positions (often prescribed by law) and we need to ensure we use our talented people to the best possible advantage. We should also bear in mind that letters after ones name are not necessarily a prerequisite for success in life.
There is no question that the further we spread the talent pool in New Zealand, the lesser the talent we have available.
I am in awe of this place and its history but was surprised on opening day when parliament emptied out as our leaders spoke, whatever our Political persuasion we owe each other the common courtesy of at least listening once in relative calmness. You cannot fool the people, respect and common old good manners are still valued by most in this country and they watch us closely through our friends the media.
Mr Speaker, members, people are everything in life, without each other we are nothing, no matter what race, creed, sex, age or ability, mental or physical, everyone in this wonderful country must be cared for and encouraged to achieve their best. There is no left or right in good health, educational opportunity, having work or violence to one another. To achieve this we must have inclusive government and take the people with us.
I am a great believer in protocol and tradition; it puts some order and discipline in our lives and on that basis I wish to congratulate you Mr Speaker and your team of deputies on your appointments, and whilst I am absolutely sincere in this it does remind me a little of dropping off a leg of lamb for the banker.
Mr Speaker, fellow members of this great establishment, despite being written off as being too old and not expected to shine by some Australasian tip sheet I hope in my time here to make a contribution to New Zealand and I hope that when I get to leave and I hope to choose that time – that our Country is a better place to live. Thank you