Mr Speaker, it is the greatest privilege to be standing before you today as a Member of Parliament, elected by the people of Clutha-Southland, to represent their views, hopes and dreams for their region and for New Zealand.
People in Clutha-Southland are pioneering, hard-working and community-focused.
The rest of New Zealand can learn a lot from Clutha-Southlanders.
It’s a place where people still look out for each other, people still know each other, and most importantly people still talk to each other whether it be across the fence or in the supermarket aisle.
It’s where I regularly see carefree kids riding their bikes around their neighbourhood, and where local people still rally together to support a good cause.
I intend to be a strong voice in Parliament for Clutha-Southland.
I believe in the core National Party values of strong families, caring communities, personal responsibility, individual freedom and choice.
These values form the basis of my own philosophy.
I was motivated to stand for Parliament by a desire to uphold these values.
I believe the government’s role is to get out of the way and let our people get ahead, and be rewarded for effort.
My experience in life has shown me that it is attitude and hard work that is the key to succeeding.
The Clutha-Southland electorate and previous forms has an extremely proud history of leadership and contribution to New Zealand over the years.
It has included:
- The Honourable Adam Hamilton
- The Right Honourable Peter Gordon
- Sir Brian Talboys
- Sir Robin Gray
- and of course our Leader and former Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Bill English
I want to take this opportunity to thank Bill for his leadership, and to congratulate him on the policy development that he has led throughout his years in Parliament.
His social investment approach to complex social problems and its long term dividends for New Zealand makes him the most gutsy politician of his generation.
I’d also like to acknowledge current Mayors in my region - Jim Boult, Bryan Cadogan, Tracy Hicks, and Gary Tong.
These individuals stitch together the fabric of our Clutha-Southland communities and provide excellent leadership.
I look forward to working with them to progress the interests of our people.
Clutha-Southland doesn’t just produce some great people.
It is one of the most productive regions in New Zealand.
It is the largest general electorate in the country, it runs from just south of Dunedin to the north of Invercargill, and spans from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea.
I have learned that many people in Clutha-Southland are not afraid to call a spade a spade.
You cannot pull the wool over the eyes of a Clutha-Southlander, even if it was grown and shorn there.
It is an honour to represent an area that is part of my heritage and identity.
I am proud of my established family history in Clutha-Southland.
My great, great, great grandfather, John Barr, was a Balclutha businessman who leased the Government ferry across the Clutha river, and built the first store and bakery in the township.
Today, I have family members throughout Clutha-Southland.
My late grandfather, Ronald Walker, often spoke of how it is ultimately up to the individual to determine the path they take in life.
The seeds of working hard and taking personal responsibility for oneself were sown early in my childhood by my grandfather.
He helped put hundreds of Southlanders through university running the Otago University extension program for a number of years and also helped establish the Young Nats in Southland in the 1940s.
And I better not forget to say hello to my nana Ngaire who is watching from Invercargill today.
My urban-raised father Alan, and rural-raised mother Barbara taught me that everyone deserved a chance, and that we all should contribute back to our community.
I’d like to thank my father, who continues to dedicate his life to helping others.
Thank you, Dad.
I’d also like to thank my mother who has sacrificed so much to raise me and my siblings.
Thank you for all that you do Mum.
If you were a taxi driver, you would be a millionaire by now given the fetching and carrying that you have done over the years.
I’m sure you would have done almost as many kilometres in your car 20 years ago as the Clutha-Southland MP at the time.
I respect my urban heritage.
This will hold me accountable to the needs and concerns of the urban areas within the electorate.
Encouraging growth in small towns and responding to the challenges of growth in larger towns will be one of many issues that I face.
I also have an obligation to my rural heritage which will hold me accountable to the needs and concerns of the farming communities within the electorate.
I have many fond memories working on my grandparents farm during my teenage years
Coming from a family with four siblings, I learned early to listen to those around me and to respect their views.
I also learned that working with others achieves more than working independently, a lesson that I have put into practice throughout my life.
I was born and raised in Dunedin and attended Māori Hill Primary School and John McGlashan College.
Like many young people, I wasn’t too interested in learning.
To complicate things, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 14.
Going from leading a normal life to half a dozen injections a day was tough.
I eventually left school early and got a job.
I understand first-hand that some people may not achieve on a typical educational timeline, but they still can succeed in education and contribute to their community.
My early education and health experiences have made me passionate about these areas, especially in regard to our youth.
I didn’t experience typical school success for many reasons.
Perhaps an alternative learning environment may have suited my learning style.
That’s why charter schools are vitally important, and yet another achievement of our previous National-led government.
I was the kid who some might argue, ‘slipped through the cracks’.
But I still managed to experience success, and I want to help ensure youth have meaningful education options with relevance to the real world.
My first role after leaving school was as a commercial fisherman.
I look back on my time as a fisherman with pride.
It was my first real experience of what hard work is all about.
Long hours on the boat were challenging.
I also learned the importance of the primary sector to New Zealand.
It’s important we give these producers every possible chance of success.
In addition to my fishing days, I have worked as a voluntary community patrol member, and later as a Police jailor.
I always had a desire to become a Police Officer, but was unable to apply to Police College because of my diabetes.
This was a huge disappointment for me, but it taught me that when one door closes, another opens and you need to be willing to move on and learn from life’s lessons.
After a few other jobs I decided to study for a degree in accounting.
Instead of incurring a significant amount of debt by taking out a student loan, I decided to work in the mines of Western Australia to save some money.
Six months of hard work allowed me to save enough to pay the fees.
It was during this time I also took up refereeing rugby.
A few years later I made my first class debut which is achieved by less than one per cent of rugby referees.
Rugby refereeing is a lot like life.
To learn, you need to listen.
To succeed, you need to simplify your processes and focus on just one or two key issues that have the greatest effect.
In business, you also need to focus on the one or two things that matter.
Rugby refereeing was the perfect training ground for politics.
Graduating with an accounting degree was also a huge confidence builder for me.
I had come a long way from dropping out of school.
Looking back, I know I wouldn’t have gained the skills I have now if I had gone straight to university from school.
I needed those years to mature.
Since then I have set up, franchised and sold my own business, worked at a big 4 accounting firm and have been a business adviser to others and served on the Boards of the Otago Rugby Union and the local Lotteries Distribution Committee.
As someone who has benefited from our public health system, I am a firm believer in primary care being easily accessible, close to where people live.
Travel times can impact on primary care in rural areas.
Failure to gain early treatment or intervention from primary care providers can add huge costs for the New Zealand taxpayer.
I will fight hard to maintain services in the electorate, and fight for fair funding of rural health.
I first joined the National Party several years ago after advice from John Key to stand in a red seat, cut my teeth and learn.
I have always been inspired by others to do something significant, to make a difference - because life is short.
I was fortunate to have known Jonathan Keogh, who was tragically killed by a repeat drunk driver.
Jono’s legacy inspires me to make a difference and his name will never be forgotten.
I commend Jono’s sister Megan MacPherson and his family for directly helping to change drink-driving laws.
I, like many others, miss Jono and he is often in my thoughts.
There are multiple challenges ahead.
Right now in Clutha-Southland, we should not be cutting off the hands that literally feed us, from farmers in Gore, to hospitality workers in Queenstown.
The government must ensure immigration settings allow business owners in Queenstown and primary producers across Otago and Southland to have the workforce to process goods.
Clutha-Southland has around two per cent of the population and produces over 15 per cent of the country’s GDP.
We need to keep our workers to produce the goods from the region, and to keep the people flowing through our small towns like Lumsden, Lawrence, and Nightcaps.
Our immigrant workforce contributes to our diversity and keeps our towns afloat.
I recently visited a rest home in Tapanui, and asked a 96-year-old gentlemen and Returned Serviceman for advice.
He told me to continue to learn.
Learning indeed is for life, and is life-long.
My biggest hope is to make Clutha-Southland proud of the contributions I can make to our country.
I hope that by taking this gentleman’s advice, I can achieve this.
I promise to listen to my constituents, and I thank them for the advice they have given me to date.
There are many people I’d like to pay tribute to for being in my life, and although I cannot name them all, you know who you are.
I want to thank the people who have enabled me to stand here before you today.
To the more than 1000 Clutha-Southland National Party members, thank you for placing trust and confidence in me.
To Bridgette Smith, Margo Hishon, Rachel Bird, Tim Shiels, Richard Soper and the rest of the executive and campaign team, your dedication to the party is energizing and the sheer distances you have to drive for meetings is remarkable. The electorate is in safe hands in your care.
To Mark Patterson, great to see you here as a List MP.
To Kate Hazlett, Andrew Hunt, Roger Bridge, Alastair Bell, president Peter Goodfellow and the rest of the regional executive and National Party board, thank you for your hard work.
To the Young Nats for the weekend campaigning in Queenstown, you all rock. I learnt a good lesson… not to start days that involve the Young Nats in Queenstown before 11am.
Grant McCullum for the phone calls offering advice, thank you.
Michelle Boag, your wise words are really appreciated.
Eric Roy, thank you for the good solid advice in a Southland way.
National’s strong result is a tribute to you all.
To the ladies who run my offices …. And life…. Rebecca, Paula and Alison thank you for keeping me going.
Sarah Dowie, Mike Woodhouse and Jacqui Dean, Team Southern let’s go!
To Donna & David, thank you for being here today.
Penny, you’re an inspiration to me and words cannot express how much your support for me throughout the selection process, campaign and since being elected has meant. I wouldn’t be able to do this without your support.
I admire the contribution you make to society in your role as a clinical psychologist and yes, you often remind me you did beat me to Parliament as you were Eric Roy’s Youth MP.
Mr Speaker, the privilege of serving in this Parliament is one that comes to very few.
I didn’t come here to eat my lunch, nor to “be” a Member of Parliament.
I came here to DO things as a Member of Parliament, to help make change that benefits all New Zealanders, and to help to enhance the lives of the people of Clutha Southland.
I will probably make mistakes in this House – I have made many already in my short life – but my respect for the Institution, my loyalty and my commitment are solid; my philosophy is honest and true, and my compassion is infinite.
I hope that everything I do in this Parliament, and in my time as a Member of this Parliament, is a tribute to those who have gone before me, those who have helped me and to those whom I love, and who love me.
Thank you Mr Speaker.