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Kia ora Stratford

Penning this piece to paper prompts me to pause and reflect on the past six months as your Member of Parliament and what I have been doing.

Saturday September 22 last year signaled a significant change for me, from life as a litigation lawyer, advocate and resident of Whanganui, to a full-time politician and MP dividing my time between Whanganui, South Taranaki and Stratford, Parliament and occasionally other parts of Aotearoa NZ as required.  

The majority of my time in the last six months has been at Parliament, listening to, observing and contributing to debates.  As an electorate MP, it is a balance between the National Party, Parliamentary business in Wellington and the need to attend to electorate meetings and being back home in our electorate. In my absence I have a great electorate team, with Sue Turahui in Hawera and Kath Weir in Stratford representing our electorate and ensuring South and Central Taranaki's interests are forefront. Paul Woodmass is my Whanganui office agent, whilst also supported by 2 part-time staff in Wellington, Tipene and Sisi.

There have been few if any dull moments in the halls of Parliament. I am a member of Māori Affairs Select Committee and regularly substitute my member colleagues on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. I have also substituted into the Justice and Transport Committees. The work on select committees is stimulating, whilst at times debate in the House and passages of law can be frustrating. The workload is heavy, demanding and the days and nights are long. The public perception of politicians having a cruisy existence is so far removed from reality. An average day starts at 6am (with pre-meeting reading preparation) first meeting at 8am with meetings or office work through til 2pm when we enter the House (debating chamber) until approximately 3pm then debates through until 10pm (we aren’t always in the House, though rostered House duty for at least 1.5 hours, then other meetings, public attendances and/or further preparation, research or other preparation for the next speeches and the ensuing day’s business. I will finally leave Parliament anywhere between 11pm – 12 midnight, then more preparatory reading til 1am then rest and rise again between 6-6.30am.  Although the days can be long, they are never dull and always stimulating.

After having attended Parihaka on 9 June 2017 for the Parihaka-Crown Reconciliation Ceremony it was most special to speak in the House a few months back in support of the Parihaka Reconciliation Bill – Te Pire Haeata ki Parihaka - the Deed of Recognition and Relationship agreement upon which the Crown and Parihaka agree to reconcile their relationship. I reflected upon the powerful poignancy and poignantly powerful experience whilst harkening and sharing in the House the words of Tim Finn’s Song for Parihaka   “….I know Te Whiti will never be defeated,

And even at the darkest hour,

His presence will remain.

I'll sing for you a song of Parihaka…

One day you'll know the truth…

They gather still, the clouds of Taranaki,

His children's children wearing the white plume…

I'll sing for you a song of Parihaka,

Come to Parihaka,

Weep for my lost brother,

The spirit of nonviolence,

Has come to fill the silence,

Come to Parihaka

The first reading of the Bill was a significant milestone for the Crown, Parihaka, Taranaki and Aotearoa NZ as a nation. We ought be reminded of the history of our community and what it was founded on.

I was at New Plymouth some 3 weeks ago with my National Party colleagues Barbara Kuriger MP King Country and Jonathon Young MP New Plymouth for the regional launch of Tapuae Roa  - The Pathway (document) to Greater Potential and Prosperity for Taranaki. Gathered with me in the room were many, including mana whenua, tangata whenua, Mayors Ross Dunlop and Neil Voltzke, Neil Holdom, their councillors and staff; Ministers Shane Jones and Andrew Little, Assoc. Minister Fletcher Tabateau. The $20 million towards regional development may have been a sweetener pre-cursor to the more bitter and prolonged taste left by the government’s announcement to halt oil and gas exploration. National Party leader Simon Bridges, MPs Barbara Kuriger, Jonathan Young, myself and other business interest parties of and linked to the Taranaki Oil and Gas Industry met to discuss the challenge presented by the governments explosive body-blow announcement.

I returned from time in Australia visiting my eldest daughter Paparangi (and building on trans-Tasman relationships) in time for ANZAC day to attend the dawn parade in Whangaui, and then a hasty retreat to attend the Stratford ANZAC day civil service where I was a guest speaker. A first of many firsts, and a privilege to address our Stratford locals in the heart of Col Malone’s home region. It was an honor to acknowledge the contribution of those who fought and lost their lives, and those who fought and lived with the experience and those who loved them. We will remember.  Always.

I look forward to sharing more insights in upcoming columns.

Go well and with care. Ma te wa, till that time.

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