Katherine Rich's Maiden Speech
I am a 6th generation New Zealander of Scottish descent. My clan is Munro.
My ancestors left London on The Mary, November 1848, and sailed into Port Chalmers, Dunedin, five months later.
They were not landed gentry, just practical people seeking a better life for themselves and their children.
They and other Scots brought with them influences that remain in our city today – a passion for education and religion, a hardy work ethic and a dour Presbyterian tone that gave plenty of scope for creative rebellion.
My ancestors played their part in developing New Zealand.
They helped to drain the soggy plains of the Taieri.
They were gold miners, farmers, teachers.
They defended New Zealand in both world wars. My great uncle Jack was 21 years old when he gave his life at Gallipoli.
We forged our place in Otago and Southland with Scottish determination, hard work and sacrifice.
We made New Zealand our home.
My generation has a strong sense of New Zealand and being New Zealanders.
Unlike the baby boomers, we do not seem to have the same identity crisis.
Britain has never been our ‘home country’ and we certainly see our country as more than a culture of rugby, racing and beer.
My generation is relaxed with diversity – our catch word is tolerance.
We see our New Zealand culture reflected loud and clear in our books, our music, our fashion, our art and our media.
And we make no apologies for who we are – there is no cultural cringe – only pride.
This is the way I feel about Dunedin and Otago.
Over Christmas I read Michael King’s book “Being Pakeha Now”.
His writing mirrored my own thinking when he said…
“that New Zealanders who are committed to this land and its people – as my family have been – are no less indigenous”.
We are all immigrants to this country after all.
While we address the abuses of the past sincerely and fairly, we must also look to the future as one country made up of many peoples.
My first memories are of growing up on the Taieri Plains.
I received my secondary education at St Hilda’s and I pay tribute to the school, my teachers and the life long friendships I made there.
I am a graduate of Otago University – New Zealand’s first and may I say, finest university.
While my peers opted for the corporates, I chose to be involved in agriculture or, as I prefer to call it, agribusiness – because agriculture is a business after all and our country’s success still comes from our ability to market our agricultural products well.
It is not an easy business but one that I have found very rewarding.
Now I am in Parliament – what are my plans, and in particular, what are my plans for Dunedin?
My first goal is to listen and to learn.
My plan for Dunedin is long term.
I think it is premature to speak of exact strategies – a little like fixing your degree major while still in the third form.
I will work hard for Dunedin and I will hold the government to account.
For each and every policy, regulation or law change – I will ask:
“What is the impact on Dunedin?”
For every restructuring or government department change – I will ask:
“What is the impact on Dunedin?”
I am not Dunedin’s lone saviour who can turn the economic tide of the drift north.
But I will do my best to guard our resources and play my part in representing our city.
My intention overall is to work hard for Dunedin – so hard in fact that someone, who has never voted National in their life, will think I have earned their vote.
Impossible? Don’t bet on it.
I will be loyal to Dunedin’s people and I am unashamedly pro-business.
Whether you are a mechanic, a dairy owner, or a business person, I will be dedicated to making doing business in this country easier.
During the campaign it concerned me that other people would often describe Dunedin as being in crisis – as a city on the point of collapse.
I have never seen Dunedin in those terms.
I see only opportunities.
We can not nostalgically romance a by-gone era when Dunedin was once the hub of New Zealand’s commercial world.
We must look at our present and to our future and be positive.
Be it in the education, tourism, forestry, manufacturing or technology our people are succeeding.
Look at our fashion industry. Dunedin labels such as Blanchet, Carlson, Nom D, to name a few are making headlines around the world.
I imagine today some would expect me to wear tartan - a fabric symbolic of Dunedin’s and my own past.
Instead I wear Carlson - as a symbol of Dunedin’s future.
Having National representation in Dunedin is relatively novel.
Dunedin North was last represented by National in 78 by Richard Walls and it was Sir James Barnes who represented Dunedin South in the fifties.
One can not talk of representation, however, without mentioning Dunedin’s greatest Scotsman – not Robbie Burns – but Sir Robin Gray. He is a great man and I will always value his advice.
I joined National because I think centre right views are modern, contemporary and just plain common sense.
I am honoured that National selected me for their team and I thank those who worked with me and on my behalf to get me to Wellington.
In particular our party Members, our leader, the President, the Divisional Chair, Ailsa Smaill, my support team, and my campaign chair Annabel Guildford.
You had faith in me and supported me at a time when I could offer nothing more than potential.
I will never forget that.
I give thanks to my family Daniel, Emma and my husband Andrew.
Don’t ever doubt that you will always come first. I intend to leave parliament with all my family relationships intact.
A maiden speech should be a statement of what a politician believes.
What do I believe? I give you my creed….
I believe that New Zealand can not increase it’s wealth by penalising wealth creators.
I believe that culture is not an elitist concept but a reflection of daily life. That Shortland Street does more to reflect contemporary New Zealand culture than Concert FM, and that our culture must be celebrated and not distorted by intellectual snobbery.
I believe that the key role of a politician is to listen rather than speak.
I believe in free trade. If New Zealand is to forge it’s place in the world we must continue to fight to bring barriers down.
I believe in public service. That changes to the public service were never aimed at introducing the worst excesses of the private sector but to give public servants decision making freedom to do a good job.
I believe my father was right when, after a successful career in the public service, he concluded that that the only useful function of the public service manual was to keep the projector at the right height.
I believe my mother is right when, after a giving much of her life to public service, she says that serving New Zealand’s people is an honourable vocation.
I believe the words ‘free market’ and ‘social justice’ are the most misused and misunderstood words in politics.
I think history will look kindly upon Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.
I believe Martin Philips is Dunedin’s Mozart, that Graeme Downes is our Byron, that the Dunedin Sound profoundly influenced the music world, and that Elvis Presley will always be king.
I have a debt to repay to Kiwi music for the hours of enjoyment and I will work strongly for its promotion.
I believe that women of my generation are complacent when we have so far to go to gain real equality and, like most examples of prejudice the solution is not in legislation but in changing attitudes.
I believe in marriage and strong family commitments and that other New Zealanders must have the freedom to choose the best scenario for their own lives.
I think good grandparents are a gift and should be shared around.
I believe that education and teaching our people to read is the most important investment a community can make.
I think Allan Duff deserved to be New Zealander of the Year for his work putting books in homes. There were no taskforces, no workshops, no Royal Commissions – he just got on and did it.
I believe that we can not have an education system which bans the f – word – failure. Failure is a fact of life. We can not eliminate it. Instead we must learn to understand that failure need not be the end but the normal pathway to success.
I believe that investment in innovation, research and development underpins our country’s economic growth. That we should value our scientists more than we do, and that our private sector R&D spending must increase.
I see agriculture not as a sunset industry but one of endless opportunity.
I believe that New Zealanders still have little idea of the importance or potential of agriculture in relation to our country’s balance of payments.
I think people who endlessly recite that we are “clean and green” do not understand the issues that face this country and the environment.
I think that once the luddite rhetoric is removed from the issue of biotechnology we will be better able to see the opportunities for New Zealand.
I believe that New Zealand needs to celebrate the success of our business people and entrepreneurs as much as our sports people.
I believe that Universities and academics do not have a monopoly on intelligent thought.
I believe that Dunedin and the Taieri is the best place to live on earth and that this is still a country where we can realise our dreams.
In business I have known success and I have known failure.
Anyone who has achieved anything understands that you never know the thrill of a win without having felt the pain of a loss.
I have learned neither to celebrate my successes nor brood over my failures – except to learn from them.
I intend to do the same in politics albeit that my mistakes will be more public and a delight to my opponents.
I assure you that no one will ever critique my performance more fiercely than myself.
I am not afraid of the battle before me. I welcome it.
I am not one to endlessly recite quotes but one quote I do live by everyday is by Eleanor Roosevelt.
She said: “do what you know in your heart to be right for you’ll be criticised anyway – damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
I intend to do what is in my heart. I will have my own thoughts – my own style.
Last week I called into the office of a well known Auckland magazine.
The editor was polite and obviously used to politicians wanting to press the flesh.
As I turned to leave he said, “You just don’t look like a politician”.
That is just the point. With MMP there is no such thing as a ‘classic politician’ any more.
I replied, “watch this space, National is branching out!”
Thank you, Mr Speaker.