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Lee Confirms Decision To Retire From Parliament

17 June 2002

It is no secret that I considered at the commencement of this Parliamentary term that this was likely to be my final term in the House.

I have decided not to stand again for Parliament in the July 27 election.

After holding public office continuously - at local then central government level - for nearly 20 years, I have opted to spend more time with my family and to have some time that is my own.

I intend to serve out the remainder of my current term as Minister of Conservation, Minister of Local Government and Associate Minister of Maori Affairs.

I will also make myself available for any subsequent caretaker role, if needed, to ensure an orderly transition to my Cabinet successor or successors in the incoming administration.

This has been a difficult decision to make.

I have had to weigh my public responsibilities to the people who voted for me, and the policies I have always advocated and have been supporting in government, against my private responsibilities to my family.

I have advised my leader Hon Jim Anderton and the Prime Minister Rt Hon Helen Clark of my decision, as well as my staff and my Auckland Central electorate campaign team.

I welcome their support for the choice that I have made and their kind words and best wishes for my future.

Some of my supporters wanted me to contest Auckland Central again.

But I do not wish to split the centre-left vote in this electorate.

In my view, a split centre-left vote creates an opportunity for a centre-right candidate to come through the middle, and capture the seat from the incumbent.

No one should take the Auckland Central result for granted. It should never be regarded as a 'safe seat'.

Despite what the public opinion polls are saying about support for the major parties, the only poll that counts is the one taken through the ballot box on July 27.

I did consider a suggestion from some supporters that I stand only as a List Candidate in Auckland Central. I rejected that option. If I was to stand, my supporters would be entitled to my total commitment. That would have required campaigning for the constituency as well as any votes for the party that I would have represented.

Sadly, that party will not be the Alliance, for reasons I indicated earlier this year.

The Alliance split threw up important factors that I had to consider such as stability of the government itself, and my pledged support for Hon Jim Anderton as a member of the team he brought with him into Parliament as result of his election in Wigram.

I note that the Prime Minister recently stated that she wants to include Jim in her next Cabinet provided that he retains his electorate. I believe it is critical that his important work on employment and regional development continues.

Jim and the team that now stands with him should be highly valued as the stable coalition partner in government. I believe the need for me to remain in office in support of Jim and his team has now passed, and this obviously presents an opportunity for rejuvenation in the position I am relinquishing.

In the Hon Jim Anderton, Hon Matt Robson, Grant Gillon, John Wright and others, there will be a fine team committed to building on all the initiatives that have made the Clark-Anderton coalition government one of the most popular administrations of recent years.

They have my best wishes and full support as they embark on their campaign for re-election, and the election of their supporting candidates.

It is appropriate to acknowledge at this time my political mentor and the founder of Mana Motuhake the political party I have belonged to for the past 20 years, Hon Matiu Rata.

The policies that he prescribed remain as relevant for my own people today as they did 20 years ago. His vision made it possible for me to become a member of the House of Representatives, to advocate the right of our people to prescribe their own destiny. The capacity-building policies of this government have assisted with making progress towards this goal.

I thank all those who have supported me over the years, on Waiheke Island and within Auckland City generally, in the Auckland Central electorate and throughout New Zealand. I also want to pay tribute to the chief executives and the public servants in the departments that I have been responsible for.

And I want to acknowledge the help over the years of all the parliamentary staff, including the Messengers, Ministerial drivers, Security and reception people, and Bellamys' staff.

I leave Parliament as I came in, as a person committed to a better society for all New Zealanders, a committed conservationist, and resolute in my aspirations for the advancement of my own Maori people.


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