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Judy Kirk Speech National Party President

Speech: Kirk - Address to National Party Lower North Island Regional Conference

Judy Kirk National Party President

Address to National Party Lower North Island Regional Conference Madam Chair, Dr Don Brash, Members of Parliament, Board of Directors, General Manager Steven Joyce, electorate chairs and members of the National Party. I am delighted to be given the last word today. It is an opportunity to give a few key messages to you before you return to your electorates.

Thank you for your very warm welcome to the Hawke's Bay, an area that I am very connected to. Napier is an excellent venue for your annual conference. I was born in Northern Hawke's Bay, and my secondary education was in Havelock North. My mother was born in Napier, my father in Hastings, and they reside in Havelock North. The Hawke's Bay has nearly everything. It is the fruit bowl of New Zealand, a tourism Mecca, a wine industry that is known world wide, an arts and cultural centre and fabulous weather. But there is one thing missing.... There is no National MP. This is unacceptable. Ladies and Gentleman, this should be National country.

Let me take you on a whirlwind tour of the Lower North Island Region. In the 1990 election National held every seat on the East Coast except Napier. Now we have none. This area has produced some of our greatest politicians, like the former Prime Minister Sir Keith Holyoake; Deputy Leaders Wyatt Creech and Duncan MacIntyre; a Speaker, the late Sir Richard Harrison; and former cabinet ministers John Falloon and Ben Couch.

And you delegates from the Greater Wellington seats... Who was the last National cabinet minister from your area? Hugh Templeton - 20 years ago - a generation ago. Not acceptable is it? This is an area that had Hugh, Bill Young, Sir Jack Marshall and others in cabinet. Now there is no one in Parliament.

Now to the other area, the centre and West Coast of the Region.

You have two MP's, Simon and Roger in an area that has produced a Speaker (Sir Roy Jack), cabinet ministers like Dennis Marshall, Venn Young, Peter Gresham, Norman Shelton, David Thomson, Roger Sowry himself, and of course Geoff Thompson.

I make a commitment. No stone will be left unturned to ensure greater representation in the Parliament from the Lower North Island Region. I need you to make the same commitment.

The first message I want to leave with you today is about the importance of the Party Vote. The Party Vote will determine the make up of the next Parliament.

It is the Party Vote we must win. It is the Party vote that is important It is the Party Vote that we must vigorously campaign for.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying; the Electorate Vote is also important and we will run strong constituency campaigns. As I have already said, we need to win more electorate seats. But we need our MP's to be in Government, not Opposition, and that will only happen if we win the Party Vote.

When I became President, I had a number of aims:
* Help bring about change to the constitutional structure of the Party to make it a more effective political machine.
* Change the culture within the Party.
* Establish a Candidates' College so that potential candidates are better prepared for the rigours of politics.
* To bring the organisational and parliamentary wings closer together and involve the organisation in policy formulation.
* To recognise the value of the regional and electorate chairs and to strengthen the organisation.

Party Structure The first of the objectives was achieved with the Constitutional Conference on 12th April 2003 which greatly improved the structure of the Party.

The governance and management of the organisation is now clearly defined. This last year has involved bedding down the many changes.

Importantly, the new Board is up and running. It is working far more effectively than the former National Management Board. Rather than being bogged down with management detail, the new Board is able to adapt a more strategic approach to the operations of the Party.

I acknowledge the members of the Board who have had to make some tough decisions. They are an effective team, and it is a privilege to chair a group of such dedicated and talented people. Another idea I had as President was the establishment of an audit committee, ably chaired by Roger Bridge and assisted by Alan Towers and CNI's David Bennett.

They keep a keen eye on the Party finances and indeed at this year's Annual Conference for the first time, the Board will report to delegates on such matters. We are in good shape. There is a new role of the regions, which are performing very well. For example, in this region your membership this year has already passed the total of last year. Every electorate has paid, or is up to date with their financial responsibilities. Some electorates that have struggled for years have met all their obligations. This is outstanding!

It has not been an easy transition. Revolutionary changes take time to be accepted and there are still issues to work through. By and large, however, the new structure is working very well. The regional chairs play an important role. I pay tribute to your regional chair, Patricia Morrison, and thank her for the work she has put into this region - a huge workload.

This year they will be chairing candidate selections and preparing electorates for the campaign. Their role has evolved into one of providing support and advocacy for their electorates.

The Party staffing structure has been revamped. Steven Joyce is to be congratulated on his outstanding achievements.

Steven is now able to concentrate on the big picture and is supported by our new Operations Manager, Megan Campbell. The office is becoming far more responsive to the needs of electorates and the regions.

The support, advice and friendship from Steven is invaluable and appreciated. The pace has been fast, we have shared some hard and difficult times but had fun along the way.

Three full-time field officers have been appointed. We have a small and dedicated team of nine across the country who are dedicated and coming together as a team to benefit the whole Party. Your region has the great advantage with the main office situated in Wellington.

The electorates are responding to their greater responsibilities, focussing on membership, fundraising and candidate selection, lifting the profile of the national brand at the grass roots.

The importance of electorates was highlighted by the recent meeting at Taupo of the electorate chairs where there was a very good attendance. We talked about campaigning, fundraising, the candidates' selection process, and Kick Start (our new direct marketing membership initiative) which is having results beyond all expectations and policy development.

The Kick Start programme has benefited this region. When Sir George Chapman was President, this was the Party's strongest region. In 2002, it was the weakest region. Today you are the third strongest region.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the electorate chairs. You have a most important role and I thank you all for your work. All volunteers who are motivated by what National stands for and wanting a National-led government.

The Party's Culture and Leadership My second aim was to change the culture of the organisation. We all must work as one team, back ourselves and each other. Everyone must row, if the boat is to go. Unity and discipline are essential if we are to be successful.

We are a united team led by Dr Don Brash. Our leader is a skilled communicator. He is able to articulate a clear and precise message. As one political commentator noted:

"Don Brash has struck a cord with many, now everybody knows his name. He has brought an elegant, business savvy into New Zealand politics". Don Brash is decisive, a strong leader, honest and caring. He has a keen sense of humour. He has a vision for New Zealand's future.

The new Candidates' College The Candidates' College was launched in Parliament last November. I invited Sir George Chapman, to open the College at the function which some of you attended.

It has met for training days in Auckland and Wellington. Sixty four potential candidates have attended the College.

I hope there will be a contest in every open electorate this year. Competition is the lifeblood of the Party.

At the moment, I cannot think of one major selection which will not be contested by a number of people, any one of whom would be a good candidate. To see this new initiative in action is very exciting.

Strong and well prepared candidates are important in our plan. We could be looking at the biggest intake for many years.

I am very grateful to Don, the Caucus, previous leaders and MPs for their support and help with the college. It has been a real highlight for me, an idea I brought forward, now a reality.

This weekend you have elected your list ranking representatives to sit on this very important committee. I want to bring this committee together following the Annual Conference. The strategy of how we present our list for the forthcoming election is crucial.

Policy The policy processes are starting to work well.

The Policy Consultation Committee meets monthly. The Chair, Chris Finlayson is now attending the Caucus Policy Committee.

In addition there have been a number of excellent pieces of work - I refer in particular to Katherine Rich's paper on Welfare. In addition, Policy Advisory Groups are being established. The Board recently approved the Classic Liberal Advisory Group, and Asian Policy Advisory Group. Bernadine Pool in LNI is working to develop a group which addresses the needs and concerns of our citizens over sixty years of age. Just this week I had discussions regarding the setting up of a Pacific Island Advisory Group.

Conclusion So generally overall:
* We have made great strides in the last twelve months.
* There has been a sea change in the way we are viewed; we are now seen as a major political party with a credible claim to Government in 2005.
* Membership has already doubled from the entire figure of last year. * Campaign planning is under way.
* We have achieved huge steps forward, we must be ready for any event.

I am pleased to see the positive change, not just for the Leader and the MPs, but particularly for you the loyal delegates and observers who have stayed with the Party through the tough times and are now starting to see the promise of the good times.

As I said at last year's Regional Conferences, all the changes needing to be made would not be achieved in the first month or in the first three month or even the first six months.

But I said we had to make a start. All delegates, observers and party members took that on board, knuckled down and the results are obvious for all to see. We have made greater progress in the last 12 months than one could have believed possible.

There is still a lot to do. The polls look good, but we must not be complacent. It will be a tough competition. The foundations are in place, they are firm and strong, the building programme well planned. Don Brash and the team are ready for the battle ahead and a win in 2005.

The future The next election will substantially influence the sort of nation New Zealand becomes. National's policies will build a better future for all New Zealanders. I want to be with Don Brash when he meets that woman who said "bring my children home" so that he can tell her about the next National Government's achievements.

We have got a strong economy We have a first class education and healthcare system We live in safe communities and All New Zealanders have equal opportunity

I ask these questions:- -

Will National be the driving force in the next Government? -

Answer : Yes

- Will Don Brash be Prime Minister next year? - -

Answer : Yes

Delegates and Observers, thank you for all you do for our great Party. I am always mindful of your contribution. I am very proud to be the 16th President of the National Party.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have had an enjoyable weekend in a great part of New Zealand. In the months ahead, as you work in your electorates and as you promote the National Party, everything you do and say must have one objective in mind. We must win the Party vote.

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