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Judy Kirk - to National Party Canterbury-Westland

Judy Kirk - to National Party Canterbury-Westland

National Party President

Judy Kirk

Speech to Canterbury/Westland Regional Conference

Rutherford Hotel, Nelson

Embargoed till 8pm

It's great to be in Nick Smith country. Through sheer hard work and commitment, Nick Smith has turned the Nelson seat into a strong National constituency. I think Nick Smith is an excellent National MP.

As I have gone around the country, I have spoken of electorates that I think we can win at the next general election. Seats like Invercargill and Wellington Central. There are three seats in your region we should be interested in:

* Banks Peninsula, where David Carter has held the seat before. David is one of our most senior and experienced MPs. The seat should be ours on any kind of swing.

* I am increasingly interested in West Coast-Tasman. As you know, we held the West Coast seat only between 1990 and 1993 when Margaret Moir was a great MP. With the advent of MMP, the boundaries have been extensively altered and the seat now takes in the stunning Tasman area, which Nick cultivated so well in his six years as MP for Tasman. That area is rapidly changing, and I want to win West Coast-Tasman. We've won the party vote there before (in 1999). Let's go for the seat.

* Waimakariri is also a seat I want to win. The margin for the Labour MP is artificially high and a good solid fight in that seat could produce some results.

So, Canterbury/Westland is a region of promise and hope. And with the poll result we had last Sunday showing a consolidation of our lead, it offers us great opportunity.

As you well know, however, though winning an electorate is important, winning the party vote is of supreme importance. While we want to, and should win, at least two further Canterbury/Westland electorates, we must win the party vote.

So the first message I want to leave with you today is about the importance of the party vote. It will determine the makeup of the next Parliament. We need our MPs to be in Government, not in Opposition, and that happens only if we win the party vote.

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.

The second message I want to leave with you is that your party organisation is doing very well.

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 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. We have established 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 at this year's Annual Conference for the first time the board will report to delegates on such matters. We are in good shape.

The regions are performing very well. For example, in this region, membership this year has already passed the total of last year. 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, Roger Bridge, who is very dedicated and hard working.

The party staffing structure has been revamped. Steven Joyce is to be congratulated on his outstanding achievements. He 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, and we have shared some hard and difficult times, but we have had fun along the way.

Three full-time field officers have been appointed. In this region you have Lois Scott who has recently joined us and you are meeting her for the first time this weekend. She brings professionalism and a 'can do' attitude to the role. We have a small and dedicated team of nine across the country who are coming together as a team to benefit the whole party.

The electorates are responding to their greater responsibilities, focussing on membership, fundraising and candidate selection, and 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. 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 the party. You have three electorates who picked up this initiative. Your membership has increased by 80% on last year. The membership in some electorates is still weak, and there is still more to do at the grassroots level.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the electorate chairs. You have a most important role and I thank you all for your work. All are volunteers who are motivated by what National stands for and who want 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 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 chord 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 it at the function which some of you attended. It has met for training days in Auckland and Wellington, and another day is planned for 8 July, before the annual conference. 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, and is now a reality.

This weekend you will elect 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 60 years of age. We are also working on a Pacific Island group. Just this week a primary sector group is being organised to replace the old Agpol groups.

So, overall:

* We have made great strides in the last 12 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 this year has already exceeded the entire figure we achieved last year.

* Campaign planning is under way.

* We have achieved huge steps forward, we must be ready for any event. We are preparing relentlessly. 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 months, 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 past 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. At the LNI conference our leader spoke about a woman he met at Hawke's Bay Airport. She had just returned home after visiting her three children, all of whom now reside in Australia. She asked him to bring her children home. I look forward to being with Prime Minister Don Brash the day he meets that person again so that he can give her the many reasons why her children could be on the next flight home.

By then:

* We will have a government which will govern in the interests of all New Zealanders, not just a few.

* We will have a strong and growing economy.

* We will have first-class education and healthcare systems.

* We will live in safe communities.

* All New Zealanders will have equal opportunity.

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, this is going to be 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 brand, everything you do and say must have one objective in mind. We must win the party vote.

Ends



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