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Kris Faafoi’s Maiden Speech

Kris Faafoi

Labour MP for Mana

14 December 2010

Kris Faafoi,

Member of Parliament for Mana,

Kris Faafoi’s Maiden Speech

Te Atua alofa ma te agalelei, fakafetai, fakafetai, fakafetai lahi lele

Tokelau toku atunuku pele, fakafetai, fakafetai, fakafetai lahi lele

Mana, toku kaiga i Aotearoa, malo, fakafetai

Taloha Ni Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker I am humbled, honoured and proud to join this Parliament as the Member for Mana and as a member of the Labour Caucus.

To the people of Mana – thank you.

It is an honour to serve such diverse and strong communities.

It’s also an honour to be the first Tokelauan to serve in this House of Representatives.

We are a small and proud nation – who have the privilege of being New Zealanders.

And it’s also an honour to have my parents here today.

They came to New Zealand to be Kiwis and give their children the opportunity to live the Kiwi dream.

Mum and Dad thank you – Today another dream has come true for your children.

This is not the first time I have spoken in the House of Representatives.

In 1994 as a spirited 18 year old Jim Anderton chose me as his Youth MP.

That September day I arrived not realising I had to give a speech.

Flustered and nervous I scrambled to write something on the spot.

I also recall a young – well spoken – ginger headed Youth MP from up the line.

He spoke enthusiastically and seemed comfortable in his surroundings.

16 years on Darren nothing has changed!

To say that the Mana electorate is diverse is an understatement.

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At most street corner meetings during the by-election campaign we saw different slices of life.

>From the well-established communities of Paekakariki, Cannons Creek, Titahi Bay, Pukerua Bay and Raumati.

To the emerging areas of Aotea, and the creeping growth of Whitby and Camborne.

Mana epitomises the catchphrase “it’s got it all”.

So can I say again = thank you = to the people of Mana.

Your diversity of culture, needs and opinions makes it a formidable challenge to serve as your voice in Parliament.

One that I am determined to meet.

I would like to thank my predecessor – The Honourable Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.

Winnie your devotion to Mana and hard work has made it a better place.

Can I thank you and Peter for your support for me and my family during the journey which has led me here today.

Ia Manuia.

Can I take this opportunity to also acknowledge the other candidates in the recent by-election.

In particular I would like to acknowledge the Honourable Hekia Parata and Jan Logie.

On the whole the mood on the hustings was genuinely friendly.

Mana is one of the few electorates where spontaneous Pacific Island dancing is not an uncommon happening at campaign events.

I’m sure we are all glad my former TV colleagues did not make it to many of those.

I have not taken the well-trodden path to Parliament.

Many others who sit in this house today - from right across the political spectrum - have been involved in politics from a young age. I have not.

Despite that I have been a strong advocate for social justice.

As a youngster I was given the job by my father of delivering pamphlets for Jim Anderton.

There were hundreds of them – and I read them.

My mother who worked in a factory most of her life was a proud member of the engineers union.

Dad was president of the Hoon Hay Workingmens club – where opinions flowed as freely as the beer.

I wasn’t scared to offer my opinion to those who I disagreed with even though they were older and wiser than me.

Dad was also a long time chair of the Boards of Trustees at Rowley Primary and Hillmorton High School – I had the pleasure of being the student rep with him in 1994 – this is where I learnt the value community involvement.

My parents came to New Zealand to invest in the potential for their family.

As teenagers my Mum and Dad left the tiny Tokelauan atoll of Fakaofo in the 1960’s.

My father Amosa was one of the first scholarship students to leave for New Zealand. He went from a carefree lifestyle on a tropical pacific island – to boarding school in Masterton.

Dad – I don’t know how you did it – but when I went hunting through your Wairarapa College yearbook and noticed your nickname was Romeo – it sounds like you did OK.

My mother Metita – left as part of a repatriation scheme – she didn’t know she was leaving Tokelau until the day she left.

They departed their homeland as 16 year olds – they left behind their loved ones, their culture, their religion to seek a better life in New Zealand.

Through hard work and sacrifice – and some help from the state – they toiled to make sure their hard work counted for something.

My parents wanted to ensure their three sons and daughter were raised as New Zealanders – they also wanted us to hold on to the important aspects of their way of life from the Pacific.

For me the Tokelauan custom of inati – sharing on the basis of need - is something that is ingrained in my DNA.

I saw it first hand in 2003, on my first visit to Tokelau.

The men of the village set a large net to catch fish for all the families.

It was then divided up - to ensure no family would go without.

That concept lies at the heart of Labour Party values.

It’s about the many - not the few.

I believe in strengthening communities.

I believe in equal opportunities.

I believe in strong social services.

I believe in a fair and decent living wage

I believe in building a strong economy

I know that education is the game-changer.

It provides opportunity.

It did for me.t

I grew up in an area not unlike Cannons Creek.

Rich = mainly in spirit

For me university was an extension of High School – I was expected to go.

But when I got there I didn’t enjoy it – It was foreign, I wasn’t prepared for it, and with just a handful of mates from my school studying alongside me - I bailed.

That forced me to seriously think about the future I wanted to lead –

I contemplated an internship at the factory where my mum worked- and where I worked during uni holidays – the ladies on the production line – told me not to take it.

Some of the best advice I was ever given.

There were other jobs

But instead I enrolled in a journalism course.

To get me through my studies I worked as a cleaner – you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat the cleaner.

I’m looking forward to returning to my old work place – to catch up with those who took the time to get to know me.

I also hope some of those who didn’t are there too.

Only two years ago I was sitting in this House of Representatives – upstairs there in the Press Gallery.

I saw it as a huge honour to be a Member of the Press Gallery – I still do.

Now I really have jumped the fence – the dynamic has changed - but I look forward to a cordial relationship with you all.

I’d like to acknowledge those of you who I worked with closely.

Journalism is a noble trade – it’s a pursuit of truth to inform citizens.

You act on the behalf of New Zealanders to ensure transparency and accountability.

I needed to take a step in another direction - to get closer to those values of social justice.

I found that as a journalist I was increasingly highlighting problems, issues, disputes and at times trivialities.

And after ten years - I wanted to be part of finding some solutions.

Serving the people of Mana in this Parliament is one half of achieving that goal – the other half is ensuring I work hard to make its communities grow stronger.

Those communities are diverse and so have diverse needs – but we all want the same things.

We want our workplaces to be fairer,

We want safer communities,

We want our children to have the education and opportunities to succeed in jobs we haven’t even dreamt of yet.

We want access to quality healthcare,

We want transport systems that suit us,

I want New Zealand to be an even better place for us to live and raise our children.

Our job is to keep them healthy,

Our job is to inspire and stimulate their minds through education.

Our job is to shelter them from harm,

Our job is to encourage them to speak their minds.

During the campaign I had the pleasure of calling in to see the staff and students of Postgate School.

It’s decile 4, with more than 300 children all from varying backgrounds and ethnicities.

While having a cup of tea in the staffroom, one of the teachers told me that their school band - named TMI – for “Too many Islanders” had placed second in the battle of the bands competition just the day before.

At the end of our tour as we got closer to the school gym we began to hear some music.

It sounded pretty good – I thought someone must be blasting some tunes out of a stereo.

But no – it was TMI.

They blew me away- so young and such raw talent.

It was exciting to think how far they could go if given the right guidance, investment and encouragement.

I was so impressed - I asked them to play at our Election night celebration – they were one of the treasures we discovered during the campaign.

Postgate school for me is a microcosm of the Mana electorate.

Diverse in its makeup,

We don’t rate up there as the country’s richest electorate.

The people of Mana face their own challenges – but we are a community full of exciting potential that when invested in == could grow into something amazing.

There is much to be proud of in Mana .

>From the small volunteer community organisations like Pregnancy help – who work out of an office in Cannons Creek to support new mums with the basics - like clothing, basinets, and nappies.

To large businesses like Whittakers Chocolate in Elsdon who are committed to the area, to their workers and to producing a world class product which many Kiwis will be over-indulging in this Christmas

To the Norths Rugby Club and Western Suburbs Football club – both who know what it’s like to be champions.

And the staff and students of Whitireia polytechnic.

It is an institution that not only serves its students well, but also its community.

>From its Māori and Pacific nursing courses – to its specialized driver training school – The focus on shaping students to meet local business and community needs has a lot to do with its success and I look forward to Friday’s graduation ceremony.

While there is much to be proud of there is also much to be done.

We must make our state homes in Mana better places to live and ensure there are enough to go round.

The social and health problems caused by cold damp houses in Mana and elsewhere in New Zealand needs to be addressed.

It is not good enough that Porirua East is the rheumatic fever capital of New Zealand.

We must roll up our sleeves to work with the many smart and determined local businesses, training and community organisations to find work for the 3000 people in my electorate who do not have a job.

We must find innovative ways to encourage those businesses to take on those workers – but not at the expense of fundamental worker’s rights.

We must look at ways to encourage more parents to feel comfortable about taking a larger role in their children’s education.

We need to ensure communities like Raumati have the public transport options they need, deserve and that are well overdue.

And we must also work to reduce the harm alcohol does in our community.

One of my enduring memories of the campaign will be of a father who’d had a few too many and who approached after a street corner meeting.

He said the booze was too cheap, too easy to get hold of and that he didn’t want his kids to do what he was doing.

I could see the irony – I could also see that he was right.

I am proud to be a member of a caucus and a Party that’s fundamental values are to make a commitment and investment in New Zealanders.

Can I then take this opportunity to thank the many volunteers who dedicated a lot of their time and exhausted a lot of their energy during the by-election campaign.

By elections are different beasts.

They attract a higher level of scrutiny and attention.

So to those of you who were there every day – it was a privilege working with you.

To Carol Hicks, Ferila Betham, Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, David Talbot, Litea Ah Hoi, Murdo McMillan, Andrew Beyer and Shane Laulu - words struggle to express how thankful I am for your efforts.

To Caroline Mareko and Elia Sefo – thank you - I send the love and prayers of the Labour Party family to you both.

To those of you who came from outside of Mana – thank you for your commitment.

I’d like to thank Young Labour – especially the crowd that made the long drive up from Dunedin.

Thank you to John Ryall and the team of Service and Food workers union members that gave us so much support. Meaole’s Marauders and Marlins our hoardings teams - need a special mention.

Thanks to Andrew Little for the support of the EPMU. A special mention must go to Paul Tollich, Mark James and Damon Rongotawa.

To General Secretary Chris Flatt and the Labour Party Staff we couldn’t have done it without you.

To my new caucus colleagues thank you for helping me become part of the team.

To Phil Goff.

It was a privilege to work for you – and to now be a member of your caucus.

Anyone that works with Phil knows the commitment and the passion he has for New Zealand.

Phil, thank you - and to Annette King for the support you’ve given me and my family.

And to my family thank you for your support and love.

To my parents, my wife Gina, my son George, my in laws Ted and Daille, Lance, Jenny, Jessicah, Jason, Anna, my sister Maria and the many uncles, aunties, cousins nephews and nieces who supported me – fakafetai lava.

Only those who have sat in this house know the sacrifice, joy and angst families go through to get us here.

So my thanks and love goes out to all of you, and in advance my apologies.

Last week I got a letter of congratulations from Ward Clarke – my High School Principal.

I have two vivid memories of Mr Clark.

He espoused the value of the afternoon nap.

And each year he delivered us this quote from William Penn which inspired me and which I would like to share as I come to an end -.

I expect to pass through life but once.

If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.

No reira,

Ka nui te mihi ki ngā Rangatira o Ngāti Toa

Ka nui te mihi ki ngā whauau katoa o ngā moutere

No reira tatou ma, huri noa i to tätou whare.

Rau rangatira ma, e te whänau, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.


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