Tēnā koutou katoa.
Ko Tainui Te Waka.
Ko Waikato Te Awa.
Ko Ngati Maniapoto Te Iwi.
Ko Ngati Huiao Te Hapu.
Ko Kakepuku Te Maunga.
Ko Te Kauae Te Marae.
Ko Michael Bidois Toku Papa.
No Hangatiki Toku Papa.
Ko Leah Harding-Bennett Toku Mama.
No Hokianga Toku Mama.
Ko Dan Bidois Ahau.
Tena Koutou Katoa.
Mr Speaker. Today I rise in this House for the first time to speak on behalf of the people of Northcote.
I’m here as the result of a by-election that was held on the 9th of June after the departure of the Hon Dr. Jonathan Coleman, a man who held this seat for nearly 13 years, with 9 of those years as a Cabinet Minister. On behalf of the people of Northcote, I wish to thank Jonathan for his service to the Northcote electorate.
I wish to thank the people of Northcote for their support and confidence in me, it’s truly an honour to be your representative in this House.
To the National Party, in particular Party President Peter Goodfellow, our Leader Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett, Alastair Bell, Andrew Hunt, the Young Nats, the delegates who chose me as their candidate, all of the volunteers and staff who helped out on our campaign, and the Northcote Electorate Executive – thank you for your dedication, encouragement, and support, I am indebted to you all.
To retiring Northcote electorate executive member, Gavin Cook, thank you for your service to our party over the past 40 plus years and for your wise counsel offered to me over the past few months. And to my family, mum, dad, Wayne, Fleur, Chontelle and Rob, thank you for your on-going support of my often crazy and unconventional endeavours.
Northcote is the hidden gem of Auckland, and an area I couldn’t be more proud to represent, with its diversity, collective aspirations, entrepreneurial spirit and strong sense of community identity.
What began as a place with only a handful of settlers in the 1800s, developed into a fast growing, ambitious and compact electorate, especially after the Auckland Harbour Bridge opened in 1959. Today, the tight knit communities of Birkenhead, Glenfield, Beach Haven, Birkdale, Chatswood, Hillcrest and Northcote continue to thrive.
The proximity of Northcote to Downtown Auckland attracts many young professionals and aspirational families to the electorate. And it’s a diverse electorate in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic groups, professions and generations. Yet despite the diversity, the people of Northcote share some common threads, they are hardworking, entrepreneurial and family orientated.
Like many other parts of Auckland, Northcote has its fair share of challenges. With the scale and pace of growth in the North Shore over the past 20 years and in the foreseeable future, investments in key infrastructure such as public transport, schools, healthcare services, car parks, and sporting grounds have yet to match this growth.
Congestion is a big problem for many in my area, and the apex of this congestion is Onewa Road, the main arterial route to the CBD. I am committed to ensuring Northcote gets its fair share of investment to manage these challenges, and to being vocal on all matters local and national which impact the people of Northcote.
Mr. Speaker, I come from a place far removed from this House, both literally and figuratively. At 9 months old, I was lucky enough to be adopted into a humble, working class family.
My parents are small business owners. My dad drives trucks and my mum is a saleswoman. They didn’t grow up with much, yet they made a better life for themselves through hard work, personal responsibility and private enterprise.
Two women shaped my life views in particular. My late grandmother, Millicent and my mother, Leah. Millicent grew up poor in Hokianga and was widowed at 35 with two young daughters, after her husband Bill Harding died from an injury that he sustained during the Second World War. A devout catholic, she never dated or remarried, instead dedicating the next 60 years of her life to raise her two children and helping to raise my siblings and I.
My interest in politics stems from Millie. She was a staunch National Party supporter ever since her local MP, Sir Rob Muldoon, helped her into a State House in Glenn Innes in the 1960s. Surviving on only a modest widow’s pension, having access to a State House meant that she could dedicate herself full-time to raising her two kids, and later helping to raise my sisters and I.
She was a person of deep contrasts, for example even though she was a National supporter, she did have a soft spot for Winston. I guess none of us are perfect. And even though she was poor, Maori, and doing it rough as a widowed mum, she believed in personal responsibility and freedom of choice.
She believed in a hand up, not a hand out. Mr Speaker, her values became my values and I know she would be most proud to see her grandson serve in the House today.
The other woman was my mother, Leah, who attended boarding school in the electorate I now represent. My mum faced her fair share of challenges from the moment she adopted me, from taking care of a sick baby, later dealing with a troubled and misbehaving kid, watching her son battle cancer, struggling with her separation and raising 3 children.
I’m inspired by the grit and determination my mum displayed to rise above her challenges and provide for her family. And she worked hard, at one stage holding down 8 different jobs in order to make ends meet.
My mother’s story is indicative of the promise of living here in New Zealand, that anyone can get ahead and make a better life for themselves and their family if they work hard and have the determination to follow through.
Despite this loving family, I was far from a role model growing up. I spent most of my high school years either in detention, chasing girls, or getting into mischief. I was probably on the pathway to prison if it weren’t for an intervention my high school principal made which changed my life forever.
My principal convinced a local butcher next to my high school to take me on as a butcher’s apprentice. Through this job, I developed discipline, customer service skills, discovered the joys of earning a paycheque, and later discovered my passion for economics.
After completing a butcher’s apprenticeship, I was mentored by a senior leader of Woolworths to go to university, ending up with three bachelor’s degrees in economics, marketing and commerce from the University of Auckland, before later completing a fourth degree in public policy at Harvard University.
That a high school dropout can later graduate with a Masters degree from Harvard speaks to the promise of growing up in a free and equitable country like New Zealand. Where any kid, no matter where they come from, whatever their skin colour, or which school they attend, can succeed if they have the determination, aspiration and work ethic to do so.
New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where this story is even possible, and it’s this aspect of our society which I seek to uphold and strengthen.
An upwardly mobile society based on merit and equal opportunity is the endeavour that brings me to this House today. Where every Kiwi kid has the opportunity to reach their potential and fulfil their god given talents. Where every Kiwi kid receives a great start in life through education, and climbs ahead through private enterprise.
Like all of you, I’m here because I want to improve the lives of New Zealanders and to make a difference to the social, economic and environmental future of this great nation. But New Zealand’s future success depends first and foremost on creating a vibrant, dynamic and a knowledge-based economy. For it is only through a strong economy that we are afforded the opportunity to strengthen our environment and address our social issues.
I have always believed in the power of free and competitive enterprise to transform lives and lift all of our communities to a better place in life. And it’s worked for me. From working for $6 an hour as a butchers apprentice, then as a strategy consultant with Deloitte, and as an economist at the OECD, and most recently as a senior executive for Foodstuffs. It’s also worked for my family.
From seeing my parents work their guts out to get ahead and from seeing my older sister’s struggle from pay cheque to pay cheque. Through my life and through the life of my family, I have witnessed the engine of economic growth in our society and its ability to reward hard work, incentivise people, and ultimately improve lives.
Yes, saving rates, interest rates, unemployment rates, real GDP growth rates and bond yields are all important indicators of economic progress at the macro level. But more importantly, a strong economy is about individuals.
The young child who’s employed and earning money instead of roaming the streets looking for trouble. The father who takes pride in the fact he is providing for his family and ends each day with a sense of accomplishment. The disabled person who feels included in society and that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. And the single mother, who feels empowered, free and independent and is able to provide for her children.
I’m proud to be a member of the National Party, a Party that backs Kiwi businesses and strives for a strong economy first and foremost, where everyone can get ahead and improve their lot in life. A Party that favours free, competitive enterprise where government sets the rules of play and then gets out of the way.
My time overseas, living and working in America, France, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Malaysia, gave me an immense appreciation for having grown up in this country. It made me proud to call myself a New Zealander.
It also gave me the opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges this great nation faces in the coming years. Climate change. Rapid advances in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. A population that’s getting older and living longer. A shifting centre of geopolitical and economic power from the West to the East. And accelerating globalisation calling into question the role of the nation state.
Responding effectively to these challenges and opportunities will determine whether our great nation endures or declines, prospers or shrinks. This is going to be a monumental task, but I relish the opportunity to play a small part of this effort.
I’m positive that New Zealand can rise to the challenges we face and will prosper well into the next century, provided we take a long term perspective to policy development and effectively capitalise on the natural advantages we have as a nation.
We are small enough to be nimble and agile in our policy responses. We are not straddled by the chains of history we are young and forward looking as a nation. We are enterprising, innovative and creative as a culture. We dare to dream big and we are not afraid of rolling up our sleeves and mucking in.
I’m immensely proud to be a New Zealander and to call this place my home. I’m proud to represent the people of Northcote in this House in what is the best place in Auckland to live and raise a family. And I’m proud to be a member of a party that unashamedly backs Kiwi businesses and entrepreneurs to show us the pathway to a better life.
There’s a Maori proverb that says “the person with a narrow vision sees a narrow horizon, while the person with a wide vision sees a wide horizon”.
The horizon I see for New Zealand is positive, full of economic opportunities for our kids and their kids, and prosperous.
It’s my purpose in this House to ensure that the people of Northcote are included in this horizon, and that our nation’s actions reflect these aspirations.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.