English leaves big shoes to fill
Retiring National Party leader Bill English has left large shoes to fill, Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says.
Walker took over what was English’s seat, before ex-MP Todd Barclay, at the last election.
Since then, life has taken Walker down a path of unexpected turns.
Despite winning the CluthaSouthland seat convincingly, his party ended up in Opposition.
And on Tuesday his mentor announced he would relinquish the National Party leadership reins and quit politics.
Yesterday Walker reflected on a tumultuous 24 hours.
‘‘When Bill informed caucus at our weekly meeting, it was a surprise to many, including myself.
‘‘His decision was personal and not political - he wanted to be able to spend the next chapter of his life with his family.
‘‘All his kids have known is growing up in the public spotlight, and he now has the opportunity to spend more quality time with [wife] Mary and the kids.’’
The resignation wouldn’t affect how Walker did his job, he said.
However, it could mean that English ‘‘may have a little more time to catch up with me and spend more time down in CluthaSouthland’’.
‘‘It’s been an absolute privilege to be part of his team, even if just for a few months.
‘‘He added to the rich leadership in New Zealand that CluthaSouthland has produced. He helped put our great electorate on the map – especially Dipton.’’
Walker said English had been a friend as well as a mentor and ‘‘sounding board’’.
‘‘He has been great for advice over the past six months.
‘‘Not many people understand the challenges that come with representing the largest general electorate in the country. Travelling more than 60,000km annually and finishing many days around 10-11pm; every little tip helps.’’
He was confident English would not be a stranger.
‘‘Even though he is leaving parliament, he is still very passionate and cares deeply for the people down this end of the country.
‘‘Bill has made a significant contribution to Clutha-Southland and to New Zealand since 1990. He has left a lasting legacy ... and left me rather large shoes to fill. It’s been an absolute privilege to be part of his team and I wish him, Mary and the family all the very best for the future.’’