Rookie MPs inspired to serve
The death of a close friend is what inspired Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker to take up politics, while it was the sale of New Zealand farmland to foreign investors that inspired NZ First MP Mark Patterson to do the same.
The pair delivered their maiden speeches to Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, when both men looked at their political roots, and highlighted the challenges they will face in the upcoming parliamentary term.
Walker said his friend’s death inspired him ‘‘to make a difference’’ with his life.
Jonathan Keogh, 28, was killed by a repeat drunk driver in 2008, with Walker saying he was fortunate to have known him.
‘‘Jono’s legacy inspires me to make a difference and his name will never be forgotten.’’
Immigration was an issue of concern to his electorate, he said, and an immigrant workforce was needed by ‘‘farmers in Gore, to hospitality workers in Queenstown’’.
‘‘The Government must ensure immigration settings allow business owners in Queenstown and primary producers across Otago and Southland to have the workforce to process goods.’’
Walker thanked those who helped him on his journey to Parliament.
‘‘I hope that everything I do in this Parliament, and in my time as a member of this Parliament, is a tribute to those who have gone before me, those who have helped me and to those whom I love, and who love me.’’
Patterson said his political career could be traced back to a meeting with farmers to ‘‘discuss the dire state of the red meat sector’’.
Having previously been a staunch National supporter, the sale of Silver Fern Farms to the Chinese Government inspired a switch of allegiance to NZ First.
‘‘Only NZ First was prepared to question the wisdom of such a transaction.’’
New Zealand ownership of farmland is something he is an ‘‘unashamed proponent’’ of, and he highlighted future potential restrictions to foreign ownership.
Water quality was also on the agenda, with Patterson saying he will tell farmers what they need to hear.
‘‘I believe there is but a tissue paper between what farmers and urban people aspire in regard to water quality.’’
Urban New Zealanders didn’t realise the enormous effort by farmers going into lifting environmental performance.
Patterson gave thanks to both supporters and opponents, with particular praise for wife and campaign manager, Jude, who he said ‘‘developed a slightly unhealthy obsession with stalking Hamish Walker on Facebook’’.
‘‘Jono’s legacy inspires me to make a difference.’’ Hamish Walker
Garston School Principal Kathryn O’Loughlin and organiser Helen Innes sample some popcorn ahead of next week’s drive in movie at Athol.