New Ran­gi­tata MP Andrew Fal­loon’s maiden speech fo­cussed on the needs of the re­gions, and made it clear he’s not here to eat his lunch.

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Thank you Mr Speaker. Con­grat­u­la­tions on your elec­tion, and con­grat­u­la­tions to your fel­low pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers. I stand here to­day the proud son of Shirley and John, and grand­son of Ron and Joan, Arthur and Eva. My fam­ily have sac­ri­ficed much for me to be here. My pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther con­tracted po­lio as a child, mak­ing farm­ing a strug­gle for my fa­ther’s fam­ily on their farm just out­side of Wai­mate. My ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther passed away at a young age, leav­ing my grand­mother to raise three daugh­ters on her own.

Gen­der equal­ity was borne out of ne­ces­sity – she did the work of two men, and raised three strong and in­de­pen­dent women. She was a for­mi­da­ble woman, and had a huge im­pact on me grow­ing up. My fa­ther spent much of my child­hood grow­ing his small busi­ness, so much of the heavy lift­ing of rais­ing my sis­ter Anna and I fell to my mother.

On top of look­ing af­ter two kids, hold­ing down a job, and be­ing in­volved in a va­ri­ety of wor­thy causes, she made the time to go to night school. She’s al­ways been an ex­am­ple to me of the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, and of life­long learn­ing.

I’m a firm be­liever that we are prod­ucts of our en­vi­ron­ment. That the peo­ple we meet, and the ex­pe­ri­ences we have shape who we be­come. In that sense, I recog­nise my priv­i­lege.

I was born and raised in Ash­bur­ton, at the north­ern end of the Ran­gi­tata elec­torate, the sort of place you wouldn’t have thought twice about let­ting your kids stay out kick­ing a ball around the lo­cal park un­til sun­set. The Ran­gi­tata elec­torate I’m proud to rep­re­sent spans much of Mid Can­ter­bury and South Can­ter­bury.

Un­like the 20 or so Auck­land MPs who have to share a pretty av­er­age rugby team, I’m spoilt with two strong Heart­land teams. In the west we have the South­ern Alps and Mt Hutt, ris­ing high above the Can­ter­bury plains be­low, with pic­turesque com­mu­ni­ties like Methven, Mount Somers, Stave­ley and May­field not far away.

Trav­el­ling south, the elec­torate cuts in to the east when you reach the Ran­gi­tata River, trac­ing the out­skirts of dis­tinct and di­verse com­mu­ni­ties like Te­muka, Orari, Winch­ester and Pleas­ant Point. Ti­maru, where my wife Rose and I live, lies at the south­ern bound­ary.

Home to a thriv­ing port, ma­jor food pro­cess­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, ar­ti­san cheese, craft beer, ex­cel­lent cof­fee and of course Caro­line Bay, the Riviera of the South. If you haven’t vis­ited yet, to quote a ques­tion­able Australian mar­ket­ing cam­paign: ‘‘where the bloody hell are ya?’’ You’ll of­ten find me at the Ran­gi­tata Huts, out­side of mo­bile phone cov­er­age (my apolo­gies in ad­vance to the Se­nior Whip), hik­ing the coastal trails, or try­ing to catch some din­ner.

Fur­ther in­land are the towns and set­tle­ments of Fair­ton, Hinds, Wakanui, Winch­more and Ash­bur­ton Forks, all sur­rounded by rich and fer­tile soils, which help make Mid and South Can­ter­bury a food bas­ket for the world.

I went to my lo­cal pri­mary, Al­len­ton School, where my mother worked in the of­fice for twenty years. Af­ter be­ing sent to the Prin­ci­pal’s of­fice just once I quickly learned that the growl­ing I’d get from him would pale in com­par­i­son to what I’d get from her.

I started study­ing eco­nom­ics in Year 10, 20 years ago, and haven’t stopped since then. I credit this, and some ex­cep­tional teachers, with en­cour­ag­ing an early in­ter­est in pol­i­tics.

More than any­one I thank Doc­tor Bruce Hard­ing, my Year 13 English teacher, for fos­ter­ing de­bate, treat­ing us like adults, and goad­ing me into ar­gu­ing with him daily. He was a staunch Al­liance sup­porter, so I’m not sure he’ll ap­pre­ci­ate my thanks, or that I’ve gone on to be­come a Na­tional Party MP.

I had a year off, pulling pints in Lon­don and back­pack­ing around Europe, and came home to study at Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Eco­nom­ics at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury. Com­ing from Ash­bur­ton, th­ese years in Christchurch, and stints in Lon­don and later Welling­ton were quite a shock. I’m still not en­tirely com­fort­able in big cities. Through­out High School and Univer­sity I was home in Ash­bur­ton every chance I got. Work­ing on dad’s cousin’s pig farm.

I learned more there than I’ve learned any­where else. The value of hard work. An en­tirely new and colour­ful vo­cab­u­lary. I’m still try­ing to un­learn it. But above all it’s given me an un­der­stand­ing of the huge im­por­tance of our pri­mary sec­tor, for jobs, for ex­ports, and for what we eat and drink.

Fol­low­ing univer­sity I came to work in this place, never ex­pect­ing I would be here nearly a decade. I worked on some fas­ci­nat­ing is­sues. Auck­land gov­er­nance re­forms. For­eign char­ter ves­sels. The In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Novo­pay.

But what I’ll re­mem­ber most are the peo­ple. My col­leagues I worked with, all of whom were here be­cause they wanted to make New Zealand a bet­ter place. Mr Speaker, tra­di­tion­ally maiden speeches are a time for new MPs to talk about what they want to achieve dur­ing their time in Par­lia­ment. I re­call once read­ing a speech by Roger Dou­glas, the ar­chi­tect of free mar­ket re­form in the fourth Labour Gov­ern­ment.

In it he called for the state-backed con­struc­tion of car­pet man­u­fac­tur­ing plants across the length and breadth of New Zealand. I can only hope my vi­sion for our coun­try stands the test of time a lit­tle more. New Zealand is a won­der­ful coun­try, but I be­lieve our best days are ahead of us.

I’m here be­cause I want to con­trib­ute to make that a real­ity. I’m not here to eat my lunch. I want to see New Zealand con­tinue to de­velop into a small, con­fi­dent, out­wardly fo­cussed coun­try. A coun­try that re­mem­bers its his­tory, but looks to the fu­ture.

A coun­try that over­comes chal­lenges rather than be­com­ing con­sumed by them. As the world grows smaller and as tech­nol­ogy ad­vances, the things that once held us back, like our dis­tance, be­come less im­por­tant, and for biose­cu­rity and our en­vi­ron­ment, be­come our strengths.

Our pop­u­la­tion, too small for a size­able do­mes­tic mar­ket, means that we have to trade. To quote one of my col­leagues – New Zealand com­pa­nies are barely out of nap­pies be­fore they have to start sell­ing off­shore.

That’s why I’m a strong sup­porter of free trade – we can­not hope to be­come pros­per­ous and suc­cess­ful as a coun­try of 4.7 mil­lion peo­ple trad­ing with our­selves, and turn­ing our back on the world. The ben­e­fits of trade are enor­mous.

Where that’s most felt, isn’t Pon­sonby or Pan­mure, Khan­dal­lah or Karori; it’s in re­gional New Zealand. On the back of the China Free Trade Agree­ment, trade with China has tripled in the last decade. Half the piz­zas in China are topped with moz­zarella from Fon­terra’s Clan­de­boye plant in my elec­torate. We now need to re­dou­ble our ef­forts in new and grow­ing mar­kets like South Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East, and do much more in Africa. I’m in­cred­i­bly ner­vous about talk of cut­ting mi­grant num­bers.

The lo­cal econ­omy is grow­ing strongly in my area. We sim­ply don’t have enough peo­ple to do the jobs that are avail­able. A large cut to work visas would stall growth in the re­gions.

We have to move away from blam­ing mi­gra­tion for the so­cial ill of the day. Mr Speaker, the world is chang­ing rapidly. It’s im­por­tant we con­tinue to of­fer an ed­u­ca­tion to our young peo­ple that will help prepare them for a fu­ture we can­not to­day imag­ine.

We have world class schools and uni­ver­si­ties. But I am con­cerned there is a no­tion preva­lent in too many of our high schools that their role is solely to train kids to go to univer­sity.

Farm­ing and the trades have to be given a far more equal weight­ing when ed­u­cat­ing our young peo­ple about their ca­reer op­tions.

Mr Speaker, we have much to be proud of. We are a vi­brant, mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety. We are ad­dress­ing past in­jus­tices. But we can’t rest. In the last year more than 600 New Zealan­ders took their own lives. There’s no sin­gle an­swer, no sil­ver bul­let to fix­ing that.

I was pleased that the last Gov­ern­ment set aside $100 mil­lion as part of Bud­get 2017 to in­ves­ti­gate new ap­proaches – we have to ac­cept what we have now isn’t work­ing.

When 600 of our fel­low Ki­wis are dy­ing at their own hands we have to say this is un­ac­cept­able. When I was in my late teens and early twen­ties three of my best friends took their own lives in tragic cir­cum­stances.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t do more for them. It’s a feel­ing that doesn’t go away. I was for­tu­nate that it was about this time, when I was at Univer­sity, I met some­one who helped me through it. I wouldn’t be here with­out her.

Her name is Rose, and the best mo­ment of my life was when she agreed to marry me. Mr Speaker, be­fore I end I have a few peo­ple to ac­knowl­edge. No cam­paign is run by one per­son and the most suc­cess­ful cam­paigns have too many peo­ple to thank. But there are a num­ber of peo­ple with­out whom this wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble.

My fam­ily are here in the Gallery to­day, and they’ve been noth­ing but sup­port­ive, de­spite I think a healthy de­gree of scep­ti­cism about pol­i­tics and politi­cians.

Thank you for your sup­port, and for lis­ten­ing to me prat­tle on for years about stuff you couldn’t care less about.

Thank you to my cam­paign team: Jess Letham, Mark Old­field, John Hunt, Colin Tru­man, John Driscoll and Al­lan Booth. My cam­paign chair Ali­son Driscoll, still not a sin­gle dis­agree­ment in seven months, a pretty re­mark­able achieve­ment, par­tic­u­larly for me. Fel­low Ran­gi­tata can­di­dates: Olly, Jo, Tom and Mojo; thank you for a good na­tured cam­paign. I learned some­thing from all of you.

It’s great to see Jo here as a Labour list MP, but in­cred­i­bly sad that Mojo Mathers wasn’t high enough on the Greens’ list to re­turn. To my pre­de­ces­sor the Hon Jo Good­hew. Thank you for be­ing a con­stant source of ad­vice and guid­ance, and for the job you did as our lo­cal MP for many years. Fi­nally, to my won­der­ful wife Rose.

Thank you for join­ing me on an­other jour­ney.

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