RIP Roger Kirk

April 6th, 2011 at 9:48 pm by David Farrar

Belinda McCammon at Stuff reports:

The husband of former National Party President Judy Kirk has been killed in a hunting accident on his Taupo farm this morning. …

Prime Minister John Key said he was “shocked and saddened” by Mr Kirk’s death.

“I have known Roger as long as I have known Judy, and counted him as a friend.

“Along with Judy, he was a good friend of the National Party. 

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to Roger’s family, friends and colleagues at this time.”

Roger Kirk’s step-daughter, Anna Kirk, is a councillor on the Taupo Council.

Taupo mayor, Rick Cooper, told Stuff he had spoken with Anna about her step-father’s death this afternoon.

”My heart goes out to Anna and Judy, she lost her dad last week as well so this is a double-whammy.

Words can’t express the depth and breadth of the sorrow of this tragic news. Roger was one of life’s wonderful people, and his death is a loss to everyone who knew him, but an absolute tragedy to his family.

There were lots of Nats at Parliament tonight, for Jami-Lee’s maiden speech, and everyone was stunned by Roger’s death.

My thoughts and love go out to Anna and Judy. We mourn their loss.

National Conference wrapup

August 4th, 2009 at 12:37 pm by David Farrar

I’m old enough to have attended the last victory (won Government) conference for National. It was in 1991 and was also in Christchurch. Both saw a new Government nine months or so into office, and both coping with a nasty recession.

However in 1991, the conference was not just attended by the party faithful, but there were around 8,000 protesters, close to 1,000 Police (they cancelled leave for every police officer in the entire South Island), and bomb squad sniffer dogs. While the 2009 National Conference did not attract even a sole protester despite National now being in Government. I can’t ever recall a conference by National in Government that didn’t attract protests before.

And in spring of 1901, National was at 22% in the polls – 20% behind Labour. As we head into spring 2009, National is at 56% – 25% ahead of Labour. A remarkable contrast.

So the conference was obviously a buoyant one, with delegates and MPs in good heart. It was at the Christchurch Convention Centre, and here is the view from the Crowne Plaza next door.

DPF 004

The PM’s speech was of course the highlight, and it was very good planning he used it to announce a timely and major initiative. In Government, people like a speech of substance, not just bashing the other side. In fact John did not mention the Opposition once during his speech.

Bill English gave a very sober and insightful speech on the realities of the economy and the challenges ahead. And I thought Simon Power’s speech on all the justice initiatives was first class. Also was good to see the Young Nats President Alex Mitchell use his speech not just to fellate the party, as Young Nats sometimes do, but demand action on voluntary membership of student associations and warn against any moves to increase the alcohol purchase age from 18 to 20.

What didn’t work so well was the Ministerial forums. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical, but hearing five minute brag sessions from Ministers about what they are doing turns me off. I’d rather have less Ministers with more time to talk policy in detail, than giving each Minister five minutes and time for only a couple of questions. I did enjoy joking that anyone who wanted to ask Paula Bennett a question should be obliged to first state their IRD number 🙂

Even more than that, what I personally would have preferred is a Ministerial Q&A session – say for 90 minutes. I know this was meant to be the victory conference, so maybe they may do it next year. But I think giving delegates the chance to ask questions of any and all Ministers is a good look, and gives delegates more of a chance for interaction.

Then we had the Board and Presidential elections. I’ve known the five people elected to the Board for pretty much a decade or more. They are all good people, who will do a diligent job on the Board. There are not any of them that I would not want on the Board as they bring a good mixture of skills, experience and geography.

But having said that, I am disappointed Wira Gardiner did not get on. As I had a role in the vote count, I thought it was inappropriate to “take sides” before the vote, but I do not share any of the reservations that Whale Oil had towards Wira. I’ve known Wira since his first wife was a candidate and he has been involved for at least two decades, including service as a Vice-President of the Party.

His record of achievement speaks for itself, in that he is now formally Sir Wira. Both Labour and National Governments have used him as a trouble shooter to sort out dysfunctional agencies. Someone with that governance experience would have been well placed to contribute to the Party’s Board. Plus there were also some obvious advantages in terms of relationships with the Maori Party – but that is a secondary consideration to me. Merit is what I value.

So why did Wira not get elected? Well there was a variety of reasons. Hekia, his wife, being an MP was one of them – but not really the major factor in my opinion. The main reason is that Wira was touted as a potential President, despite not being a current Board member. And it seemed there was a reasonable chance of Wira becoming President if he did get elected. By no means certain, but a reasonable chance.

What this meant, is those who did not want Wira to be President, followed Whale Oil’s advice and ranked him lowly to keep him off the Board. I have no doubt he would have been elected if he ruled out standing for President. Now I was not a delegate myself, so didn’t have to think about who I would leave off the Board if Wira got on. As I said, they are all good people – but there were only five vacancies.

Peter’s election as President was not a surprise. One press gallery journalist had quite a laugh on Sunday morning when they saw on my laptop I already had written a story announcing Peter’s election as President, and was just waiting for the official announcement to click the publish button.

I believe the number one objective for the President is to raise the money the party needs to function, and win elections. Peter’s business background should do him well in that regard and again respectivelly disagreeing with Whale, I expect Peter will remain President through until the 2011 election at least. Of course it will be up to delegates at the 2010 conference to make that decision on re-election to the Board.

Also have to mention the well deserved awarding of the Sir George Chapman trophy for service to the party went to our own blogging Homepaddock – Ele Ludemann. I won’t even mention how she was alseep in her room when they awarded her the prize 🙂


This is a hazy photo of the screen, but had to share this photo of Tauranga MP Simon Bridges forming part of the conference dinner entertainment, Simon took it all in good humour as the entertainers put him into a number of poses.

The conference saw Judy Kirk retire as President also after just under seven years in the job. This makes her the third equal longest serving President. Sir Alex McKenzie did 11 years, Sir George Chapman nine years and Sir Wilfred Sim and Ned Holt both also did seven years. I was counting votes during the farewell to Judy, but understand it was warmly given and received.

The number of people attending must be a record for a non election year. Around 700 people attended and there were 574 voting delegates. I saw many people there who hadn’t been to a conference for quite a few years.

It will be interesting to see what the mood is like in twelve months time at the 2010 conference.

The National Party Presidency

July 17th, 2009 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

At the end of the month, National will elect a new President – indirectly. With Judy Kirk retiring this is the first vacancy under the new rules, where the members elect seven Directors to the National Board, and the Directors (including the Leader and a Caucus Rep) elect one of their own as President.

This has made predicting who will win much harder, as you have to get elected to the Board first, before you even get a chance to convince your peers to make you President. And to make it harder, many of the Board nominees are of sufficient calibre to be a viable President.

Two of the seven elected Directors are part way through their term, so are guaranteed to stay on the Board. They are Roger Bridge, the Canterbury-Westland Chair, and Peter Goodfellow from Auckland – a long time party activist. Both Bridge and Goodfellow are potential Presidents, regardless of formal declarations. They would serve if asked/elected.

Leader John Key and Chief Whip Nathan Guy also get a vote. Presuming they vote as a bloc, they will be influential. Key, Guy and whomever becomes President makes three votes out of nine. They only need two more.

Incumbent Director Scott Simpson is standing again. A former Auckland Regional Chairman, he is also a Presidental candidate. Fellow incumbent Grant McCallum from Northland is also standing again and as far as I know not seeking the Presidency.

According to Whale Oil (I have not had time to check directly with HQ), there are six other canddate for the Board. They are:

  • Alastair Bell, current Northern Regional Chair
  • Dennis Catchpole from the CNI Region
  • Sir Harawira (Wira) Gardiner, former Maori Vice-President
  • Kate Hazlett, Southern Region Chair from Southland
  • Bruce Mills, Rangitikei Electorate Chair and long-time LNI Regional presence
  • Pat Seymour, East Coast Electorate Chair for many years

Of the six non incumbents, only Wira Gardiner is also a Presidential candidate Alastair is a potential candidate also but I think isn’t seeking it at this stage.

Whale Oil makes his preferences quite clear, not being a Wira fan.

However Matthew Hooton in the NBR this morning wrote:

All candidates have been thoroughly vetted, with Mr Key’s preference said to be party stalwart Wira Gardiner. Mr Key judges, correctly, that Mr Gardiner – a businessman, former senior public servant, soldier and Mr Fixit for both National and Labour governments – has the administrative backbone to prepare National to take the fight to Labour. Moreover, Mr Key sees Mr Gardiner as important to securing a third term, given the Maori Party will hold the balance of power in 2014, if not 2011.

I’m not sure whether or not Matthew is correct as to John Key’s preference. I suspect John is keeping his opinion fairly tight as he has to work with whomever gets elected.

I know reasonably well all the Board candidates (except Dennis Catchpole) and have warm friendships with many of them. I think National is fortunate to have a good range of talent to choose from.

I won’t be blogging my preferences, as I’m not a voting delegate. But also because I designed the voting software they use to count the vote, so it is generally inadvisable for me to enter the fray in case anyone suspects I have a secret sub-routine in there that will favour my preferred canddiates 🙂

Other Board Appointments

April 8th, 2009 at 10:50 am by David Farrar

Most of the focus yesterday was on Dr Cullen’s appointment. There were some other interesting ones.

The Dom Post reports that Don Brash was appointed to the Transpower Board and Judy Kirk to chair the Lotteries Commission.

Transpower is a good choice for Don. It’s the only SOE that he doesn’t believe should be sold off at some stage 🙂

The Lotteries Commission is the traditional repository for senior party officials, and Judy has six years of board chairmanship skills to bring to it so her appointment is no surprise and I would say uncontroversial. I would caution though that National should never get to the stage they did in the 1990s where every single member of the Board was a senior National official. That was an awful look.

I have blogged in some detail in the past on Government Appointments. The summary of my advice was:

  1. Never have those with political connections forming a majority or even close to a majority on a board.
  2. Unless someone was already a professional company director (or widely seen as possessing similar skills), they should not be appointed to more than a couple of boards.
  3. Appointees must bring genuine value to a board – their appointments must be based on merit, even if they have political connections.
  4. The more important a board, the more critical it is that the apointees be top class.

Another interesting aspect is that Phil Goff a couple of weeks ago, unwisely complained that National was engaging in a witch-hunt against Labour Party supporters. His whinging was because Tony Timms and Polly Schaverien were not reappointed to Meridian Energy Board.

The appointment of Cullen should show how stupid his whining was. But to further highlight how off the beam he was, I quote from Simon Power:

“Joanna Perry (Genesis), Polly Schaverien (MetService) and Ian Donald (Transpower) have been elevated to deputy chair,

So Polly Schaverien has been elevated to MetService Deputy Chair despite being a former Labour Researcher and Mallard staffer. So again where is this witch hunt Goff complained about?

Kirk confirms retirement

March 3rd, 2009 at 10:20 am by David Farrar

National Party President Judy Kirk has confirmed she will retire at National’s Annual Conference in August:

National Party President Judy Kirk has today confirmed she will step down from the position of President at the National Party’s Annual Conference in August.

“The Party is in great shape and well positioned for the future,” says Mrs Kirk.

“When I was elected President in 2002 the Party was facing very challenging times. But with the success at the 2008 General Election, I feel I have met all of my objectives in the role and that it is an appropriate time for me to step aside.

“I am very proud of my time as President and all that the Party has achieved over the last seven years, culminating in the election of the John Key National-led Government last November. I am absolutely confident that our Prime Minister and his cabinet will do a tremendous job for New Zealand.

Judy’s departure from office will be in stark contrast to Mike Williams, whose antics damaged Labour so badly during the campaign. As I blogged at the weekend:

Judy took over in 2002, and it has been a most sucessful six years under her presidency. The party vote has gone from 21% to 45%, but also the membership has soared to what I think is an 18 year high. Judy is well known for always stressing the importance of the party vote, and of members.

Judy’s six to seven years as President is the longest any President has served since I joined in 1986.

SST predicts Kirk to retire

March 1st, 2009 at 9:28 am by David Farrar

The Sunday Star-Times is tipping that National Party President Judy Kirk will retire this year.

Judy took over in 2002, and it has been a most sucessful six years under her presidency. The party vote has gone from 21% to 45%, but also the membership has soared to what I think is an 18 year high. Judy is well known for always stressing the importance of the party vote, and of members.

The article is somewhat astray in picking former president Michelle Boag as a possible replacement. Apart from any other considerations, they seem to be unaware the National Board now appoint the President, not the National Conference. Hence the most likely replacements (if Judy does retire – the article is only tipping it) is a current board member or perhaps a Regional Chair.