Nick’s valedictory

A great valedictory from Nick Smith that reminded us how substantive his contribution to New Zealand has been. Some extracts:

One of my first duties as a 25-year-old MP was attending the Waimea College prize-giving, where I was dutifully asked to present the academic awards. All miked up, I made the standard congratulatory comments as each student crossed the stage: “Well done. Good effort.” It started to feel tedious, so I changed my message: “What uni are you thinking of attending?” I asked an attractive young woman, “What are you doing after school?” Quick as a flash and loud enough for everyone to hear, she responded, “It depends what you had in mind, young man.” I have since kept my congrats to the safe and boring in the hundred or so prize-givings I’ve attended since.

Heh classic. I can imagine how red faced Nick went, which reminds me of another story I heard about Nick being rather embarrassed while doing official duties. This is second hand but based on my recollection of being told when it happened.

In the late 1990s as Minister of Corrections, Nick of course visited all the prisons, including Paremoremo. He was accompanied by one of his staffers, a young woman. After the main tour, it was time to visit the notorious D Block. The prison warden suggested to the staffer she not come along for this part. She asked why not and would it be unsafe. The warden assured them it was physically safe, but that the prisoners would yell out some uncouth things, especially as some may not have seen a woman in there for years.

The staffer asserted she was a professional and would accompany the Minister, as she could handle any verbal slings. So they went in and sure enough the prisoners howled and catcalled and yelled out all sorts of profanities. Mostly it all became background noise. But they got to one section where there was an extremely extremely large prisoner who yelled out very loudly something along the lines of “Would you look at the arse on that, I’d love to stick my c**k up there”. The warden turned to the staffer and apologised for the comment, noting he did warn her that such things might be said.

The prisoner then yelled out again, very loudly, “I’m not talking about her, I’m talking about the Minister” and at this the entire D Block burst into howls of laughter while the Minister turned very bright red!

Anyway back to the valedictory.

I’ve subsequently been involved in creating 17 marine reserves around New Zealand in special places like Kaikōura, Akaroa, Punakaiki, and the sub-Antarctic. I am disappointed the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, covering an area twice the landmass of New Zealand and 10 percent of our ocean, has not progressed. The commercial fishing there is negligible. The history of customary fishing is minimal. This is about New Zealand—Māori and Pākehā stepping up and doing our bit globally to better care for the world’s oceans. My original Government bill got through to the second reading stage and then, post-Election 2017, transferred to Minister Parker but has since gone nowhere. I created a further member’s bill for the sanctuary that I’ll pass on to Scott Simpson. I urge progress on either or both bills.

The Kermadecs Sanctuary should be created without further delay. It is a no brainer.

I’ve introduced 50 bills to this Parliament, and 45 have passed. Two members’ bills I’m particularly proud of are the Royal Society of New Zealand Act and the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act. Science and technology are key to improving productivity and our environment.

Few other MPs could claim to have had 45 bills passed.

I also want to challenge this Parliament, and particularly the Greens, on their reversion to biotechnology. The GE-free campaign was a con. None of the scary scenarios predicted 20 years ago have occurred. Our outdated laws are holding back opportunities for innovation on climate change and pests and weed control and also in health treatment.

Absolutely. They should follow the science, which is beyond dispute that it is safe.

There is an issue I got wrong. In 2013, I voted against gay marriage. The error is all the more personal, with my 20-year-old son being gay. I want to put on the record today my apology to New Zealand’s LGBT+ community. I pay tribute to Louisa Wall, Fran Wilde, and Amy Adams for their leadership that has improved the lives of my son and thousands of other New Zealanders. I also acknowledge Jenny Shipley’s courage as the first PM to attend a gay pride parade in 1999.

Nice personal touch.

The year I was born, he founded a small construction company. Learning to drive heavy trucks, bulldozers, and cranes was just part of my teenage life. I’m proud of the nationwide contribution my siblings have made to our nation’s infrastructure in each of their businesses, with projects like the wind turbines at Scott Base, the Arthur’s Pass viaduct, the Waikato water pipeline to Auckland, and dozens of bridges and walls around New Zealand. My brother Tim did not sleep for three days in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake so he could ensure that every one of his cranes were assisting the rescue effort. He booked to join us today but had to cancel yesterday due to doing emergency bridge repairs in Temuka. It will be good to re-join the family business, doing more and talking less. I’m looking forward to projects like the Turitea wind farm that will help us meet our Paris climate change commitments.

Nick is of course a qualified engineer,

The most notable change for the worse is how lame select committees have become today. They’ve become perfunctory rubber stamps. Worthwhile inquiries are blocked. It’s got worse with the distraction of iPhones and laptops. Select committees need revamping to be more collegial, with Government and Opposition MPs genuinely holding Government departments to account for their spending and performance.

That would be a great thing, rather than Labour MPs voting time and time again to block health officisl from being able to brief the Health Select Committee during a global pandemic!

There is one last difference I celebrate in signing off from this 53rd Parliament. This morning I woke to the birdsong of tūī from my Hill Street flat, and, on my walk here, saw a beautiful kererū in Parliament’s trees, something you would have not seen or heard 30 years ago. It’s this stunning wildlife, whether you are Māori or European, Pasifika, Asian, or whatever, that helps define who we are as New Zealanders. May the birdsong forever be heard here at Parliament and across our land, to remind us how blessed we are to call these islands home.

Go well Nick.

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