Not many people can say that they ‘grew up’ in Parliament but I literally did. I had only just turned 26 (still feeling 25) when on October 12, 1996, I was sent to Parliament as a Labour list member in the first cohort of MPs elected under the Mixed Member Proportional system.
There have been highs and lows and several challenges that have shaped my political character and added to my toolkit. During my time serving the electorate, the name has changed several times from Te Tai Hauaauru, Tainui and now Hauraki-Waikato – but the aspirations of the people and communities have remained constant.
I am proud to say that I serve an electorate where people want a fair deal and a good life. The hope has always been around those ‘bread and butter issues’ a good job, opportunities for the kids via a good education, affordable quality healthcare and a place to call home. There have always been bigger more defining issues that shape the identity of Maori electorates like mine like the resolution of Treaty claims and partnering the aspirations of the nation through Maori development.
The most challenging time was Foreshore and Seabed, and it would be incomplete not to pause and reflect on the many lessons for Labour. While I weathered that storm, I became more resolute that Labour should not repeat the mistakes of the past. That’s why I continue to be apart of a team who wants to change the government and tackle the gaping holes between the ‘haves and have nots’. In a country like ours, poverty and inequality must be addressed and reversed so our nation can continue to be a great place to live and grow up in.
I always have and will continue to help those who need it most. I can’t boast a plethora of Private Members Bills – several of mine didn’t make it through caucus or Parliament. But I have had the privilege in the last term of the Helen Clark Government serving as a cabinet minister. That opportunity was seminal to my growth as a politician.
Lastly, I have lost many loved family members, supporters and friends. Their untiring support for me has always been appreciated. To my team, friends, supporters and those who continue to place faith in me – this milestone of twenty years in Parliament is in recognition of your efforts.