Kia ora koutou katoa, and thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today with gratitude and humility to address this assembly for the first time. As I stand here, I am mindful of the rich history and responsibility that comes with being a representative of the people. Today, I would like to share not only my journey but also the principles and vision that guide my commitment to serve New Zealand.

Thank you to those supporting me from the gallery and to those who are watching at home. Including Riki and the kids who had their first day back. Even my own kids don’t get a free pass off school today. Setting examples for the rest of the year.

Firstly, I extend my sincere congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, on your well-deserved appointment. Having been a resident in your old electorate for most of my life, I can attest to the respect and esteem you hold among our fellow Cantabrians.

I begin with a timeless truth, "All that glitters is not gold," a quote from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." While not the grandest of utterances, it has lingered with me since my 7th form English class, and I hope to explain how it may hold special relevance for those of us entrusted to make decisions for the country.

I was born and raised in Christchurch.  A beautiful city with the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west. As kids we enjoyed many days exploring the Canterbury region, swimming in the Ashley River, beach days at Spencer Park, or relaxing in the hot springs at Hanmer. I am proudly one eyed when I say Christchurch is the best city in the world. The home to the Crusaders and many New Zealand sporting greats.  A city that in the face of disasters has only strengthened the local spirit and sets the benchmark for community resilience.

Growing up, the family dinner table was a forum for spirited discussions on policies of the day and visions for New Zealand's future.

My parents, each with distinct political values, mirror the diversity of ideas in this room and throughout New Zealand. My father, William (or Bill as he is known), a proud Englishman with traditional conservative views, migrated to New Zealand in the early '80s, seeking the island paradise lifestyle working as a Sales rep and then General Manager in the food and beverage industry. In contrast, my mother, Sharyn, with a childhood marked by challenges, became a small business owner by the age of 20 when she opened her own hair salon. Both my parents have the entrepreneur knack and started their own business together in the ‘90s.

As the eldest of three children, I enjoyed a childhood filled with opportunities and support. My parents instilled in me the values of hard work, personal responsibility, and determination. These principles became the bedrock of my character. In fact my first job was at age 10 sweeping the hair off the floor at my Mums hair salon.

Now before my colleagues on the left scream child labour, don’t worry – I was paid well with a box of just juice, freddo frog chocolate and some change to play the Pac-Man machine at the fish and chip shop next door.

After graduating Burnside High School in Christchurch (Everyone from Christchurch can tune out now you know what school I attended), I embarked on a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Canterbury. These years were a time of exploration, I guess you could say I was studying a Bachelor of socialising with no distinct goals.

During my second year, a life-altering accident shattered my left wrist and hand. The forced downtime prompted a reassessment of my goals and aspirations.

Facing the challenges of recovery, I pivoted towards a career in Pharmacy, completing my Pharmacy Technician qualification. Working in community pharmacy introduced me to the diverse realities faced by individuals dealing with serious health challenges, fostering empathy and strengthening my connection to local community networks.

Marriage to Riki marked the beginning of a new chapter. Together, we made career changes, moved to Auckland and joined my family business FSN and transformed it into a national venture providing Evacuation schemes for buildings and Emergency response plans for businesses. These years, while challenging, with enormous professional development were immensely rewarding, emphasizing the importance of hard work and determination.

Now, as a parent of two children, I’ve learned the delicate balance required to navigate the demands of work, family, and community. Mum and Dad – I now also understand what it’s like to be the family taxi driver to and from rugby, cheerleading, touch, basketball, hockey….the list goes on.

The invaluable experiences gained in the pharmacy, coupled with my role as an Evacuation Consultant in the family business, exposed me to the challenges faced by New Zealanders striving to do the best for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Especially small business owners.

As an Evacuation Consultant I’ve had the privilege of being invited onto practically every worksite you can imagine, from factory floors to hotels. I’ve literally been paid to help businesses navigate the red tape that has emerged from this very room. And I accept there’s an irony that I am now standing here representing the ACT Party.

The fact is, rules and regulations are crippling innovation and growth.

The trajectory of health and safety measures has shifted from a lack of accountability to an absence of common sense. The fundamental right of every individual to work and return home safely is indisputable. However, the proliferation of pointless tick box exercises not only poses a significant financial burden on businesses but, regrettably, fails to translate into less incidents of serious harm or injuries resulting in death. Contrary to expectations, statistical data reveals a concerning uptick in serious workplace incidents and fatalities. This begs the critical question: How can this worrying trend persist, despite excessive safety protocols? It is imperative that we have the settings right to tackle those workplaces with appalling health and safety and let the others get on with it.

All that glitters is not gold. Sparkly sounding well intended legislation incorporating words such as “fair, clean, new, safe” in the title has often proved to not deliver any real meaningful change and often worse, has had unintended negative outcomes.

There are also unintended winners from regulation. Big businesses, who can easily afford to implement complex protocols, enjoy the fact that smaller would-be competitors face barriers to open and grow.

And of course, there’s my own sector. I’ve watched as others in the safety compliance industry lobby for more rules and more complexity, with the sneaking suspicion that the increased workstream isn’t an unintended cost, but instead is the whole point.

I suspect this dynamic will be familiar to other sectors, whether it be tax compliance or resource management.

But I’ve spent too much time talking to small business owners financially and psychologically battered by compliance costs, while they try to deliver vital services on the thinnest of profit margins. These people are heroes. They aren’t fat cats, they are you: butcher, hairdresser, tradie, baker, beautician.

It is within this context that I find my calling to public service. I am honoured to stand here today as a representative of the ACT Party, this Parliament’s champion of individual freedom, equal opportunity, and limited government interference.

If all that glitters is not gold, then what is gold?

For starters: education. Every child deserves an education tailored to their unique talents and interests, and it's time our education system reflected the needs and wants of our communities. We need to transform the landscape of learning, encouraging diverse educational approaches. With initiatives like Partnership Schools, we empower parents, students, edu-preneurs and Iwi to forge new educational paths.

Small businesses, the lifeblood of our economy, will excel if this House allows them. By unwinding stifling regulation, we can foster a dynamic market that positions New Zealand globally as open to business.

It's not limited to small businesses; we in this House must work to remove barriers to the growth and innovation of all enterprises. Our nation boasts a mindset akin to the number 8, but unfortunately, these talented individuals often end up exporting their skills and potential overseas. We must not suppress creativity with the attitude that politicians know best.

Capitalism is not a dirty word. It’s the sum of our creative action and a driving force behind progress. From the Lyttleton farmers’ market to Silicon Valley, capitalism enriches communities, countries, and humanity.

 Agriculture, which feeds us and so many more abroad, suffered under the previous government. My grandparents, who were dedicated dairy farmers, loved the land —it runs in my DNA. New Zealand farmers are already leading the world in sustainable farming practices. It is high time this chamber acknowledges and accords them the respect they rightfully deserve.

Localism, recognizing the strength within our communities, is part of my worldview. Wellington does not always know best. We must devolve power to local decision makers who understand the unique needs and aspirations of their communities.

Security in a complex global landscape means responsible investment in our defence forces. New Zealand must play its part, jointly with our allies, to safeguard our nation and our region, while never losing sight of diplomatic solutions to challenges in the Pacific and afar. Failure to prepare for these challenges may be our single biggest threat.

Equal opportunity and rights for all are essential. New Zealand should celebrate our full range of diversity, and ensure every citizen enjoys equal protections under the law. I strive not to assess individuals based on their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, skin colour, ethnicity, or gender, but rather on the content of their character. None of us have control over those aspects determined before birth, and addressing inequities requires seeing beyond singular factors like just race.

As we exercise our responsibility as representatives, let us remember that the decisions made in this chamber have far-reaching implications for the lives of ordinary New Zealanders. We should strive to do good, but we must first do no harm.

To my colleagues of the ACT caucus, thank you for the warm welcome and camaraderie. It is a privilege to work alongside individuals with such diverse skillsets and experiences, united in a common mission. I extend my thanks to the ACT board for their trust in me, and of course to David, whose tireless commitment to freedom inspires us all.

My heartfelt appreciation goes to my family—Mum, Dad, Riki, Mahe, and Emelia. Your support means the world to me. I am sorry Mahe and Emelia for making you stand on the corner near school and wave bright pink signs, hopefully the shame has been dusted off over the summer break. I want to remind you that while I am committed to serving the people of New Zealand, I am firstly committed to serving you. Mahe and Emelia, I hope to make you proud.

To my friends, including those present today, I extend my gratitude for your unwavering support, countless hours of engaging conversations, and boring you with political debates. Despite the divergence in our political perspectives, your steadfast support for me remains unchanged. Thank you for your flexibility with the many social cancelations I made during the campaign and am likely to make during my time as a Member of Parliament.

To the ACT party members, donors, volunteers, and support crew, your extraordinary efforts are the backbone of our party success thus far.

To the voters, I stand here today because of your trust and support. I am dedicated to representing your interests with integrity and passion.

To my fellow candidates in the Banks Peninsula electorate, I commend you for the spirited debates and collegial spirit throughout the election cycle. Congratulations to Vanessa Weenieek, who secured the seat.

To my fellow ACT candidates who did not secure a seat this time, particularly the Canterbury-based candidates—Matt, Ankita, Ben, Toni, and Ross—I wish you all the greatest success in your future endeavours.

A special acknowledgment to Toni Severin and Ben Harvey for their guidance and influence in my journey. Toni, your encouragement to become an ACT candidate has been instrumental, and Ben, thank you for steering me away from the socialists during our younger years as University of Canterbury students. Whilst we may not have always agreed on politics back then, the core libertarian ideas we discussed would find a place near to my heart as I travelled through life.

To conclude - May our shared endeavours usher in an era where New Zealand not only thrives on opportunity, but resonates with the profound wisdom shared by my 10-year-old son, Mahe, during his speech as Kairarohi Maori leader at his kura –

“He kaha ake tatou hei Kotahi. We are stronger as one.”

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