Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour's newest MP Poto Williams gives maiden speech

Poto Williams won the Christchurch East byelection last year, and gave her maiden speech today.
Poto Williams won the Christchurch East byelection last year, and gave her maiden speech today.

Labour's newest MP, Poto Williams, has given her maiden speech to Parliament, speaking of her commitment to addressing child abuse and the importance of rebuilding the Christchurch community she represents.

Ms Williams was elected in last year's Christchurch East byelection after the resignation of the electorate's longstanding MP Lianne Dalziel. Ms Dalziel successfully contested the Christchurch Mayoralty.

Ms Williams spoke about the importance of addressing child abuse and neglect, saying her parents had moved to New Zealand from the Cook Islands in the 1950s to "have a better life."

She said she had had a happy childhood and although they did not have a lot, her father always had a job and they owned their own home.

"But time has changed in New Zealand. By the time I started working in the social services sector, I realised some families didn't have it so good."

She said the death of 4-year-old James Whakaruru in 1999 to child abuse by his mother's partner had deeply affected her.

"His story, like no other, left me with a deep sadness about the lives many of our children live. I return to him often to honour his short and tragic life and to reaffirm my commitment to our children."

"A decent respectful society is one which shows the highest level of care for its most vulnerable and marginalised citizens."

She said if James' mother had had proper support, training and resources, his fate could have different. "What of James' outcomes then? He could be a young man embarking on training, work or study. We will never know, but surely it would have tilted the odds more in his favour."

Ms Williams also spoke about the ongoing problems facing her Christchurch East electorate after the earthquakes. She said extraordinary times required extraordinary measures, but the people who were affected should be more involved in making decisions on the future.

She paid a tribute to Ms Dalziel, thanking her for the opportunity she was given and said she would champion affordable housing, democratic local governance and speeding up the processes which were hindering the rebuild.

She said it was also an important day for the Cook Island community. National MP Alfred Ngaro is also a Cook Islander, but Ms Williams is the first Cook Island woman in Parliament.

New National List MP Jo Hayes also delivered her maiden speech, telling Parliament about her time as a solo mother with a young son on the domestic purposes benefit, aged 22.

She said she had grown up in Ekatahuna and then Rangiwahia. "Both my parents dedicated their lives to ensuring we had kai on our table, clothes on our backs and roof over our heads. We were poor in money, yet rich in love and support for each other."

She said her father had instilled a strong work ethic in his children. However, the turning point in her life was after she left home. She found herself a solo mother on the domestic purposes benefit with few educational qualifications.

"It was a fright that changed me forever and I adopted the saying 'if it has to be, then it's up to me.'

She began to re-educate herself and then met her "soul mate"- Pat. Now a grandmother, she said she still had a lot she wanted to do.

"As you can see, I come to Parliament having walked many roads and learned many lessons yet still I want more, because I haven't finished yet."

Mrs Hayes stood for National in the Dunedin South electorate in 2011 and said she was proud that National won the party vote in the electorate for the first time that year.

Mrs Hayes entered Parliament following the resignation of Katrina Shanks, who left to become the chief executive of the Funeral Directors' Association.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 03 Sep 2014 08:59:30 Processing Time: 484ms