The first issue Tukituki MP Craig Foss campaigned on was apple access to Australia, riding on a protest steam train to Parliament with growers and fellow National MP-wannabe Chris Tremain.

"People still thank us for what we did," Mr Foss said.

"I was dressed as McKechnie and Chris as Chappell, from the underarm bowling. We bowled so many apples down Lambton Quay. It was a great metaphor for a very unfair transtasman issue."

Mr Foss' 2002 campaign was unsuccessful because "we didn't quite know what we were doing" but the 2005 election saw them both beat Labour incumbents.


A Hawke's Bay Today editorial said Mr Foss was young and enthusiastic with "as many Toyota truck-driving followers as the Taliban".

In 2005 Mr Foss won by 2800 votes and his majority peaked in 2011, coming back to a cushion of 6500 in 2014.

Critics have said he is a nice guy but an ineffective MP, especially Labour's Tukituki candidate Anna Lorck.

In the 2014 campaign she repeatedly asked what he had done for the electorate. His reply included working for the region as part of "Team National Government" and aiding the government's broadband roll-out was among of his accomplishments.

"I didn't dig the holes in the ground but we enabled fibre to be rolled out across the country, which enabled Kiwibank to consider Hastings for its service centre," he said.

Ensuring Hawke's Bay was in every Government conversation was "an understated achievement".

"Unless someone is in Parliament championing Hawke's Bay, no one is. History shows we often fall off the radar.

"You have heard us in the past talking of a united arrowhead for Hawke's Bay representation, having our mayors and chairs lined up making a case for something, like we did for the New Zealand Cycle Trail."


Recent projects he found rewarding included the extension of the Hawke's Bay Airport runway, bumping Hawke's Bay up the regional queue for the government-instigated Matariki Regional Economic Development Strategy, excluding Hawke's Bay fruit from changes to anti-dumping legislation and negotiating the business-assistance package after the Havelock North campylobacter crisis.

"Getting the business package for the water crisis in Havelock North, getting the tax deferral, getting the $100,000, doesn't happen if you are ineffectual.

"I was around that Cabinet table arguing big time and got wins for us.

"My weakness is I tend not to bang my own drum because I am an absolute team player. And we get the result."

He said he also went into bat for Hawke's Bay when the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant was mooted.

"I argued very hard because that package was originally designed quite differently. I had the regions included in it."


He said to articulate those kinds of wins for Hawke's Bay on the street was "quite hard".

"I know I have, every day, made an effort to make sure Hawke's Bay is in the discussion, or we get our fair shot of what central government is delivering."

He also lists the decision to not relocate a kura school to Havelock North as a satisfying win.

The school was seen by some in the Hastings suburb as preventing a much-needed new primary school from being built. The Ministry of Education said the relocation would not go ahead because of odour from a nearby mushroom farm.

Instead Te Mata Primary School, two kilometres away from the kura site, was promised eight new classrooms.

"Day after day after day it was in the paper and the main problem was solved, with a solution still to be negotiated for the kura," Mr Foss said.


The kura issue was the first time "some people were given a reason to be grumpy about me".

He could have had a public scrap with his parliamentary colleagues "and be a hero for five minutes and achieve nothing" or work hard for a better decision for everybody, he said.

"There are a few other examples like that, that haven't made the media, but I just deliver results."

He said his four terms as MP was part of a "wave of increased confidence" in Hawke's Bay and "an honesty about what we can do".

When asked what made him roll his eyes he said it was "constant negativity and nastiness" from some people.

"I can't understand why people do that. If we totally disagree on something, then I respect you for that.


"There are people all around here who wake up every day and say, how can we seize opportunities. From someone going to work in your smallest business to a big entrepreneur there are people who get on and do it. That's the Kiwi drive, backing themselves."

Five years ago he made Cabinet with "some pretty grunty portfolios". He was minister of commerce, minister of broadcasting and associate minister of education.

The education project dented his reputation. He was handed the job of seeing through the introduction of the Novopay system and it failed, underpaying 5000 teaching staff on its first run.

"It was a hospital pass with the biggest crash tackler you can think of coming at me."

An independent inquiry cleared Mr Foss "and essentially showed I'd been lied to and misled for months".

In 2013 a Cabinet reshuffle saw him bumped from Cabinet's 20 ministers, but only just.


"That was very disappointing for me and I did quite a stock take at that time, considering my options, but I decided to absolutely get stuck into the portfolios I was offered.

The decision of fellow Cabinet Minister Chris Tremain to not contest the 2014 election made it a double blow.

The pair championed their slogan "Backing the Bay". Mr Foss drove a white ute with their slogan in black and Mr Tremain a black ute with their slogan in white.

Both utes always parked conspicuously at the entrance to Hawke's Bay Airport when they were in Wellington.

The parking ploy would not work nowadays "because the airport's always full".

He missed Mr Tremain because they joined forces lobbying for Hawke's Bay.


Last week Mr Foss stepped down as minister for veterans' affairs, minister for small business, minister for statistics, associate minister for immigration and associate minister for transport, and said he would not contest next year's decision.

He remains in Parliament and expects to sit on the back benches until August or September to avoid a by-election.

He is one of few Tukituki MPs to have a wide range of ministerial appointments.

"I hold my head very high with what I have achieved."

Like former prime minister John Key, who also recently announced his retirement from politics, Mr Foss entered politics after the high-wire finance world and returned to New Zealand to make a difference in national politics.

With wife, Kristal, they chose Hawke's Bay in 2000, their former holiday spot in Waimarama, to settle down and raise their two girls after going overseas in 1993.


"I have never been a career politician. For me it has always been a mission, not a career," he said.

"Even the former PM would say the same."

Mr Foss said his retirement from politics was about the lack of energy and drive rather than speculation of where he would be placed in the coming week's Cabinet reshuffle under Prime Minister Bill English.

His career had been at the expense of time with his family. His eldest daughter is at university and his youngest in Year 10.

"The hours you put into this job are a lot more than the public might perceive and there is a trade-off for families, like many people have with jobs and family."

He said when he was seen wearing a T-shirt, shorts and jandals with his family he was trying to be a "normal" dad.


"People respect that and leave us alone. I have always been very particular that Sunday is family time.

"I know I have the office and standing as MP but my values and my party's values are for family, so I am true to the person people voted for - a family guy, a dad first and foremost."

He hasn't decided what he will do after Parliament but said he has been approached about directorships.

A daily highlight of his political career will likely remain as he makes his way in Hawke's Bay.

"I really like the flick of the eyebrow or the g'day and hello. I found it very, very humbling walking down the street and finding out people voted for me when I've never met them before."