His imminent departure from Parliament is having something of a liberating effect on National MP Chris Finlayson.

Within the first hour with the Weekend Herald he has told a story about a nun and a fly swat, described US President Donald Trump as "a dick" and described NZ First leader Winston Peters as much, much worse.

He has had a confessional moment, admitting to a speeding ticket, and revealed he thought former Prime Minister Sir Bill English should have tried to take out Peters completely by ruling out any deal with NZ First in the lead-up to the 2017 election.

Finlayson is taking the Weekend Herald on a road trip of his favourite places by way of a farewell before he leaves Parliament and starts to spend more time in Auckland.

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He will go back to what he calls his "first love", law.

The exact field of law he intends to work in is rather boring – commercial arbitration - so let us not dwell on it.

For now, the first port of call is Finlayson's home suburb of Khandallah on Wellington's hills. He moved back after living in an apartment in town.

"I wanted to go back to my turangawaewae to die. So I moved back to Khandallah."

Finlayson says he was
Finlayson says he was "a model student" at school but still got the occasional brush with the fly swat from the nuns.

Finlayson grew up here with his three siblings in a house with a red-tiled roof.

He was taught by the nuns at St Benedict's Convent School, nuns he describes as "kindly".

One is going to his valedictory, another was a friend of James K Baxter, who Finlayson says was the postie around Khandallah at the time.

"He wasn't very good so Mother Baptist had to send two boys out to help deliver the mail."

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Another used interesting ecclesiastical tools for discipline.

"When Mother Anselm used to scold you she would pull out the fly swat and say 'this hurts me more than it hurts you'. So it must have hurt her a lot."

He was not swatted on a regular basis.

"Just a couple of times a year. Probably for pranks in the playground. I was generally a model student.

"In fact, I'd have to think hard of anything I did wrong."

He ignores the laughter that follows this proclamation.

It came as some surprise when Finlayson agreed to undertake this as his exit interview.

In 2013, the Herald took Finlayson on an art tour around Parliament.

Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at Khandallah Park in Wellington this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at Khandallah Park in Wellington this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He was Minister of Arts.

He delivered a blunt critique of some iconic New Zealand artists, describing Colin McCahon as bleak and a Ralph Hotere piece as "too dark and gloomy".

Reminded of this jolly adventure, he says he remembers it well "because shortly thereafter, Ralph Hotere died and I had to speak at his funeral. So thank you for that."

Despite all of this, he is delighted at the prospect of a tour.

He proposes visiting his favourite golf club, the flash Wellington Club and a poncy restaurant. He will drive us about in his BMW 220I 6.

"Well, this won't look elitist," I observe.

He says he does not give a stuff.

"I'm out of here," he says. "No more of this 'man of the people' business."

Finlayson is famous for his intellect, his often-biting wit, and his effectiveness.

He is not famous for being a man of the people – he left that to the likes of former Prime Minister John Key.

Nonetheless, by the time the tour begins he has subtracted the Wellington Club and added some more humble stops.

One is his gym, where he insists we meet his trainer who reveals Finlayson "rests a lot".

Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson with his personal trainer Karanama Peita at Les Mills gym in Wellington this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson with his personal trainer Karanama Peita at Les Mills gym in Wellington this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

But the first stop is the cafe next to the Khandallah swimming pool where he swam as a child.

He points to a photo of Jimmy the Cat, a much-adored cat, who was recently killed by a dog.

He tells the people at the cafe why we are there and assures them the cafe was the very top of his list of favourite places.

It is here, while posing for a photo, that he says whenever he has to force a smile he just thinks of US President Donald Trump.

Asked why, he says "because he's a dick".

He later says this is because he does not like populist politics.

"It gives me the creeps. It's not the way I think countries should be organising themselves."

He recalled visiting the intelligence agencies in the United States when he was Minister of "the Spooks".

Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at Parliament, Wellington, this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at Parliament, Wellington, this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"The CIA was pretty interesting, and dealing with all these people who had been demonised by Trump. [Former CIA Director] John Brennan was a nice guy and [former FBI director] James Comey was a hell of a good bloke. All these people who have been summarily dismissed or the subject of some pretty vicious tweets. They seemed to be pretty good guys to me."

Then it is to Finlayson's house, which features a wall of books and a kitchen that does not look like as if it has ever been used. It is spotless.

The "keep driveway clear" sign outside his house is in German: "Einfarht Freihalten".

It is presumably not very effective at stopping people parking there beyond a few European ambassadors.

His study features photos of himself with the likes of Pope Francis, former Prime Minister John Key, and there is a framed photo of the golf course where he got his one and only hole-in-one.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, left, with then Prime Minister John Key, front, and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy in Parliament's debating chamber in February last year. Photo / File
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, left, with then Prime Minister John Key, front, and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy in Parliament's debating chamber in February last year. Photo / File

Photos from his days as Treaty Negotiations Minister also feature.

Finlayson will deliver his valedictory on Tuesday, signing off on a career in politics that began in 2005.

In that time he oversaw an overhaul of the spy agencies' powers.

His personal highlight was his appearance at the International Court of Justice in 2013 to set out New Zealand's objections to Japan whaling.

But his most visible and enduring work was in Treaty settlements.

He counts himself lucky that Key let him stay in the same portfolio throughout.

To Finlayson goes the credit for securing 59 Treaty settlements in nine years – the highest rate of any government.

Treaty Settlements Minister Christopher Finlayson, far right, watches as members of Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua celebrate their historic treaty signing and Crown apology in August 2016. Photo / File
Treaty Settlements Minister Christopher Finlayson, far right, watches as members of Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua celebrate their historic treaty signing and Crown apology in August 2016. Photo / File

His last speech in Parliament before his valedictory was on Thursday - it was the final reading of Ngāti Tūwharetoa's settlement, negotiated under Finlayson.

He used to propose Landcorp selling all its farms to iwi.

His efforts delivered one of the most substantial legacies of the National Government.

When National went back into Opposition, Tuhoe's negotiator Tamati Kruger paid tribute to Finlayson for the emotional and intellectual connection he had with iwi.

"Easily we call him our friend."

Those invited to his valedictory include Kruger and Ngai Tahu's Sir Tipene O'Regan as well as representatives of many of those iwi Finlayson steered settlements for.

Finlayson told the Herald in 2016 that his aim was to see through all remaining Treaty settlements and then he would be more than happy to pootle off into the distance.

Alas, Ngāpuhi proved his Everest.

His successor Andrew Little has just learned for himself how intractable the Ngāpuhi hapū can be.

He insists he felt no moment of schadenfreude when Little's attempts to get Ngāpuhi back to the negotiating table failed following a vote this week.

"I like Andrew, he's doing a good job as the minister and I think it's very important in that area that National and Labour do not criticise each other. I don't think anyone could have done more than he did."

Down the road from his house Finlayson points out Cashmere School, where he had a job as caretaker in his university years.

"I was extremely good at that job, because I'm such an anal retentive it means I'm a natural cleaner. I'm never satisfied unless things are perfect."

There had long been speculation about Finlayson's likely departure after National got kicked back to Opposition.

Chris Finlayson, Bill English and Simon Bridges at the annual National Party caucus retreat in Tauranga in February. Photo / File
Chris Finlayson, Bill English and Simon Bridges at the annual National Party caucus retreat in Tauranga in February. Photo / File

He confirmed it only after leader Simon Bridges was secretly taped discussing the likely departure in a conversation with Botany MP Jami Lee Ross.

He was more enraged by the secret recording than being talked about behind his back, declaring it serendipitous that his departure was raised just as he himself decided to leave.

Asked what he will miss about Parliament, he says "frankly, not much."

He may miss the camaraderie of the caucus.

He did not like some modern developments in being an MP. He does not understand or want to understand social media, for instance.

He lists his Favourite People.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie is his favourite of them all, for reasons that escape even McKelvie when he is asked about it later.

Finlayson describes him as "O and W" – "the oldest and the wisest".

Nathan Guy is another he counts as a friend, and he has a high regard for Lawrence Yule and Nicola Willis.

It is pointed out he did not mention National leader Simon Bridges in his list.

"Well, he's not 2014 or 2017, he's 2008," he explains, knowing full well that doesn't explain anything at all.

"The fact is, you have your good years and your bad years but I think the party is still in very good heart and Simon can be very pleased we've ended the year on 46 per cent in the party vote."

He does not pay much attention to the popularity of a leader.

"It's a sad reality the leader of the Opposition always gets bagged. Low polling results are not necessarily an indicator of a lack of success."

He enjoyed Opposition in his first term, from 2005 to 2008. But after nine years as a minister, it has somewhat lost its appeal. "I've found this year pretty boring, actually."

His least favourite people include Winston Peters, who had a hand in dispensing this fate: "someone once described Ronald Reagan as a triumph of the embalmer's art. On a bad day, that's what Winston reminds me of."

Just how boring Finalyson has found Opposition is revealed when we get to the Royal Wellington Golf Club in Upper Hutt for lunch.

Finlayson greets the manager and then the woman in the cafe, tells them why we are there and assures them that, of course, this was the very top of the list of his favourite places.

Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at the Royal Wellington Golf Club at Heretaunga, Upper Hutt this week. Photo / Mark Mitchel
Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at the Royal Wellington Golf Club at Heretaunga, Upper Hutt this week. Photo / Mark Mitchel

A man bowls up.

"You're leaving them in the lurch, but that obviously doesn't worry you," the man says of Finlayson leaving Parliament.

"I've done my dash, and I'm washed up," Finlayson tells him.

The man then observes that in the past year the club members had noted Finlayson had washed up on the golf course at times he should have been in Parliament.

Finlayson laughs and waves him off. "Would you shut up? Go away."

Over lunch he points out the greens and talks about how useless he is at sport.

He always hated rugby but for some reason pursued a "spectacularly hopeless career" for 15 long years.

He was always in the B team. Once he was even in the D team.

We hit the road back to Parliament and he mentions a few other places he would like to have taken us. One was the Michael Fowler Centre, because he is a big fan of the NZ Symphony Orchestra.

Then he shows that he did not quite learn the lesson of his art tour in 2013.

"I was sitting through some violin concerto the other day, a New Zealand premiere, and everybody was saying it was brilliant. But everyone knew it was atonal, and difficult to enjoy and there was more harmony in a NZ First caucus meeting."

The fault was apparently of the composer rather than the Wellington Orchestra playing it.

"If you've got a concerto you need a unifying theme. It's like politics really. You can't just be there, you need a unifying theme."

Attorney General Chris Finlayson in his office at Parliament. Photo / File
Attorney General Chris Finlayson in his office at Parliament. Photo / File

Back at Parliament, he parks in the MPs' carpark and hits fellow MP Brett Hudson's car with his door.

A Crown car is passing and the driver stops, gets out and strides over to greet and speak to Finlayson.

As we walk toward Bowen House, Finlayson calls out to one of Parliament's messengers by name and asks after a former messenger who left a while ago.

He says one of the few things he will miss is the staff around Parliament.

He finds it ironic that it is Mallard – whose nickname for Finlayson was Tinkerbell - called a review into bullying, but thinks it is a good thing for the staff at Parliament.

He has a good rep from the his own former staff as a generous boss.

So, he may after all be a man of some people. Just not people in general and certainly not Winston Peters or Donald Trump.

Chris Finlayson

1981: Admitted to the bar. Spent years on Ngai Tahu's legal team pursuing its Treaty claims in court.

2005: Elected to Parliament on National Party list.

2008: Appointed Attorney-General, Minister for Treaty Negotiations and Arts, Culture and Heritage.

2014: Appointed Minister responsible for GCSB and SIS, led the overhaul of the powers of the agencies.

Highlights:

2013: Represented New Zealand in the International Court of Justice in a case against Japan's whaling programme.

2015: Represented New Zealand on Security Council in New York.

2008-2017: Got almost 60 Treaty settlements agreed on.

Lowlights:

Did not get Ngāpuhi or Hauraki iwi claims to settlement.