The final week of Parliament prompts an annual pilgrimage of politicians to Parliament's Press Gallery to dispense good cheer and bonhomie.

This manifests in the form of chocolates and treats. They ranged from Trade Minister David Parker's chocolate fish to National MP Lawrence Yule's nectarines.

The nectarines were carried around in a box with "blueberries" on it, presumably to preserve an element of surprise. Yule politely smiled at yuletide puns, as if he had never heard them before.


Southland MP Hamish Walker trotted in with Otago wine. It was called Unravelled, which could also be regarded as the theme of his party's year.

The Prime Minister delivered coffee and peanut brittle that nearly sparked a civil war. It was so addictive it should be considered as a Class A drug. It transpired the brittle was a strategic ploy, a weapon to divide and conquer and turn the Gallery journalists away from asking questions and against each other.

Ardern doled out one jar per office, no matter how many people were in each.

Those numbers ranged from one to six. Ardern was deaf to complaints about the inequitable distribution of resources and giving more to the few than to the many.

National Party leader Simon Bridges delivered avocado oil. He suggested using it to make the vinaigrette for all those summer barbecue salads.

MPs hosting barbecues is a dire portent which may explain why Bridges' MPs did not get the same gift from him.

Justice Minister Andrew Little delivered a gift that will keep on giving — a binding referendum on legalising cannabis at the 2020 election.

It is yet to be seen who that will be a gift for — it may well be one that backfires on the Government if Bridges' predictions that voter fatigue with "social" issues does set in.


From today, those politicians will wander off home for a holiday to ponder what next year might bring.

One — Chris Finlayson — heads off permanently. Parliament will not necessarily be worse off without him, but New Zealand is certainly better off for having had him there the past nine years.

Finlayson did not just go through the mechanics of settling Treaty of Waitangi negotiations.

He re-invented the process, giving iwi and officials leeway to come up with solutions to problems that may have once seemed intractable.

The arrangement with Tūhoe over Te Urewera was one example. The legal status accorded the Whanganui River was another.

As he himself was at pains to point out, much of his success was down to the willingness of iwi leaders such as Tūhoe's Tāmati Kruger to help in this process and, where necessary, compromise.

It did not always go to plan. But in the process, both Finlayson and those iwi ensured settlements, and the apologies for past wrongs became a cause for celebration rather than division and resentment.

Finlayson could be as political as the next politician when it came to jabs at his foes.

He admired the Greens for sticking to their principles, although he did not necessarily agree with those principles.

He despised NZ First's populism. But on issues that mattered, he championed bipartisanship, from national security to Treaty negotiations. It was that which won him respect from many Labour MPs.

Finlayson also took the process of government seriously rather than simply the politics of it. His valedictory included a wish list of reforms, including a call for a referendum on a four-year term of Parliament rather than three years. That is an idea Sir John Key also raised and is worthy of consideration.

Finlayson admits he was not a people person. He did not suffer fools or NZ First leader Winston Peters. He lacked the patience to deal with the day to day problems of people's lives. But he did care about the big problems.

He wanted the best for New Zealand and its legal and constitutional system and set about trying to deliver it. He could also be very funny.

Every journalist has favourite politicians, although some will not admit it.

For all these reasons, Finlayson was one of mine.