By Harete Hipango
MP for Whanganui
The six months post-election has been as full, action-packed and fast-paced as the election campaign was.
There was no time out from the campaign – it was a seamless move straight into the role of politician, taking a place in the Parliament precinct of life.
Public service and duty exposes and rears all faces and voices — something I have been well groomed to encounter and deal with in my many years working as lawyer in Whanganui.
To be elected as an electorate Member of Parliament is a privilege and a role that carries with it considerable expectation and demands on time between Parliament and within the electorate.
There are pleasantries and pleasant encounters — and, some times, unpleasantness. Such is the nature of public office and public service.
It's not a life of glamour and fancy living, as some might think. It's not easy either — the days are long and there is little time for frivolities and family.
Entering politics at this time of my life (mid-50s) where my family focus and investment is not compromised or an issue, allows me the chance to invest and focus on Whanganui electorate issues and interests.
I have a deep and abiding relationship and commitment to Whanganui and, as a seasoned and experienced advocate, am able to draw on this skill, experience and relationships tool-kit to promote and advance Whanganui.
Last week, Simon Bridges, National's new leader, visited Whanganui to officially open my Whanganui electorate office at Suite 7, Wicksteed Terrace.
It was an occasion blending my Whanganui whakapapa as mana whenua with my connectivity across Whanganui, messaging that I am a local and national Whanganui woman MP who cares about enabling and empowering our local, regional and national communities to self-responsibility with government support and resourcing rather than dictates of intention and imposed limitations.
I also emphasise the importance of relationships beyond the entrenched stereotype of a National Party politician. I remain a Whanganui Maori woman, loyal and committed to my community.
Parliament is a place of privilege, power and passion, requiring much energy and dedication. My parliamentary office overlooks a manicured zen garden that provides a brief sanctuary and reprieve from the hustle and bustle.
It is, I am learning, important to keep a perspective on personal well-being and to balance the long hours/days/weeks where one is constantly on the go as well as dealing with, at times, the lonely isolation of politics in Parliament.
As I pen this column I am preparing to speak in the House on the Coroners' (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Bill, while putting the finishing touches to my private member's bill – Health & Safety at Work (Volunteer's Association) Amendment Bill which I will present and speak to, seeking support of the House.
This introductory column touches on a sample of what goes on down here in Parliament. My upcoming columns will provide more of an insight and "Harete-sight" of current happenings and my engagements.
As an electorate MP, I have to navigate the demands of being in Wellington from Mondays to Thursdays (sometimes an early morning rise at 4am to drive to Wellington, just to get the extra night in the comfort and sanctuary of home), finishing at midnight most days and then facing the voluminous reading sometimes until 2am.
And I have to return home to our electorate as soon as possible to cover as much as possible at the weekends.
Parliament has, in its 52nd term, been a fascinating place, starting with three weeks suspense while awaiting the formation of the coalition government.
Then there was the lack of Government numbers in the House for the coalition to elect its preferred Speaker (leveraging off the attempt to deny 11 National Party MPs a seat at select committees).
We have had a number of "conscience" vote bills; the rush of the coalition government to pass poorly considered legislation with universal rather than targeted funding (eg first year free tertiary education; winter energy payments to over 65-year-olds); National Party leadership changes; and the retirements of long-serving MPs and former senior ministers Steven Joyce and Jonathon Coleman.
There have been few if any dull moments.
The work on select committees is stimulating, while debate in the House and passages of law can be frustrated (and frustrating) at times when good ideas are dismissed simply because they arise from the opposition.
Applying the law when practicing as a lawyer was, at times, less complicated than the attempts to shape and make the law.