Retiring MPs Reflect on their decision, look to the future

Retiring MPs reflect on their decision, look to the future

Story by Giles Dexter               18 Jan 2023


Labour and National will both kick off election year with their annual caucus retreats this week, and some MPs have already said it will be their last.

So far, 11 MPs across Labour, National, and the Greens parties have announced they do not plan to contest the election.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean was the first cab off the rank, and announced her retirement all the way back in May.

She became an MP in 2005 and served a short time as the minister of commerce and consumer affairs, and minister for small business.

This term, she sat as assistant speaker.

She admitted she had become quite fond of the role, but was firm on not standing again.

"While being the speaker would be such a privilege, and I would give it my best shot and hopefully do a good job at it, nope. I've made my decision, and I'm off," Dean said.

The election is still a number of months away, with many long, all-consuming sitting days still to get through. Dean said she was not counting the hours, but also was not thinking about what to do next.

"I think I need to give myself a bit of time to let all that go, all that sense of responsibility, all that sense of duty to the people who I represent, all of that. I need to get a bit of clear air and then really have a think about what I want to do next," she said.

Like Dean, David Bennett held a few ministerial portfolios in the Bill English government (food safety, racing, and veterans' affairs).

The polls currently predict a National victory in 2023, and Bennett was confident. But the list MP, who held Hamilton East from 2005 to 2020, was not sticking around to see whether he would become a minister again, especially after welcoming a daughter last year.

"That made the decision pretty easy, and I guess the more time you spend with your young baby, the more you realise it's the right decision to exit politics at this stage," Bennett said.

He said he intended to split his post-politics future between farming and fatherhood.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie said he felt he had done his bit, and was leaving National in a good place.

"I've pretty well accepted my fate in life, I think I've had a fair go, haven't I? I'm quite excited about the next twelve months and the fact I won't be having to come back to parliament in the February of the following year," he said.

McKelvie was mayor of Manawatū for seven years before entering parliament in 2011.

He said while it would likely take a while to adapt to life post-parliament, he was looking forward to the next steps, whatever they might be.

"I've got a Gold Card, thanks to Winston [Peters], and I'm probably at the stage where I need to go and do something for myself.

"By that I mean I want to do a bit of exploring, which I haven't really done in the last twenty years of public life. You don't get any chance to do that because you're always concentrating on something else. So I'm going to do a bit of exploring, and then I'll probably come back and work somewhere in the family business."

Green Party MPs Jan Logie and Eugenie Sage, who had both been in parliament since 2011, announced their retirements at the end of last year, while six Labour MPs, including three current ministers, were also planning to step down.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio is currently visiting family in Samoa. A spokesperson said he was "not calling it a retirement, more a transition."

Conservation and Disability Issues minister Poto Williams said there were still a few things in her portfolios she wanted to complete before the end of the term, but this summer break had solidified that this was the right time to go.

"There's a lot of spaces I'd like to advocate and speak into that being a member of the public will give me a little bit more license to do so. I want to keep doing that, I want to keep exploring," she said.

Williams said she would continue to champion Christchurch East when she was gone, but felt someone new would take it to the next phase of community rebuild.

But she had one last task to resolve: an earthquake issue she took on for a family when she became an MP in 2013.

"The marker for me is I'd like this final family to have the resolution they've been seeking. It is the indication that now our community is in a different phase, and I've supported them through that, and our team has. It's something for me to take away as a bit of a legacy," she said.

Two-term MP Jamie Strange beat David Bennett in Hamilton East last time around, after entering parliament on the list in 2017.