Veteran politician bows out after 12 years as MP

Veteran politician bows out after 12 years as MP

Manawatu Standard by George Heagney 25 August 2023

Veteran politician Ian McKelvie is bowing out of Parliament hoping he's made life better for the people he's represented.

The Rangitikei MP and farmer gave his valedictory speech in Parliament on Wednesday evening. He is retiring from politics at the election, after 12 years as an MP.

In his time in Parliament, he has been an advocate for farming, racing and seniors, but he said helping the people of Rangitikei was something he'd loved.

He said in his speech that anyone who knew him in his 20s would not believe he was the same person now. "That's the effect life experience has on one. It's also why this place needs people with life experience, because we change a lot from our 20s and 30s to, I'm not going to say how old I am, to our 70s.

"When I entered this place, I had no great expectation that I would have a profound impact here. So as I leave 12 years later, I can only hope I've enabled others to live a better, more enabled and independent life than they could before I came." He said he hoped he had given Rangitikei people hope to achieve, feel better about life, and be able to talk to their MP.

"I've never been a pothole and road man, or a person who worries about the cost of a council lunch or the colour of a library door. I've always been much more interested in where we want to be in 20 or 30 years and how we get there." Before entering Parliament, he was the Manawatu mayor for nine years, so this was enough time in office, McKelvie said.

"One of the principles I brought to my public life is never to deny a problem or fail to admit to a problem, and get on with fixing it.

"I have to say one of the greatest downfalls of successive minsters in this place is their failure to recognise or admit to a problem and get on with fixing it." His parting advice for other MPs was to not blame others and instead use their powers to make changes.

He offered one other piece of advice, which was met by laughter in the House.

"Never be convinced by a senior minister to go swimming in a very public place." McKelvie said he regretted being unable to encourage more collegiality in Parliament and a common acceptance on the "big decisions" facing New Zealand, including climate change, child welfare, health, education, and ensuring the country's future as a food and fibre producer.

He had tried by meeting with MPs from across the House and going to cross-party events and select committees.

"You might ask what I've been doing in this place all these years. Well, I wondered that as well. But I've ended every day in politics wondering if I've done enough, wondering if I could have done better and I could have done a little bit more to help people ... we all come here knowing what needs to be done, but we take such different paths as we strive to put it right." While in Parliament, McKelvie said he had two members bills' passed and a third picked up by Labour, which all concerned things dear to him: horses and racing, dogs and livestock. "That's why we come here.

To promote the issues we're interested in, and it does show that collegiality is achievable if one chooses to work at it." He thanked many people, including his wife Sue, who had spent much time on the road with him covering the enormous electorate.

He also covered the wellbeing of MPs, their staff, and how prying into MPs' private lives was unacceptable.