Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 27 August 2015

An incredible journey

"If I had known it would be this good, I would have done it years ago." That is what I told my colleagues in the House of Representatives when I stepped down as a Member of Parliament in 2011. I meant it. Representing Northlanders as an MP for nearly 24 years was a hugely enjoyable and incredible journey, but not one that I planned as a youth growing up in Northland in the 1960s. In those days, MPs were less accessible to ordinary people, particularly in rural areas, and most teenagers didn't really understand what they did in Wellington. How things have changed.

Today, anyone can email their MP or follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Parliament also has a great website where you can find out what questions your MP is asking Ministers on your behalf, while Parliament TV broadcasts live broadcasts from the House on Freeview and Sky. If that doesn't help young people decide if they are cut out for party politics, the Ministry of Youth Development now gives them the chance to be MPs.

The Youth Parliament was first held in 1994 to mark the 20th anniversary of the lowering of the voting age to 18 years and it has been held every three years in Parliament since 1997. Applications are now open for 2016 Youth Parliament. I strongly encourage Northlanders who are aged 16-18 and interested in a Parliamentary career to apply for one of the 121 Youth MP seats. Youth MPs hold their positions from 25 January 2016 to 25 July 2016 and do many things that real MPs do. They debate legislation, sit on select committees, act as Ministers and take part in Question Time. They also learn to communicate effectively, think on their feet and get to grips with complex issues.

Each MP will choose one young person to represent them which means there are opportunities for four Northlanders. A further 20 New Zealanders aged 16-24, who will be chosen by the Parliamentary Press Gallery, will also get the chance to work in the Youth Press Gallery that reports on the Youth Parliament. I encourage anyone reading this to think of young people they know who have leadership potential and might gain from this opportunity to influence Government decision-making and learn about the legislative process.

Applications close on 9 October for the Youth Press Gallery and 16 October for the Youth Parliament. Go to the Ministry of Youth Development's website for information and application forms. I am also happy to talk to any young people who want tips from a grizzled veteran. The average tenure of a Member of Parliament was 6.6 years when I left the House of Representatives in 2011, so I consider my 24 years as an MP more than qualify me to offer advice on this career path which offers an incredible journey to those who choose it.


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