Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi has delivered a Parliamentary maiden speech with a stirring message for all New Zealanders…
And the Editor, as a member of her wider Aiga, is proud to reproduce it in full.
Terisa said: ‘E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi, e nga rau Rangatira ma tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa.
E nga tangata whenua, karanga mai karanga mai, karanga mai. He mihi mahana ki a koutou.
E te Tiriti o Waitangi, nau te timatanga o te Kawanatanga mihi mai mihi mai mihi mai.
No reira tena koutou katoa.
Fa’afetai ile Atua ilona fa’atasi mai.
ma fa’amanuia mai i’ate a’u, malo’u aiga ma uo’
Oute tatalo ile Atua, e fesosoani mai, ma fa’atasi mai
Oa’u tonu e fai, Alofa ma fesosoani mai.
My grandparents, Bill and Kitty Watters, arrived from Glasgow on the Captain Hobson in 1956 with 60 pounds in their pocket, two weans, and the promise of a job.
The hope of a better life
My mum, Sia Watters (nee Chong-nee), left Samoa in 1975 to live with her sister here in Aotearoa with the hope of a better life.
I am a proud daughter and granddaughter of immigrants.
I come from a Labour Party, Union and Service to Community strong household. My Dad is a past Vice President of the Service Workers Union and could often be found on the end of a picket line or campaigning for the Labour Party.
My mum would spend her evenings sewing clothing from factory offcuts and deliver these to those in need in our community. Mum even managed to make little stuffed toys which she would take to Birthright as well as more clothes for babies.
Both of my parents reinforced to my two brothers and I the importance of having a voice, standing up for your rights and service to community.
Regardless of the colour of our skin, our gender, our age, who we love, how much money we may or may not have or our level of education – in our household we knew we had a voice, that it was valid and that we were worthy too.
As a mixed race Pasifika/Scots woman I don’t fit neatly in to the palagi world or the Samoan world. I first noticed this at about age 9 when the kids at school started to call me bounty bar – which is one of my favourite chocolates by the way – because they said I was brown on the outside and white on the inside.
At college I was encouraged to only look at Gateway career choices rather than pursue an academic pathway. Despite these challenges, with my parent’s words of encouragement, I learned to walk in both worlds.
I have found for the most part it is about educating others about what it means to be proudly indigenous Pasifika and Scottish warrior – but never to justify it.
A natural alignment with Labour
Mr Speaker, as you can see from my upbringing there is a natural alignment with my personal values and those of the Labour Party whom I am humbled and honoured to represent as the member for Otaki.
The Labour Party supports diversity, ensures the rights of workers, and wants all New Zealanders to live their best lives, as do I.
Working at Work and Income as a Case Manager during the COVID lockdown, a Kuia told me how grateful she was to not have to sit in the cold with a blanket wrapped around her and she could now run her heating knowing she could afford to pay the power bill at the end of the month, thanks to the introduction of winter energy payments.
I also had a young mum tell me how the increase of $25.00 to her household meant a packet of nappies, two 2l bottles of milk and she could put $9 more on her son’s school uniform account.
Out in our electorate I had business owners and their employees tell me how grateful they were to be able to access the employment wage subsidy – without it they said their business wouldn’t have survived. Furthermore, their businesses were thriving as people were spending money in local shops.
Mr Speaker, I am humbled to be part of the first majority government to be elected under MMP and I believe much of this result was down to the leadership of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
A first for Otaki
I am also grateful that we were able to change history and now have the first ever Pasifika woman elected to the Otaki electorate as part of the biggest intake of Pasifika MPs, doubling last terms numbers.
When I say thank you to the people of the Otaki electorate, Mr Speaker – thank you does not truly show how grateful I am. They voted for diversity, kindness, compassion and a better Aotearoa for all New Zealanders.
I will work hard for our electorate and will pursue the election promises I made during the campaign:
I will seek better access to health services, transportation, continue to support our commitment to a four lane highway to Levin and add value where I can to reducing poverty and inequalities.
Being born and raised in Levin, with a short stint overseas in the UK working in health and disabilities as well as residential social work, I came home to the Otaki electorate and continue to live in Levin with my family.
What I missed when overseas
I had missed my church community at St Josephs, the beautiful Tararua maunga, looking out at Kapiti Island, the normalisation of Te Reo Maori as you walk about the electorate, the best bacon and egg pies and orange chocolate chip ice cream. But most of all I missed the community spirit of the Otaki electorate that ties us all together from Foxton right through to Paraparaumu!
Our electorate has been grateful for the Provincial Growth Fund that supports much needed projects in the Otaki electorate such as the Foxton Riverloop, Taraika, Otaki Maoriland festival, Waikanae river ways and Paraparaumu gateway project.
This is a great start however there is so much more that still needs to be done to improve outcomes for the people of Otaki.
Lake Horowhenua — and pollution
Our region has examples of innovation and green projects such as the Energize Otaki Sola Farm. Yet just a short drive to Levin Lake Horowhenua (a taonga to the people of MuaUpoko and the Horowhenua), is highly polluted, this highlights that there is still much work to be done to protect and restore our environment.
My time at Oranga Tamariki as a Contract Manager allowed me to see the incredible work agencies such as Youth One Stop Shop Horowhenua and Kapiti Youth Service do, supporting our rangatahi and most vulnerable with a range of health issues as well as helping them to gain access to alternative education opportunities.
Working on these contracts also showed the gaps and where these groups are underfunded. The prospect of them being unable to continue to provide the full range of services they currently provide our rangatahi doesn’t bear thinking about.
The oldest population
The Otaki electorate has the oldest population in New Zealand. It ranks first among general electorates on several age-related issues.
There is no hospital in this electorate nor is there public transport to get to either Palmerston North or Wellington Hospitals as our regular rail stops at Waikanae.
From Waikanae north we have one train that does one trip once a day except for the weekends. It is also set at around $30.00 per round trip. This is unaffordable for many students, low income families and seniors.
We need to improve transport infrastructure in the region, while also considering options to improve hospital level services within the electorate. I will prioritise working with my government colleagues to address these issues for the people of the Otaki electorate.
More support and resources are needed to tackle the high rates of family violence and deep deprivation – especially in the northern part of our electorate; and the lack of affordable housing in the Otaki electorate.
Last term was a great start to reducing child poverty and inequality, tackling the housing crisis that we inherited from the previous National government and putting a real focus on climate change.
But much more still needs to be done to ensure the wellbeing and living standards of all New Zealanders are raised. In my time in this house I will be working tirelessly progress this mahi.
Mr Speaker, standing here before you as the newly minted MP for Otaki I must acknowledge those who have supported me in achieving this great honour and privilege.
I would like to start by thanking our Labour members, supporters, and volunteers from all corners of the electorate.
From our nannies who made some of the best sausage rolls I’ve ever tasted – and you can see I’ve tasted loads – our letter writers, sign-wavers, doorknockers, phone canvassers, hoardings team, to those who gave me a cuppa tea and a sympathetic ear – no words will truly express the love and appreciation I have for you all.
Also the Rainbow/Takatapui/Fa’afafine communities, Pasifika communities, Women’s branches – especially Valkyries ladies, Union and Maori communities – with a special thanks to Ngati Tu Korehe.
I have to make special mention of our amazing Campaign Manager and my beautiful friend Rebecca Ellery Winchcombe, and her team who drove a hard campaign.
Thank you to my Thursday sistas for keeping it real and holding it down with support to Henry and the boys while I have been away campaigning.
And to my Watters and Chongnee family for your unconditional support and love.
They say it takes a village – our village is proof of this.
Mr Speaker, I must also acknowledge a number of people who have passed on, who have been a critical part in me becoming the person I am.
My grandad Bill and granny Kitty Watters, Tom and Trish Waho, Diane Metcalfe, Grandpa Laulu Viko Chongnee, Uncle Kelly, Uncle Silio, Uncle Taki Chong-nee and Aunty Ann Watters who I know in spirit have been by my side throughout this journey. Especially Di. As much as they say breast cancer took you from us too soon – so did poverty.
I want to acknowledge some trail blazers and role models who inspired me in my political journey so-far. Vui Mark Gosche, Luamanuvao Winne Laban and Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Hon Nanaia Mahuta I have always followed you and am in awe of your graceful, quiet leadership and connection to communities.
There is so much power in seeing people who look like you doing the role you aspire to.
Married to an African myself, I would like to thank Ibrahim Omer MP, for not only putting your hand up and representing the African community of Aotearoa, but for providing my children with a role model that they can look up to.
Fa’afetai tele lava to the Pasifika Caucus who have been so supportive. As a new person settling in you have wrapped your support around me, and given invaluable guidance. I would like to especially thank Hon Aupito William Sio and Hon Jenny Salesa who supported the Otaki electorate and myself during the campaign.
I also acknowledge the support from other Ministers and MPs who came out to the Otaki electorate. Especially Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson who gave us a whole day of your very precious time. The people of the Otaki electorate were grateful for this support. Also the Hon Andrew Little and MPs Adrian Rurawhe and Greg O’Connor, thank you for your ongoing wise counsel.
To Mum and Dad, Bill and Sia Watters for giving me a social conscience and reminding me to use my voice to fight for justice, access, equality and rights for all people. I am so proud to be your daughter. You were always opening your doors to those seeking advice on union issues, advocacy for Pasifika and sharing what little you had with others. I love you both.
And lastly my husband Henry Ngobi, and our babies Azaria, Vito and Tebasawa. Henry, you are the kindest, most humble and genuine man I will ever know. You’re an amazing role model to our babies. Boys, I know this is a big change in our lives with me not being home as much. I hope one day that you will understand that Daddy and I are doing this so that the world you and your friends grow up in will be a better, fairer place. This is me being the best mum I can be, ensuring the decisions made gives you boys the best chance in life. I love you all beyond words.
I cannot stress enough, how so very humbled I am to be part of this progressive government and the opportunity to make change for the better for all New Zealanders. I will not waste this opportunity nor will I ever take the next three years for granted.
Fa’afetai tele lava, Tena koutou, tena koutou tena koutou katoa.