• Video: Catherine Wedd commits to fighting for a four lane expressway, a new Hawke’s Bay hospital and water storage

Video: Catherine Wedd commits to fighting for a four lane expressway, a new Hawke’s Bay hospital and water storage

A four lane expressway between Hastings and Napier, a new local hospital and water storage are critical to Hawke’s Bay’s future, new National Party MP for Tukituki Catherine said in her maiden speech to Parliament this afternoon.

Each new MP is given 15 minutes to address the house for the first time when Parliament sits for the first time after an election. Wedd won the Tukituki seat on her first attempt by beating Labour’s incumbent MP Anna Lorck by more thant 10,000 votes.

Wedd said today that she supported the three infrastructure projects in Hawke’s Bay and would fight for them.

The new MP said that Cyclone Gabrielle, which devastated Hawke’s Bay nearly a year ago, had shown the “powerful destruction of mother nature and the importance of resilient infrastructure”.

“Our cyclone victims are still hurting, and I will continue to stand up for you as we work hard to build back better.”

“Although we have some rebuilding to do after the Cyclone, Tukituki’s best days are ahead.

Wedd says she is proud to be from Hawke’s Bay, having moved here with her husband Henry after a stint overseas.

“It’s here I became heavily involved in the Horticulture sector, head of marketing for one of our largest exporters and sitting on the Board of New Zealand Apples and Pears.”

“Tukituki is the engine of Horticulture in this country. And in my roles, I’ve been responsible for promoting our premium NZ produce to the world – adding value to the amazing produce we grow …. and helping diversify the overseas markets, we send our products too.”

“Spending time in China’s high-end supermarkets and walking the bustling wholesale markets of Vietnam …. I’ve seen firsthand the potential and opportunity for New Zealand exports.”

She says she has seen how an “ordinary apple grown in the orchards of Hawke’s Bay can be brought to life on the red carpets of Asia”.

Wed says that as a small food producing country, New Zealand needs to be aspirational for our primary industries and businesses.

“At the bottom of the globe, we’re never going to feed the world. We need to play to our competitive advantage and that’s growing the most premium produce in the world.”

“I’m proud to be part of a National led Government which will drive more productivity in this country by stopping the War inflicted on our farmers and growers.”

“It’s time to reduce the red tape, regulation, and cost and strengthen our economy once again. It’s time to make it easier for our farmers to farm, our growers to grow and our exporters to export. This is the way to get ahead.”

However, the first female National MP for Tukituki acknowledges that the economy cannot grow at the expense of the environment.

“After working for an Organic Grower and exporter - I know we can run profitable businesses while also enhancing our environment for future generations to enjoy.”

“We must protect “NZ Inc” - harness our pure green image so we maintain our competitive advantage on the global stage.”

Wedd says that as a mother of four children, education is an area she is extremely passionate about. 

“It’s the pathway to a job and a lifetime of success. But currently we are failing our most vulnerable children. We need to move away from the bureaucracy and focus on what matters inside the classroom.”

“I had a diverse education attending both the lowest and the highest decile schools.

But at the core of it all I had amazing teachers who focused on literacy and maths and taught the basics brilliantly. We need to lift performance in education and get back to basics.”

In the speech, Wedd paid tribute to her husband Henry and her four children - Sophie, 13, Hugo, 11, Hannah, 9, and Charlie, 6.

She also acknowledged her grandparents, parents and siblings. She is one of five children.

“My grandfather Bill Tolhurst was the National Party MP for Whanganui in 1969 and my grandmother Jeni Tolhurst, also ran for Parliament in 1981.”

“With Politics in my blood - I’ve wanted to be an MP since I was a little girl. When I was 10 years old, I buried a time capsule at our Primary School and wrote a letter to myself that I opened 10 years later. In that letter I wrote that I wanted to be a lawyer, a radio journalist and a Politician - perhaps the three most unpopular professions of this century!”

“I’m no crystal ball gazer … but that’s what I did. I did Law, I became a TV Reporter for One News and then the BBC in London and now the Political Chapter begins.”

She says she grew up on a farm in the King Country and her father, Simon Loft, who showed her how hard farmers work as she “walked alongside you in my gumboots across the King Country hills”.

“To my farmer Dad, I thank you for my softer side, my sense of humour, relentless optimism and teaching me that we should always treat others as we wish to be treated.”

“Growing up a farmer’s daughter, I was also taught to work hard, spending my school holidays rousing in the shearing sheds, docking lambs and chipping thistles.”

She also paid tribute to her mother Joanna, “who trained as a teacher, but never finished her training … instead … at 19, had three children under three and put all her efforts into teaching us … my mother knows the power of education to create equality”.

“Mum has been behind me all the way … Never accepting mediocrity, pushing me to go higher and higher.”

She says that life hasn’t always been easy as she has seen those closest to her struggle with alcohol and addiction.

“So many families in New Zealand struggle with addiction. It’s destructive and dangerous. But admitting my mother to rehab was positively life changing for her and our family. I want to acknowledge the amazing work of the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Programmes which have helped turn the lives of so many New Zealanders around.”

She says that her older brother Jeremy is intellectually disabled and has never been able to talk.

“We learnt sign Language as kids and were always taught that we can overcome adversity.

All my life I have been protective of my brother. Standing up for him when he was challenged at school, standing up for his rights to a normal life. I understand the challenges faced by many families who also have a loved one, challenged by a disability.”

“But my brother is an absolute inspiration for our family. He’s had successful jobs at trucking companies and is now working on a dairy farm. This is someone who has never been able to talk in his life … but he has never been held back by his disability – because we focus on his ability, self-responsibility, and independence!”

Watch the accompanying video to see Catherine Wedd's full maiden speech to Parliament today.