New Rangitata MP James Meager was proud to have his mum and dad among family members supporting him in Wellington, as he made a powerful maiden speech in Parliament yesterday afternoon.
‘‘I know my dad is making up for lost time. I’m so glad he’s here today, and I love him dearly,’’ the 36-year-old said in the first maiden speech of the 54th Parliament.
He said his dad, David Meager, had not been around much growing up, which had put a strain on their relationship.
‘‘But I don’t blame him for that. We are products of our upbringing, we navigate through the world with the tools that we are given, and sometimes those tools just aren’t fit for purpose. Forgiveness and redemption are words often over-used, but they’re words that are fit for this moment.’’
David had been a freezing worker most of his life. He was ‘‘a little Māori kid kicked out of school at 14’’. He hid in bedroom closets and at the river until he was old enough to convince his family to let him go to work at 15.
‘‘Dad’s a hard worker, a bloody hard worker. You can’t stand on your feet for hours on end on the chain and in the boning room for 40 years without knowing what hard work looks like.’’
He had never stepped foot in the North Island until this week.
His mum, Rose Stocker, was also a hard worker, having done a few jobs in her life, including cleaning, teacher aiding, and now working at Countdown in Timaru.
‘‘She is the honorary Queen of Timaru, I’m so glad she is here today, and I love her dearly.’’
After his parents separated when he was at preschool, she had brought James, his younger brother and sister up as a single mum in a state house on the benefit.
‘‘My recollection is that we were poor, but we were never in poverty. Mum always made sure there was food on the table, clothes on our backs, and books in our schoolbags. We had a great life. We never went without. My mum has steel in her bones and grit in her soul. We always went to school, every single day.’’
The former Timaru Boys head boy and dux acknowledged perhaps to some he was a ‘‘walking contradiction’’, being a part-Māori boy raised in a state house by a single parent on the benefit, and turning into a proud National Party MP in a deeply rural farming electorate in the middle of the South Island.
However, he said left-wing political parties did not own Māori, the poor or the workers.
What united members on the right-wing side of the house was their ‘‘fundamental belief that it is the individual family unit that knows what’s best for their family, not the state, not the government, and not us’’.