After getting punched and knocked out on his first day of uni, one of Parliament’s youngest representatives has explained how it illustrated his “drive” to become an MP.
National’s Tom Rutherford holds the Bay of Plenty seat and recounted his upbringing during his maiden speech this afternoon.
His maiden speech was one of six from new National MPs today — including Mike Butterick, Catherine Wedd, Grant McCallum, Nancy Lu and David MacLeod.
Six other new National MPs gave their maiden speeches yesterday.
Rutherford referred himself to an MP from Generation Z, highlighting his age with a joke.
“In the process of crafting my maiden speech, I delved into the speeches of various current and previous members. I even went into the archives to find yours Mr Speaker, which in fact was delivered one month after I was born.”
He then went on to highlight his “drive” to serve Parliament, speaking about an anecdote from his time at university.
“At 18, on my first day as a new student here at Victoria University, I was punched and knocked out by an intoxicated stranger, when I stood up for an older gentleman who was just trying to get his groceries home safely.
“This, Mr Speaker, is my drive to serve in this place. To stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and to risk taking a few punches — if you will — to ensure those in my community can have a better life,” Rutherford said.
At age 26, the MP is currently one of the youngest in Parliament — younger than the Greens’ Tamatha Paul, 27, but older than 21-year-old Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke.
Of his youth, he said: “As a child, I struggled with anger and self-control issues, where I would often let my emotions get the better of me. Today, I can recognise the challenges and pressures that must have placed on my family, and I thank them for supporting me.”
He later added: “Having been born in the late 1990s means I have lived predominantly most of my life in the social media era.
“I have, in my early time here, been assisting some of my more technologically challenged colleagues with helping them understand what their Apple ID is and how to turn off the keyboard haptics.”
He continued: “Having grown up in the social media era, I have learnt the challenges that come with today’s technology.
“Mistakes and errors of judgment today are far more permanent, and I for one have certainly experienced this. I’m not perfect, but I am learning.”
Rutherford succeeded Todd Muller, who retired from politics after nine years in Parliament and a brief stint as National Party leader.
‘I’ve wanted to be an MP since I was a little girl’
Meanwhile, former journalist and horticultural marketer Catherine Wedd explained how she had wanted to be an MP for decades.
Wedd bet incumbent Labour MP Anna Lorck to win the seat of Tukitki last year.
“I joined the National Party because I respect the value of rewarding hard work and getting things done — enough of the ideology, bureaucracy, and the talk — it’s time for more action,” she said.
“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.”
Wedd left her role as a journalist for TVNZ in 2011.
She continued: “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.”
In her maiden speech, she later spoke of her mother’s struggle with alcohol and addiction, which she described as “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.
“I’m a strong supporter of community rehabilitation and programmes where we can support victims and offer more opportunity for people to make positive choices. Our communities get the best outcomes — not centralised bureaucracy.”
‘There were very few Chinese migrants in the ’90s’
List MP Nancy Lu recounted her experience growing up in New Zealand in the late-1990s, as a first-generation immigrant from China.
Lu squeaked into Parliament on National’s party list after the Port Waikato by-election saw MP Andrew Bayly move to an electorate seat.
“There were very few Chinese migrants in the ’90s. I still vividly recall my first day of school at Avondale Primary, where I was one of only three Asian children,” she said.
“My classmates were curious about my Chinese look and background, and I quickly became known as the ‘little magician’ for my ability to use wooden sticks to pick food up, now commonly known as chopsticks.”
Lu recounted her career and time studying at Harvard.
First appearing on National’s list in 2020, she said her party’s substantial loss at that year’s election “shook me to my core”.
“At the age of 33, however, a significant personal failure shook me to my core. After realising I was unsuccessful to become an MP on election night in 2020, I held my 10-month-old baby girl Amber in my arms, I felt I had let her down.
“My dedication to public service originates from a deep sense of duty to improve New Zealand for both our current generation and those that follow, and yet, I know I failed badly. I also know I had let down volunteers, members, and voters.
“After some time of self-reflection and going back to my drawing board, I was determined to find opportunities to grow through working and studying and do better services for our community.”