Outgoing Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean has used her valedictory speech to plead for improved health services for her region.
"I have fought for years for the maternity facilities that this fast-growing region desperately needs," Mrs Dean told Parliament yesterday.
"I just think that it is a failure when we have babies arriving on the floor of a midwife’s office or in a parked car on the trip to Dunedin Hospital ... and in my view Oamaru Hospital has been very much the poor cousin to health facilities elsewhere."
Recent closures of the hospital’s emergency department due to locum doctor shortages were heart-breaking Mrs Dean said.
"It’s particularly galling for the Oamaru community to have to compete with Te Whatu Ora for locums," she said.
"Part of the problem has been immigration policy. This has meant the doctors and nurses we need have gone elsewhere these past couple of years. The region I have been proud to represent has been held back by immigration settings which I don’t believe in any way meet the needs of the local community or the local economy.
"Aged care, hospitality, agriculture and horticulture — they’ve all suffered."
Mrs Dean was first elected to Parliament as MP for Otago in 2005, and held the renamed seat of Waitaki in 2008 and every subsequent election.
As Mrs Dean reminded the House, she was a former television presenter, and she gave a superbly theatrical performance as she described what went through a presiding officer’s head when an MP was speaking.
Mrs Dean said there had been progress on eliminating bullying and harassment at Parliament but there was more to do.
"While we have established the parliamentary commissioner for MP standards, I believe that more clarity is needed on expectations of behaviour for all of those who work on the parliamentary precinct and who have signed up to the code of conduct. This is work for the next Parliament," she said.
Mrs Dean also reflected on the pitfalls of representing one of New Zealand’s largest electorates by area. That included two hilarious stories of becoming hopelessly lost in the Maniototo.
On one trip to the Lammermoor distillery, "literally many miles from anywhere", the car took a very, very wrong turn "and ended up travelling along what can best be described as a goat track".
Despite a very late arrival, a wee dram restored happiness to all, Mrs Dean said.
She closed by thanking her husband, family, staff and volunteers, and finished with advice for new MPs.
"Work hard, read your papers, put your phone down and remember why you are here."