New MP grateful to be a citizen

Green Party list MP Francisco Hernandez amuses his party colleagues (from left) Tamatha Paul,...
Green Party list MP Francisco Hernandez amuses his party colleagues (from left) Tamatha Paul, Julie Anne Genter and Chloe Swarbrick as he delivers his maiden speech in Parliament yesterday. PHOTO: PARLIAMENT TV
Dunedin's newest MP began his parliamentary career with impassioned thanks to his adopted country.

Francisco Hernandez, the Green Party Dunedin candidate at the last election, was born in the Philippines and came to New Zealand with his family as a child after a change of government meant it was safer for them to move overseas.

"I love Aotearoa New Zealand, and it’s a privilege to give back a small fraction of what this country has given me," he told Parliament yesterday during his maiden speech.

"Very few people love this country more than the people who had to earn their right to be here, and from Kaitaia to Bluff, tens of thousands of my fellow Filipino migrants are proving our love for our adoptive country."

Mr Hernandez, a former Otago University Students Association president and climate adviser to the Otago Regional Council, came third in the Dunedin seat at last year’s election, polling 8031 personal votes and more than 10,000 party votes, meaning his Green Party finished second in the party vote.

Mr Hernandez was ranked 17 on the Green’s list and missed being elected to Parliament via that route, but the death of his friend and fellow MP Efeso Collins and the resignations of former co-leader James Shaw and Green MP Golriz Gharaman ensured his surprise elevation.

"I find myself in an unenviable position of succeeding such distinguished and accomplished individuals," he told the House.

"James Shaw forged a cross-party consensus on climate mitigation policy, our friend Fa’anānā Efeso Collins was tragically taken before his time with only a glimpse of his gigantic potential as a parliamentarian, and Golriz Gharaman was Parliament’s first refugee MP and a trailblazer for our migrant communities.

"It’s a privilege to be here and an honour to serve our country."

Mr Hernandez pondered what it meant to love your country, and said for him the true spirit of patriotism was not "pining for a nostalgic, ossified vision of New Zealand as it was — frozen in amber and stuck in a past it can never return to".

Nor was it loving the country as it was unconditionally, and without question.

"Being a true patriot is wanting the country to live up to our mythos of what the country was and what it actually is. True patriots fight to narrow the gap between the New Zealand as it is and the Aotearoa New Zealand that we think it is.

"A New Zealand that gives everyone a fair go. An Aotearoa that values and protects nature. And an Aotearoa New Zealand that stands up for the little guy against foreign imperialism."

Climate change is an issue close to Mr Hernandez’s heart and he made an ardent plea for all parties in the House to preserve the work of Mr Shaw to pass the Zero Carbon Act.

"The climate movement didn’t get everything we wanted from the Zero Carbon Act — just look at Russel Norman’s tweets about the Greens over the past six years if you want proof — but neither did Federated Farmers," he said.

"Members opposite should be very careful whether they want New Zealand’s hard-won consensus sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. When overseas markets and our trade agreements are demanding that New Zealand live up to our PR brand of clean and green — backtracking would be dangerous to nature and our prosperity as a country.

"To be blunt — if members opposite shatter the Shawist legacy of working across the aisle to achieve wins for climate — then they will make climate another front in our culture wars — and I promise — that’s not a war that you will win.

"But it’s not a war that we will win either — the nature of civil wars [is] that they don’t create too many winners."