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March 6, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

Unedited Nathan Guy Interview

Nathan Guy, is put on the spot by Emma Daken.
What has been your most memorable moment as a Member of Parliament?”
I guess there is a funny story about me when I first got into parliament. I’m conscience of the fact that I need to keep pretty active and fit, and this place [Parliament] means you end up sitting on your chuff a fair bit, a lot of meetings – So I am very keen to stay reasonably fit – and of course you have to watch your diet in this place as well. My first time down at the gym in the basement of parliament, I went into the changing room (which was separate to the gym, in the corridor) and got changed into my running gear. I never realised that I needed to take my swipe card off my suit pants to get into the gym, so I stepped out into the corridor and tried the door to the gym (of course I needed my swipe card to get in). I couldn’t get back into the changing room to get my card, so I was in this corridor for what seemed like hours, it was probably half an hour, waiting for someone to come past. That was one of my more embarrassing moments in parliament in the first couple of weeks”.

At high school, did you have any subjects you particularly enjoyed, or excelled at?”
“The ones I particularly enjoyed were anything that involved public speaking. Drama was always one I enjoyed – it was a bit different and interesting. Geography I always enjoyed cause of my strong affiliation with the outdoors and the rural community. Of course, PE was always a favourite”

What interests do you have outside of politics?”
“I like to try and keep fit obviously. Family is also hugely important to me, and any spare time that I have I like to devote to my family, I have two young children (Henry & Frankie). The reality is that this is a big job, and any outside time is spent with family. Of course, part of my role is to get around a whole lot of community organisations, so it tends to be that I kind of have to pull back from some of those organisations that I have been involved with, because its just I haven’t got the time. So for me, it’s family, trying to stay reasonably fit, and also still involved at a very small level with our farming business – Family, Fitness, Farming?!!”.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?”
“When I was growing up I wanted to be a whole lot of things. At a very young age, we have got a rural transporting company near by us, so I wanted to be a truck driver. Then at secondary school, I thought it would be quite nice to be a police man. I travelled overseas at the end of my 7th form, to England, and there was a big riot there, the rioters were chanting ‘kill the bill’, as they were circulating around the police paddy-wagon, so at that point I thought ‘Gosh, it’s quite a diverse role being a police man’. So I guess my focus has always been agriculture. Came back and went to Massey University, and got a degree in agriculture. Along the way, I guess I have had other thoughts and aspirations, but fundamentally it has always come back to the opportunities I had at home, on the farm.

When did you first become interested in politics, and who were your political influences at the time?”
“I have grown up in a local government household. My father was county chairman of Horowhenua before it was amalgamated into a district. Then he was the first mayor in ’89, of Horowhenua District. So I have grown up with the phone ringing at home all the time, often having to take phone calls form frustrated rate payers, and jot down the message for my father in the diary, or often just be a listening ear for people. So I have grown up from a very young age, in a local government household. When I came back home after university, I decided I wanted to get involved in the council, because when I looked around at the council, I thought, who is representing the youth?? So at the age of 28 I got elected on to the Horowhenua district council. I soon realised that the issues affecting youth were about 1% and soon had to get my head around roading, sewer, water, rubbish etc etc. while I stood on a youth platform when I got elected, I soon realised the issues were far bigger than perhaps worrying about where the youth centre should be located, or where the skate park should be located. So who was the biggest influence? I guess my father has always had an influence, always been keen to put something back into the community, and my family have always been fully supportive of my entering into parliament. So I have always been a National supporter. I was approached in 2004 to seek nomination when Roger Sowery (who was a member for Kapiti), decided he was stepping down”.

Other than having a successful election, what other personal or political goals have you set yourself for 2008?”
“Well I have just had a small promotion as of last week, I am now the senior whip – I was the junior whip – with Katherine Rich’s unfortunate decision to resign. I admire Katherine cause she has decided to put her family first, which I think is fantastic. As a result of that, I am now in this role here of senior whip (Nathan replaces Anne Tolley as senior whip, as Anne has taken on Katherine’s Education Portfolio. Chris Tremain joins Nathan as National’s junior whip). I am excited by it, it is a big challenge. I guess my role here is about ensuring that we are disciplined and focusing on winning the election, and doing well to represent National in Parliament with our views, [and] also out in our electorate and across New Zealand. So in terms of what are my goals? To do the job well, to be well respected by my colleagues, that’s pretty much it”.

Do your decisions in parliament reflect your personal ethics, and where do those ethics come form?”
“Well those ethics come from the way that most people have been brought up in their family home. My ethics? I was brought up in an Anglican family; our background has always been about helping people, helping others less fortunate than ourselves. My two offices out in the Horowhenua, on the Kapiti Coast (in Parapramu) and in Levin, are very busy, and one of the aspects I enjoy the most, is helping people less fortunate than me. Caucus is a place where discussions take place, where we often get policy positions, and that is where I am happy to make a contribution [on behalf of constituents], in that forum, where people are allowed to put their own point of view forward, and often that will sway to the discussion for us to get a position on different bits of legislation”.

In your opinion, what is the most difficult aspect of being a politician?”
“Is managing all of the balances that need to be managed, and trying to ensure that everyone involved in my crazy sort of lifestyle as a MP, is satisfied that I am doing my best to meet all of those different demands that are placed on me, in an MP’s lifestyle. So that is in here at Parliament, that’s in the electorate that I am standing to win in 2008 – which is Otaki, the most marginal electorate in New Zealand – I have some unfinished business there that I am focused on winning that seat for National, and driving up the party vote as well. So there is the aspect of in Parliament, there is the aspect of representing the people out in the Otaki electorate, and then there are the demands placed on me as a father and husband. So it’s difficult to try and get all of those things in balance, all of the time – I am always trying to do that, but at times this is a hugely demanding job, particularly in the senior whips role – it tends to be a fluid position, things just come out of left field”.


What do you believe to be essential personal characteristics for a politician?”
“Good listening skills. Someone that is able to understand all of the different points of view and reach at times a difficult consensus. Someone that is accessible. Someone that has the life skills, and the academic ability to be able to disseminate new ideas and people points of view, and pull them into some sort of policy frame work and direction. And I guess someone who at the end of the day can share a joke and laugh, because being an MP creates a lot of pressure – at times you need to be able to step back and realise that you are a human being, and that the rest of the country is happy. What I am trying to say is that when you may think that the issue is the biggest thing in the world, the rest of the country may not see it that way. Its very important to keep in touch with the grass roots, because you can get very drawn in, or encompassed in this environment at parliament, and I’m very mindful that I want to stay connected with those at the grass roots level to ensure that you have that linkage between what people are thinking (between the everyday people), and what happens here at Parliament”.

Do you consider yourself to be introverted, or extroverted?”
“Extroverted. I think most politicians would have to be extroverted to get elected, cause they are putting themselves out in the public arena, where a lot of people say ‘You guys are hopeless, all you do in Parliament is bitch and moan and scrap with one another’, well the reality is that you only get shown about 30 seconds on TV, and when question time often finishes, and then you get into the true business in parliament, and then there are the select committees, which aren’t usually high profile for the medial. Yeah, I’d say that most MP’s are extroverted, cause they have had to put their name forward out in the public arena to get elected, and you never know after 3 years whether you are going to get re-elected or not. So that means that people have to be able to take the knocks, and take it on the chin, and in that regard, I would say that most MP’s are extroverted”.

If you could change one thing about New Zealand, what would it be, and why?”
“I’d like to change, if I could, I’d like to reduce the number of people that are choosing to go to Australia, because we tend to be losing our youngest and brightest heading over to Australia for better wages and lower tax. In a tight labour market where we have got a skill shortage and an ageing population, we need to ensure that we are keeping those people. We need to encourage setting up small business, medium business. To drive the economy we need to ensure that those 38 or 40,000 people leaving for Australia for good, that we are keeping as many of the others here for good”.

What do you see yourself doing upon exiting politics?”
“Having an involvement in my children’s education, and perhaps standing on the sidelines of my son or daughters rugby or netball games, and being a very supportive dad”.

In your lifetime, what achievement are you most proud of?”
“I am immensely proud to have been elected into Parliament, cause not many people have the opportunity to get into this place. The other thing I am proud of is what our family has been able to achieve in Horowhenua”.

How has your life changed since becoming a public figure?”
“It probably takes a bit longer to push the supermarket trolley around. The phone rings more often. Yeah, they would be the main things. People wanting to stop you walking and engage with you. They might have a new idea that you haven’t thought of, or they might just want to give you their perspective on something that has happened in Parliament. The biggest change for me is just walking down the street as it takes longer to get to A and B, and that’s just part of the job. It’s probably the most rewarding part where people are stopping and wanting to engage”.

What scares you the most?”
“If something happened to New Zealand, like we got foot-in-mouth, or we got a TB breakout of significance, or mad cow disease, that ended up crippling our primary production economy. It would slow down our economic growth in New Zealand, it would reduce tourism numbers significantly, it would really harm our economy. The biggest aspect that scares me the most is a bio security outbreak of significant terms that cripples our primary production industry, and the flow on effects would be felt right through to provincial towns, in to cities. On a personal level, lying on the bottom of a ruck, playing against a very formidable side when I represented the Parliamentarians. We go round and play all over the country in a cross party rugby team. At times we play very formidable opponents as we did recently, last year, where in their team they had 4 ex-All blacks. So I guess lying on the bottom of a ruck against some huge forwards with size 12 rugby boots is somewhat scary”. “What position do you play?”. “Flanker. Normally open side, but it’s a matter of keeping the running shoes on and keeping fit. We play 15 minute quarters when we play for the MP’s team”. “Who are your other loose forwards?” “Chris Tremain plays. Te Ururoa Flavell (Maori) plays, although he can play anywhere. Damien O’Connor (Labour) plays on the side of the scrum normally, or number 8”.

What is the best advice you have ever been given, and who gave it to you?”
“The best advice was probably given to me from my father – to go into local Government politics. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am sitting in today in Parliament”.

Who are three people you would most like to meet?”
“I would like to meet… I am trying to think about which rugby player I would like to meet. Colin Meads would be very high up there. It would be good to meet the Queen. And it would have been good to meet Princess Diana. Can’t have two royalties in there can we? It’s a good question actually. Bill Gates would be good, so take out the Queen and put Di and Bill Gates in there”.


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