Blessed ... and lucky
It has been a long time since I was first sworn in as an MP. I can't even imagine how many people have come through my various electorate office doors in that time, but I'd like to think that I've done my very best to help them or at least direct them to the right agencies.
Now it is coming to an end. Soon I'll be Eric Roy, citizen.
Four terms of maintaining order and expediting business as an Assistant Speaker is a role I didn't seek out but has been one in which I have been able to facilitate the business of the House. It has been an interesting and absorbing challenge at times.
The life of an electorate MP is one that demands a focus on the electorate. People look to us for many things, from advice to advocacy to public speaking. A lot of what we do goes past quietly. Like most service agencies, electorate MPs are there to assist or to advise on personal issues. By dint of their nature, these aren't for public consumption.
I have had long enough in the House, on various select committees, and have other contacts to build networks so I could point people in the right direction if I couldn't help them personally.
Then there are the major public issues. The Tiwai smelter electricity contract is one. I took a fair bit of heat for not appearing to be doing anything. In reality, because of the commercially sensitive nature of the discussions between the Crown, Meridian Energy and the smelter owners, crowing over my involvement as a link between the parties would have done no-one any favours.
That, I think, is the nub of what the public expect from their elected member of Parliament.
I believe that the mandate of service over self-promotion is what electors expect and want from their MPs. They want someone who can find out why their ACC application has been held up. They want someone who can talk to Work and Income on their behalf. They want advice on how to settle and invest in Southland.
That's what electorate MPs have in and out their office doors every day. I've been blessed with some excellent local staff, who help people in my absence. I've also been very lucky to serve the people of Invercargill.
It's very easy to fall for the soundbites of people who will promise the earth (without mentioning the cost). It's easy to vote for personalities over substance.
What's very important is seeing your vote as your public service. Use it wisely and you can do good for your community. That's the great thing about democracy.
Eric Roy is MP for Invercargill.
The Southland Times