Tony Kuriger, the son of National’s Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has pleaded guilty to eleven charges of ill-treating cows in a dairy herd he was responsible for.
He says he’s had an amazing time in Parliament since 2005 and has no misgivings about calling it quits. At nearly 50 he feels it’s time to look at doing something else — likely in the primary sector.
“It’s been a big decision but one I only really started thinking seriously about in the last couple of weeks. This is because we National MPs need to go for selection in the electorates we hold and in my electorate, Otaki, that would be September.
“So I owe it to my delegates and party members to be upfront and to give them enough time to go find a talented replacement who hopefully can serve Otaki for another 15 years.”
Guy is a farmer whose family’s history in local government politics goes back at least a century. Guy himself served on Horowhenua District Council before entering national politics. He has no interest in going back into local government.
“I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunities I have, serving as a whip and later as a Cabinet minister. When I came into Parliament I was just 35 and had no grey hairs, but now I am leaving with quite a few. The journey for me has been fantastic.”
Guy says the highlights of his political career were supporting the primary sector during tough times, eg the dairy downturn and many floods and droughts. He rates his advocacy for water storage and is disappointed that the Government has pretty much turned its back on it, surprising given all the talk about climate change.
“A big thing for me was dealing with the criminal blackmail over 1080 [allegedly] going into our infant formula, which ended up being a hoax. The PM asked me to lead the response on that and we worked on it for months with industry and kept our trading partners, particularly China, well informed. When the story finally broke there were no negative impacts on our trade.
“That incident could have been disastrous for the dairy industry and had a massive impact on the NZ economy. I am proud of the role I played there which ultimately led to a prosecution.”
Guy says another success was negotiating the Government Industry Agreements on biosecurity which now have 20 industry groups signed up.
He’s pleased to hand over his portfolios to Todd Muller whom he knows well and respects.
“I will do all I can to support him and ensure he hits the ground running. I’m happy that our party is in good shape and [in Muller] we have a champion and supporter of the primary sector.”
Guy is not concerned about transitioning from politician into the normal workforce. He says for a former minister responsible for a major economic portfolio the move will not be difficult. Since saying he would quit his phone has run hot with texts and messages on Facebook.
“Some colleagues were a bit stunned and a lot didn’t see it coming. But they realise when I talk to them that this a personal decision and they quickly accept it.”
On a personal level Guy says he’s been blessed to have such a strong supporter in his wife Erica. He says her rural credentials have been great when talking through ideas.
She would have backed him had he gone for another term “but I think deep down she thinks the time is right to go and do something else”, he says.
Their children likewise understand his decision to leave politics. They have known him only as an MP. His oldest boy was just four days old when he was selected as the candidate for Otaki.
“So on his every birthday Erica and I reflect on our political journey. It’s been a helluva ride, a blast, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”