Another long-serving National MP has stepped down as the party’s generational change continues following nine years in government
National MP and former minister Maggie Barry has announced she will retire from politics next year, but has pledged to continue her fight against euthanasia and a potential election referendum on the topic.
The North Shore MP has become the 10th National MP to have either retired from politics, or indicated their intention to do so, since the 2017 election.
Speaking to media after her announcement, Barry said the time was right for her to spend more time overseas with her husband Grant Kerr and spend time with their family.
“It’s a huge and phenomenal honour being in politics, being a politician, but your life is not your own. It’s a huge amount of time and effort, as it ought to be because it’s such an important role, but now is the time to do other things.”
While her caucus colleagues were taken by surprise, she had told her electorate delegates after first being selected for North Shore that she would only serve for three terms then move on.
Her career highlights included her efforts to tackle elder abuse as Seniors Minister, as well as her work on protecting New Zealand’s threatened plant and bird species through initiatives like Predator Free 2050.
“I was very happy to be able to front that, to launch it and to encourage the people of New Zealand, to win their hearts and minds over to the idea that if we want to save the things we value, our wonderful threatened birds and plants, then we have to kill the things that are eating them to the brink of extinction.”
Barry first entered Parliament in 2011, winning selection for the safe North Shore seat after National incumbent Wayne Mapp decided to step down.
She was appointed to Cabinet by John Key in 2014, taking on the conservation, seniors, and arts, culture and heritage portfolios until the 2017 election.
After taking on the National leadership in early 2018, Simon Bridges demoted Barry – a supporter of Amy Adams – from 17th to 25th in the party’s rankings and gave her conservation portfolio to Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie.
However, Barry did not believe her high-profile support of Bridges’ rival had been a factor in her role within the caucus, saying: “You argue it hard, you think and test a few of the boundaries, but ultimately you go with what the majority do and I’ve learnt that discipline over the 10 years I’ve been in politics”.
Late last year, the NZ Herald revealed that Barry had faced two investigations over allegations of bullying, including a claim she expected staff to carry out political work on taxpayer time in breach of the law (she was cleared by the Parliamentary Service in a fresh investigation).
Barry said she had vigorously denied the allegations at the time, and had been thoroughly cleared after a number of inquiries.
“They’re a thing in the past, they don’t concern me now. They were a distraction at the time and they’ve passed through…
“I expect high standards of myself and my staff, and I have had some absolutely outstanding staff in the nine years that I’ve been in politics.”
As a vocal opponent of euthanasia, Barry has also come under scrutiny at times for her treatment of supporters as a member of the select committee that heard submissions on David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill.
She was hopeful the legislation would fail at its third reading this month, but pledged to be a “strong and articulate advocate” against the bill if it did proceed to a referendum at the 2020 election.
“Every now and again in politics, something comes along where you have to dig deep and take a stand and that’s what I’ve done on euthanasia…
“There’s no chance that I will walk away from this issue – I am as committed to defeating this bill [now] as the first time I read it two years ago.”