New MPs are declaring what they'll focus on during their time at Parliament including housing, living wages, firearms law, and poverty.
Most of the time when an MP speaks in the House they have to stick to a specific topic but a maiden speech is one of those times when an MP can choose what to talk about.
There’s often mention of family, friends, and where they grew up but it’s also a chance for the new MPs to put on record what they’ll focus on while at Parliament.
The first maiden speech for the 53rd Parliament was given by Labour MP Arena Williams who said housing will be one of the issues she intends to work on,
"Every family in New Zealand deserves a warm, dry home. This Government also believes in building more houses, and we need to strengthen basic protections for renters."
Williams said she is committed to preventative strategies when it comes to health including better maternal and mental healthcare, dental care and diabetes prevention.
Williams has worked as a community probation officer and said she saw young men, mostly Māori, caught up in a failing system.
"I saw firsthand how small policy tweaks can unintentionally change someone's entire experiences of the justice system and, ultimately, lead to longer and more punitive sentences."
Maiden speeches are delivered as part of a larger debate called the Address in Reply. About 19 hours is set aside for this debate which is technically about whether to send a respectful response to the Governor-General about their speech from the throne.
In reality, it's a wide-ranging debate in which the Government's legislative agenda is discussed and new MPs can give their first major speech. The first two slots are always given to new MPs and up second was Labour MP Ibrahim Omer who moved to New Zealand from Eritrea as a refugee 12 years ago.
"I was drafted to the national service at a very young age, as a high school student. I was subjected to extreme hardships. The national service in Eritrea is meant to be for 18 months, but in reality, it's indefinite."
Omer said Eritirea is a place where people disappear and he feared the same would happen to him.
"Gross human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment are normal. I knew I had no choice but to leave before my time came. So I left behind everything I loved: my country, my family, my friends, and my dreams, including the long list of things I wanted to be and do."
Once in New Zealand, he worked as a security guard, fruit picker, and cleaner eventually studying at the university he used to clean. His experience has encouraged him to put fair pay at the top of his priorities.
"I will still stand up for every New Zealander who needs an opportunity, every New Zealander who needs decent pay and conditions, every New Zealander who needs equality and the chance to live in a fair country where everyone can thrive and live with dignity. Throughout my experience as a low-paid worker, I realise that a strong labour movement is essential to protecting the rights of vulnerable people."
ACT Party MP Nicole McKee said changes to firearms legislation in the wake of attacks on Christchurch Mosques in March last year haven't made people safer.
"The reality is the Government has not taken guns off the streets as they claimed they had. We are no safer, and the escalating gun violence by criminals remains unchecked," she said.
"What Government did do was take legitimately-owned firearms not from the streets but from police-inspected, secure facilities, and used taxpayer money to pay for them."
McKee said the korowai she wore in the House was given to her by the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) and she felt the weight of their expectation for her to advocate on their behalf.
"You have never been the problem, despite such accusations by the police, the Government, and the media," she said.
"You represented on behalf of so many affected by the rushed legislative changes and kept calm despite the bias—rational, thoughtful thinkers who I have been lucky to work with over the years."
Te Paati Māori MP Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said people are struggling to make ends meet.
"Too many of our whānau are struggling, out of work and unable to survive on benefits set deliberately below the poverty line, or are working two or three jobs on low wages while still not being able to pay their bills."
"The very ecosystems that sustain our whakapapa are threatened. We are suffering from institutional racism and the failure to undertake constitutional transformation like Matike Mai to recognise our tino rangatiratanga."
Ngarewa-Packer said MPs have the chance to improve conditions for people in Aotearoa and shouldn't misuse that opportunity.
"We have the power to not repeat the mistakes of the past that caused so much suffering for my people. We have instead the opportunity to use that power for good, to dismantle the systems that have held us back, to realise our mana motuhake, and to transform Aotearoa for the better. Every moment I spend here will be in that service of that goal."
Maiden speeches will continue when Parliament returns in February next year.
See the full maiden speeches that have been delivered so far here: