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John Key's last speech to parliament

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/03/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Former prime minister John Key has left parliament's debating chamber for the last time after a valedictory speech sprinkled with cheerful anecdotes, a lot of laughs and few regrets.

He traversed his early life as a boy growing up in a state house in Christchurch, his mother's strength and the influence she had on him.

"Mum taught me the things that allowed me to succeed... I'm a pragmatist, most people want results that work," he said.

He spoke of becoming prime minister during the global financial crisis, with New Zealand in recession and unemployment rising.

With those problems overcome, he went on to say he was immensely proud of the things his government had achieved - infrastructure, his support for the Hobbit movies, a balanced budget, the full funding of Herceptin, improved health services and the growing number of treaty settlements.

Mr Key admitted he was disappointed when he lost the flag referendum, and said he still believed a new flag would be a good thing for New Zealand.

And he regretted voting against civil unions, although he later supporter gay marriage.

Among the bleak moments were the Fox Glacier air crash, the Christchurch earthquake and the Pike River mine disaster.

"We felt that quake in Wellington, and then I was told it had happened in Christchurch," he said.

"It was my home town."

Mr Key immediately flew to the devastated city, where media was reporting 12 dead.

"The police told me the death toll was 60 and rising," he said.

He praised Gerry Brownlee for the way the earthquake recovery had been handled, saying Christchurch and New Zealand owed him great gratitude.

Mr Key spoke of the heavy burden of deploying troops overseas, and how proud he was of them.

With Prime Minister Bill English, his former deputy, beside him, Mr Key told of how he once made a parachute jump with the military from 12,000 feet.

"After it I texted Bill and said `I'm alive'. He replied `bugger', followed a minute later with another text - `going to give it another go'? At that point I realised he was a bit more ambitious than he was letting on."

Mr Key thanked many people who had helped him during his time in office, and kept the last thankyou for his wife Bronagh.

"People told me if a marriage was good it would survive parliament, if it was bad it wouldn't," he said.

"Our marriage has grown stronger over these years. Bronagh I love you, I thank you."

Mr Key left the packed debating chamber to a standing ovation, heading to greet 300 guests at his farewell party in the banquet hall.

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