Rt Hon Winston Peters
Educated Whangarei Boys High School, Dargaville High School. BA (History/Pol Studies); LLB (Auckland); Two children (son and daughter).
Former teacher, a barrister and solicitor in his own law practice.
Former captain of the Auckland Maori Rugby team and played for Auckland University seniors. Maintains interest in sport, fishing, and reading.
First entered parliament as the National Party MP for Hunua in 1978, which he won after an Electoral Petition. After losing the Hunua seat in 1981, he re- entered Parliament as National Party Member for Tauranga in 1984, a seat he held until the 2005 election.
From 1984-87, he was Opposition spokesperson on Maori Affairs, Consumer Affairs and Transport. 1987-90 promoted to the Opposition front bench and became spokesperson on Maori Affairs, Employment and Race Relations.
Following 1990 election was appointed Minister of Maori Affairs when he developed the Ka Awatea report – a blueprint for Maori development. After a prolonged disagreement with the National Party leadership, over economic and foreign ownership policy issues, was dismissed from Cabinet in October 1991. As a backbencher, he remained in National caucus until October 1992.
Resigned from Parliament March 1993, resulting in a by-election on 17 April 1993 in which he stood as an independent, gaining 90.8% of votes. Set up the New Zealand First Party on 18 July 1993 and the party won two seats at the 1993 elections. New Zealand First won 17 seats in the first MMP election in 1996. As Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer from 1996-1998 he represented New Zealand at the Hong Kong handover, at high-level talks in Beijing, and led a business delegation to Yantai, China whilst his finance role took him to Asia’s capitals, the US and Canada.
Following the September 2005 election, became the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister for Racing and Associate Minister of Seniors Citizens in confidence and supply arrangement with the Labour Government in 2005-2008. He is credited with being personally responsible for thawing NZ-US relations and reactivating US interest in the South Pacific.
In 2008 the party fell just below the five percent threshold and spent three years in the wilderness but Peters continued to stump the country, addressing large audiences of disaffected voters.
His persistence paid off with eight MPs back in Parliament in 2011 and major headaches for the National led coalition. Peters has revived the fortunes of the Opposition with persistent questioning and enterprising attacks on government policies.
Winston Peters is the last of the great “characters” in an increasingly bland political environment. He is not afraid to confront Parliament head on and he refuses to accept defeat in any cause he believes in. His mastery of Parliament’s unique environment ensures he is widely recognised for his persistence, skill and experience as a parliamentary debater.
The reputation gained for his tenacious pursuit of fairness and accountability, highlighted by the “Wine Box” victory, continues to underscore his politics and those of New Zealand First.