New Zealand Labour Party

Looking back with pride - Maryan Street


Maryan Street joined the Labour Party in 1984, was President from 1995-1997 and became an MP in 2005. She talked to Labour Voices about her Labour journey and the people, events and achievements she recalls with the greatest pride.

I began my long association with the union movement as a young teacher. I saw teaching and the union as change agents and it was not a great step from there to recognise the Labour Party as a change agent too, representing the values I hold dear. I joined in 1984 and began delivering pamphlets for my local MP, Richard Prebble!

I cut my campaign teeth in the marginal seat of Eden for Richard Northey in 1987 and 1990. That was incredibly valuable experience.

Probably the achievement I am most proud of is having prepared the Labour Party for MMP during my time as president, including drawing up the rules and overseeing the consultation process within the party.

We were first out of the blocks, had the first list and understood first that the party vote is the more important. Seventeen years after I wrote the rules they have been reviewed but have not changed very much. That shows how durable decisions can be when you take people with you.

When I left the presidency in the mid-90s I did so with three close friends I didn’t have before I was president - Steve Maharey, David Caygill and Pete Hodgson. They all were or became Ministers of great competence and I valued their friendship highly.

It is never easy to be party president, particularly when the party loses, and I’d like to pay tribute to Margaret Wilson and Ruth Dyson - both party presidents before me - and to Moira Coatsworth.

Ruth is a staunch friend during good times and bad and a great organiser. Margaret trained me in Party organisation. I remain in awe of her ability to analyse a political situation and to spot strategic opportunities. 

She also connected me with Geoffrey Palmer, who became a friend and mentor. They taught me much about policy, about the role of the state and about what government can and can’t do. They were hugely formative for me.


I’m proud to have been involved in Helen Clark’s campaign to be elected as leader in 1993. Despite some very tough times during the first two years, by 1996 it was widely recognised that she would become a great leader – something I had always believed.

Another standout person for me is Michael Cullen. Helen and Michael are, each of them, a colossus in their own right, people of extraordinary calibre whom I value very highly.

All these are famous Labour names. But I want to reflect too on the many other people who serve the party loyally in the electorates, work so hard and share their ability and talents.

It would be impossible to mention all the people here who have supported me in my election campaigns but two standout names are Janice Gill, who ran my first campaign in Nelson in 2008, and Kate Reilly, who ran my other campaigns in Nelson.

The party is fortunate to have such people. Some people wish to become MPs but we rely on those who do not to remain active in the ongoing life and development of the party. They work very hard, share their abilities and talents and are prepared to be a resource to draw upon. There is no victory without them.

The Labour Party has enduring and commonly-held values. If we protect those values into the future, then we will serve New Zealand well.