8 Apr 2009

Clark determined to do NZ proud at UN

10:08 pm on 8 April 2009

Former prime minister and Labour MP Helen Clark says she will endeavour to do New Zealand proud in her new role with the United Nations.

Miss Clark leaves New Zealand soon to head the UN Development Programme, a top-ranking position based in New York.

It was standing room only in Parliament's public galleries as Miss Clark gave her valedictory speech on Wednesday afternoon. The Maori King, Tuheitia, was one of many dignitaries present.

Miss Clark said she had no regrets at leaving Parliament, after 27 years as an MP for the Auckland electorate of Mt Albert, and nine years as prime minister.

She said being chosen to head the UN Development Programme is a huge honour and she would seek to carry out her duties in a way that will reflect well on New Zealand.

Miss Clark's four-year term was unanimously confirmed by the UN General Assembly on 1 April.

As administrator of the development programme, she will oversee nearly 8000 staff in 166 countries, and is expected to take up the role later in April.

Miss Clark said she has left behind a long and satisfying political career and is looking forward to the next phase.

"I regard my selection as a huge honour personally, and for New Zealand, and I will certainly seek at all times to carry out my duties there in a way which reflects well on New Zealand."

Tribute paid to loved ones

Miss Clark paid tribute to her parents and husband, Peter Davis, saying they had given her unwavering support throughout her political career.

She said coming from a farm, it was not a typical Labour background, but her parents were always supportive.

"My parents were, perhaps, initially a little surprised at the direction my politics took. But within a relatively short period of time, they extended their always strong personal support for me to strong political support.

"Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to my parents for the love and support they've always given me."