22 Mar 2017

'A few problems with handshakes': John Key's farewell speech

8:54 pm on 22 March 2017

Former Prime Minister John Key says one of the few regrets in his life is that his mother "did not live to see how it all turned out".

Mr Key ended his valedictory speech this afternoon to a standing ovation in Parliament.

Listen to an audio version of the speech:

The former leader shocked many when he announced his resignation in December, just days after the anniversary of his eighth year in the role. At the time he said "it was the right time to go".

Mr Key said in his speech today it had been a privilege to serve the country, and the nearly 15 years that had passed since he first spoke in the House seemed much shorter.

He was a pragmatist, not an ideologue, and his mother had taught him that hard work created opportunities.

He was proud of a number of things, including balancing the books and the number of treaty settlements that came through under his watch, he said.

The former leader also managed to poke fun at himself.

"It's fair to say my natural enthusiasm means I have had a few problems with handshakes over the years.

"I would hate to think how many three-way handshake selfies I've done over the years but they sure make O-week go quickly."

There were always disappointments, Mr Key said, citing the flag referendum and initially voting against civil unions.

He said the deadly Christchurch earthquake had a huge impact on him, as did the Pike River Mine disaster.

Mr Key thanked his family, and his colleagues, for their support.

He told RNZ's political editor Jane Patterson yesterday he hated "to shatter everyone's illusion" but there was no scandal about his sudden decision to leave.

After nearly a decade as the National leader he had "done everything ... been everywhere".

Mr Key will leave Parliament for good on 14 April.

Look back at RNZ's live blog of the speech:

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