Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: I seek leave to move a motion without notice about the passing of the famed children’s author Margaret
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is none.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I move,
That this House express its sadness at the passing of Margaret
Mahy, ONZ, one of New Zealand’s best-loved authors. Ms
Mahy’s books, short stories, and contributions to the
New Zealand School Journal have been part of New Zealand’s children’s lives for generations. She is widely acknowledged as one of the country’s finest authors and one of the world’s greatest writers of children’s and young adults’ stories.
Mahy’s stories resonated with children around the globe. Her works were translated into a number of languages, and the accolades she received internationally illustrate her enormous contribution to children’s literature. This is a mark of how highly regarded her work is and the high esteem in which she is held. Margaret
Mahy was awarded the Order of New Zealand in 1993. She won the Carnegie Medal in 1982 for
TheHaunting and in 1984 for
TheChangeover. In doing so she was the first writer outside Britain to receive this award. In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for her lasting contribution to children’s literature.
Mahy wrote her first story at the age of 7, and her first book,
A Lion in the Meadow, was published in 1969. Since then this prolific author penned over 100 picture books and a large number of short stories, collections, and novels. Margaret
Mahy left an enduring impression upon children’s literature. I would like to extend my condolences to Ms
Mahy’s family and friends at this sad time. I am sure her stories will remain firm favourites amongst children here and overseas for years to come.
Let me finish with this final story. On my visit to the United Kingdom recently to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee, I gave the children of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, a copy of Margaret
A Summery Saturday Morning. It is a quintessential New Zealand book, which we thought would give the Cameron children a taste of what life in New Zealand is really like. The final verse of her story reads as follows:
If you want to walk in peace
Walk in peace, walk in peace,
Don’t let your dogs upset the geese
On a summery Saturday morning.
Mahy rest in peace.
DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition)
: I stand on behalf of the Labour Party to also offer our condolences in respect of Margaret
Mahy ONZ. Margaret was the eldest of five children, born in
Whakatāne. She wrote her first story at the age of 7, a story called “Harry is Bad”. It probably signalled a rather different approach to writing than perhaps we had seen before. She wrote more than 100 picture books, 40 novels, and 20 collections of short stories—a prolific writer in her time. Her books have been translated into 15 different languages and have sold millions of copies across the world. In 2006, as the Prime Minister said, Margaret
Mahy became the 28th recipient of the so-called Nobel Prize for children’s literature, the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She won many other awards as well, including the Carnegie Medal for
The Haunting in 1982 and for
The Changeover in 1984. In 2009 Margaret was commemorated as one of 12 local heroes and a bronze bust of her was unveiled outside the Christchurch Arts Centre.
She passed away after a short illness. Our thoughts and our prayers are with her friends and her family at this time. Personally, I remember reading to my children the story
The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate, and thinking at the time what an extraordinary mind had brought about that story. My kids absolutely loved it. I think the legacy she leaves both to New Zealand and to the rest of the world is a collection of stories that excite people, young people, and provide that sort of creativity in their minds. She will be sadly missed.
HOLLY WALKER (Green)
:Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker.
Tēnā koutou e te Whare. Margaret
Mahy once told a group of children that when she was young she loved stories so much that she felt compelled to start writing so she could squeeze herself right into the stories. She wrote her first at age 7, and that was followed by at least 300 more. In that process, she squeezed generations of us into her stories too. Her characters are part of our collective memory and they help us to tell our stories. Many of us grew up with her characters, like the lion in the meadow, the nutty Mr
McPhee, and the man whose mother was a pirate, and we loved her magical use of language, like the “great piratical
Mahy died on Monday after a brief battle with cancer, and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this hard time, but she will live on her stories. We will read them to our children and they will read them to theirs, and that is a pretty wonderful legacy. Her rhythm, rhyme, and rich use of language left generations of children spellbound, especially those who were lucky enough to attend her infamous readings, where she would surprise her young audience by turning up as a witch or another character, or by simply wearing one of her multicoloured storytelling wigs.
She was the founding patron and supporter of Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust, which worked to foster in young people a love of story and recognition of the power of language. Through her many educational readers, novels, picture books, poetry, short stories, and screenwriting, she created an unequalled body of award-winning work that touched the hearts and minds of literally millions of children worldwide. We honoured her with New Zealand’s highest award, the Order of New Zealand, and in 2006 she was given the world’s most prestigious prize for children’s writers, the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She also twice won the prestigious Carnegie Medal and received several honorary doctorates.
According to the Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust, Margaret
Mahy’s contribution to New Zealand and world literature has been immeasurable, on a par with that of Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame. Margaret
Mahy was a true New Zealand icon, an inspiration, and a flag bearer for our creative community. She once said: “It is in the nature of books, that they have the capacity to make you feel powerful about what you can alter and achieve in your life.” I thank her for that wisdom, and with such words she will continue to make her mark on our lives long after she has gone.
Ki a Margaret
Mahy, e moe koe
tini, e moe, e moe.
Rātou ki a
tēnā koutou katoa.
[To you, Margaret
Mahy, rest there in the realm of darkness among the very many, rest, rest. Allow them to rest there among their own. As for us, the living, I acknowledge you all.]
BARBARA STEWART (NZ First)
: On behalf of New Zealand First I echo the sentiments of this House. Margaret
Mahy was a national literary treasure. Within her lifetime she wrote hundreds of works, including over 100 picture books, 40 novels, and 20 collections of short stories. Her contributions to the
New Zealand School Journal enriched the lives of countless Kiwi kids by capturing their imaginations. In turn, this inspired generations of school-age children to take an active interest in reading. I know I spent many hours using those particular stories. Throughout her life and career, Margaret
Mahy was the recipient of many awards. In 1993 she was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in recognition of her literary contributions. Her addition to that order, limited to 20 people, showed to all how widely regarded she was both here in New Zealand and abroad. Margaret
Mahy was an inspirational figure, a great New Zealander who contributed to our cultural fabric, and I know that many families will remember well her story
The Lion in the Meadow. She will be dearly missed, though through her contributions she will live on in the minds and the hearts of many generations of New Zealanders. Thank you.
Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party)
: E te
whaea, e te kuia rangatira, moe mai
rā, moe mai
[To the mother figure and revered elder woman, rest composed there in the long sleep.]
Māori Party joins with others in this House to express our great sadness at the passing of a dynamic and distinguished leader of literature, a magician of words, and a painter of the imagination—the uniquely colourful character whom we knew and loved as Margaret
Mahy. Last week I purchased a selection of Margaret
Mahy stories to give to Benneydale School. Her books reach into the hearts and imaginations of New Zealanders. They give us permission to stretch the boundaries, to enter into a world of magic where the printed word opens our eyes to infinite possibilities.
When asked where she lived, Margaret once replied in her classic style: “I live in a place called Governors Bay … It seems to me a mysterious place—a still, cloudy sea surrounded by sharp hills, rocky and bare but with dark bush in wrinkles and gullies.” For lovers of
Māori Television, this landscape came to life in a recent rendition of Margaret
Kaitangata Twitch. That story had all the ingredients to draw children and adults alike to its tale: mystery, supernatural occurrences, fascinating characters, breathtaking scenery, and a strong cultural context in the relationships between
Pākehā and the association of tangata
w’enua with a sense of place. This is what she left for us: a sense of place. She has helped to shape our sense of who we are, to define our own picture of the world. This is something that all of us want to relate to, and I would like to say that I am particularly partial to her 1993 classic,
A Busy Day for a Good Grandmother.
Our heartfelt sympathies are with her children, her family, and her enormous international reading audience who have treasured the talent and the creative genius of such a distinguished and distinctive New Zealander.
Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT)
:Tēnā koutou. I stand to recognise one of our greatest New Zealanders. It seems a pity, does it not, that this Parliament pays such great tribute to such a wonderful New Zealander when she is no longer with us. It seems to me that it would benefit us greatly if we could say these wonderful things to great New Zealanders who have done great things while they are still with us.
But having said that, I say there are few amongst us who can, as adults, retain their childhood imagination and wonder when looking at the world. While most of us go about our day focused on our daily tasks with little thought to our surroundings, these very privileged few see the world with different eyes, and she saw the world with
different eyes. Margaret
Mahy, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a number of times, also was a very happy person with a great sense of humour—eyes that saw witches in the trees, lions in the meadows, crocodiles on roller skates, and nothing to do with Parliament.
Mahy was one of the privileged few. As one of New Zealand’s best authors, she was twice awarded the Carnegie Medal in literature, and in 2006 received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in recognition of her lasting contribution to children’s literature. Thousands of New Zealand kids were introduced to Margaret
Mahy through her many contributions to the
New Zealand School Journal, of course. Her novels have been translated into many languages, so that kids worldwide can enjoy her works. Her delightful and vivid imagination, combined with her talent for writing, has taken most New Zealanders on a magical journey to places that only once have they been, and mostly in their dreams. Her legacy will live on from Governors Bay in her stories that our great-grandchildren will continue to read for a long, long time. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time. Margaret
Mahy now walks in eternal peace.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future)
: I want to join with other members in paying tribute to Margaret
Mahy, member of the Order of New Zealand, prolific children’s author, and internationally recognised storyteller, who, sadly, passed away yesterday. Although those words capture the essence of who Margaret
Mahy was, they do not really tell the full story. I doubt there would be many parents in New Zealand over the last 40 years who have not done their stint of reading Margaret
Mahy stories to their children and trying to explain why there was not really a lion in the meadow, or that there were not pirates lurking down every street or road. That, in essence, goes to the heart of her appeal as a writer—wonderfully colourful stories, comparatively simple messages, but conveyed with lively, onomatopoeic language that really had the reader feeling as though they were part and parcel of the scene, and just going outside to check in case there was not a lion in the long grass after all.
When you couple that style with the images I am sure we all have of this delightful lady in these bright-coloured wigs entertaining a gaggle of schoolchildren up and down the country every school holidays, and reading these stories, you get a sense of someone who was larger than life, who had a huge imagination and a terrific spirit to share with other people, and who contributed a huge amount to our country. Today is a day to celebrate her literary achievements, and to acknowledge that although her life may have come to an end, her legacy will be such that generations of New Zealanders will continue to enjoy her stories for many, many years to come.
We have lost one of our literary giants today. We have lost one of our great New Zealanders, and it is appropriate that this House pay tribute to her, to her family, and to her friends, and acknowledge the loss that they must feel at the moment. Margaret
Mahy, great New Zealander, fantastic author, and friend of children everywhere, may you rest in peace.