Nikki Kaye open to improved medicinal cannabis access
National MP Nikki Kaye has lent her voice to the medicinal cannabis debate, saying her experience with breast cancer has changed her views.
She says her treatment has given her something back - an intense love for her family and a re-think on some health issues, one of which is medicinal cannabis.
Access to medicinal cannabis has been in the political spotlight after union stalwart Helen Kelly began campaigning for it following her terminal lung cancer diagnosis.
Ms Kelly, who died in October, openly used cannabis oil to treat her pain.
"The reality is what I've learned from my treatment is everybody responds in different ways, so I think it is important we have a system whereby people can get access," Ms Kaye says.
"I do think definitely from being unwell I'd probably sit more on the side of ensuring people get the best amount of pain relief they can, and if overwhelmingly the evidence is certain people are missing out then I'd probably look at being more proactive in that area."
Currently, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne needs to approve the use of medical cannabis products on a case-by-case basis.
Ms Kaye says her experience has also made her more interested in some aspects of health including the general wellbeing of youth and how food can aid recovery.
The 36-year-old says her diagnosis has brought with it a new perspective on life, including the importance of exercising, eating properly and resting.
It also strengthened the Auckland Central MP's resolve to stay in politics.
"I had a lot of time to think about it, and I sat there and thought 'do I want to be a yoga teacher? Is there something else I want to do?' And I thought no, actually, I've always loved helping people and this is the most incredible job to do that.
"I felt I had unfinished business and I wanted to come back and make a significant difference."
It also brought her closer to her family and taught her it's okay to need help.
"I think to be 36 and have your mum back at home cooking and doing stuff was pretty difficult, but it's been a really good thing because what I've learned is that I need to let other people help a bit more, and let people in."
With her first engagement as Associate Education Minister on Friday, Ms Kaye says she'd "obviously love" to take over the Education Minister role, which will be vacated by Hekia Parata later this year.
However, she says the decision is ultimately up to Prime Minister Bill English.
"I know that he's managing a whole lot of people who are ambitious and who want to be in there so I'll just be working hard and hoping that one day I get that."
And as for her Auckland Central electorate, Ms Kaye's come to terms with not being able to campaign like she used to.
"I feel like I've got the experience, but I won't be able to knock on 10,000 doors. I'll be knocking on thousands, but not 10,000. And it just means I have to be a lot smarter in terms of the way I reach people and I'm confident I can do not even the same job but better if I work smarter."