Duo vie for Labour position

Prominent Hawke's Bay leaders Henare O'Keefe and Meka Whaitiri are seeking the Labour Party's approval to be its candidate in the upcoming Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.

The two officially put their names forward this week and now await the party's decision on May 26.

Mr O'Keefe, a Hastings district councillor representing Flaxmere, made the announcement at the Flaxmere Boxing Academy he helped set up a few years ago.

"I think it's appropriate we meet here where there's been a lot of work done with our young people. What better place to tell the country what I'd like to do because there's bound to be a bit of ducking and diving if I make it to Parliament."

Mr O'Keefe was approached by the Labour Party to stand as a candidate and had enlisted former Hastings MP Rick Barker for advice and support.

He enjoyed making a difference to the lives of people in Flaxmere but would welcome the opportunity to work for Maori people in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate which spans the East Coast, including his home town Ruatoria, Hawke's Bay, Tararua, Wairarapa and Wainuiomata.

"This would give the chance to help people on a whole different scale. If you want to do something really good, you have to go nationwide.

"We have some big issues, like poverty, but we are magnificent people and we also hold the answers to those problems, if we just give people the chance to have some ownership and leadership."

The Maori seat is vacant following the death of MP Parekura Horomia, who held the electorate for Labour from 1999.

Ms Whaitiri has worked as Ngati Kahungunu Iwi chief executive for four years and had been speaking to Mr Parekura about entering national politics.

"I first met Parekura when I was 21 and he gave me my first job at the Department of Labour. He has been a close friend of the family. To honour Parekura's hard work in Ikaroa-Rawhiti, I am committed to finding the best candidate that will represent the electorate. I need to put myself up if I am going to be true to that pledge."

Ms Whaitiri was born in Manutuke but grew up in Whakatu where her whanau was "staunch union members" supporting Labour.

"I was raised in a whanau of freezing workers.

"I can see the struggle our people are engaged in on the day-to-day and I want to seek selection as the Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate to continue the legacy of service that has been left in this electorate.

"I have dedicated my life to one of service. I see this as the next step in my journey of giving to our whanau, hapu and iwi in Ikaroa-Rawhiti."

Ms Whaitiri said her background in public service would help achieve a number of goals for the electorate including better options for young people, employment, warm homes and greater access to public health service to name a few.

The Maori Party meets at Ruahapia Marae in Hastings on Saturday to elect its candidate to contest the by-election.

Nominations open for candidates on May 30 and close on June 5. The by-election will be held on Saturday, June 29.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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