Whaitiri picked to replace Horomia

By Lawrence Gullery

Meka Whaitiri has dismissed any notion of celebration after being appointed Labour Party's candidate to retain the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat in next month's by-election.

"I'm just getting straight into it. I've got to go to Auckland (today) and that's where the campaign starts."

Ms Whaitiri, from Whakatu, was selected ahead of five other contenders following an eight-hour Labour Party selection meeting held at St Joseph's Maori Girls' College near Taradale yesterday.

The results of a ballot were declared about 5pm in front of more than 400 party members from Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Dannevirke, Wairarapa and Hutt Valley.

"I am feeling fine," she said at a press conference backed by family members.

"The first person I want to recognise is Parekura Horomia, whose place I have taken, and it is going to be a challenging road, but one I am looking forward to.

"We have had a great selection process over the past three days and I am ready to hit the ground running."

Ms Whaitiri has worked as the chief executive of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated for four years and she said one of her first tasks this week would be to ensure a strong leader would take over the role.

"I have been working on building leaders and had a succession plan which will provide a number of people more than capable to take over. I am sure I will leave Ngati Kahungunu in good hands."

She never took "anything for granted" during the selection process and admitted yesterday had been "mentally draining".

"We have had a big swing of Labour people coming back to the party as a result of this process and I believe our policies with lead us in the right direction. I'm prepared to do the hard yards."

The former Karamu High School head pupil said she formed a bond with the other candidates, which included Hawke's Bay's Henare O'Keefe, Hayden Hape, Molly Keelan-Pare as well as broadcaster Shane Taurima and Wellington's Tamati Olsen.

Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth said it was unusual to have six high-calibre candidates and some of those at yesterday's selection would be asked to work on for the party. Some could be put on to the party list, she said.

"We are going to approach a number of the candidates to see what role they might play."

Ms Whaitiri's father, Wi Rangi, said he was excited to see his daughter enter politics.

"We were completely shocked at the appointment. Parekura was a great friend of our family and the godfather to my grandchildren. In a way we are still grieving for him.

"I think Meka has got good support throughout Ikaroa-Rawhiti and this is a pleasing result."


- Hawkes Bay Today

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