Model mum joins daughter on campaign trail

By Lawrence Gullery

It has been almost 50 years since Mei Whaitiri modelled for one of Hawke's Bay's most well-known tourist attractions, Te Pania of the Reef statue.

She visited the landmark on Napier's marine parade yesterday with her daughter Meka, who is contesting the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election under the Labour Party banner.

Labour is focusing hard on Napier and Hastings this week with its leader David Shearer and his MPs David Parker, Moana Mackey and Phil Twyford all in town to support Meka's campaign.

Mei and her husband Wi Rangi were with Meka when she presented to a group of kaumatua at te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga in Hastings yesterday.

"When Meka was selected for the Labour party, we thought that would be it for us but we've been busy with her ever since," Mei said.

"We say a karakia every morning for Meka, to keep her safe, and we help look after our mokopuna, Meka's two children, while she's out campaigning."

Mei and Wi Rangi had been on parts of the campaign trail with their daughter as well. The family grew up in Whakatu but they have whakapapa or family ties in Manutuke marae near Gisborne, where Meka will be on election night, June 29.

Mei said she had offered lots of advice to her daughter to help with her campaign, especially when it came to issues relating to the kaumatua, or senior people, of Ikaroa-Rawhiti.

"I say that the advice we give has a lot to do with the circle of people we mix in," she said, indicating to the kaumatua gathered at the taiwhenua.

Inside the meeting, Meka told the group of kaumatua she was serious about representing the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti and named three of the top issues important for Maori.

"My first job in Wellington was with Parekura Horomia at the Department of Labour. We used to go up and down the country from marae to marae to listen to the people. That was 30 years ago and people told us there were three things they wanted, good mahi (work), education for their moko and retention of the reo and tikanga. I would guess that nothing has changed and that is still what people want."

Ms Whaitiri said it was difficult to stand up before a crowd and say "vote for me" but she urged people to make sure they did vote to have their say.

"What I've done is introduce myself and share a bit of my story. I want jobs for whanau, pathways for rangatahi and reo in every home. I want to lead the way in terms of post (Treaty) settlement, create warmer and affordable homes for whanau.

"I am told that's what Labour is about and I will hold them to account on that if I am successful."


- Hawkes Bay Today

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