Meka Whaitiri made her maiden speech to Parliament last night, after winning the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election, and stressed the need for sustainable jobs to aid the people of her electorate.
Ms Whaitiri won the June by-election for the Maori electorate and retained the seat for the Labour Party, which became vacant when Parekura Horomia died in April.
In her speech, she said that despite past challenges, it was now time to move forward and to shift the focus on what lay ahead for the Labour Party and, as a nation, toward the Maori economy.
"During the six weeks leading into the by-election I had the opportunity to speak to our people who were clear with me about the needs of whanau: Our people need jobs; our rangatahi need opportunities here at home; and our kuia and kaumatua need access to quality health services.
"Everyone deserves warm affordable homes, everyone deserves a fair go," she said.
"Regional development is critical to the success of the nation's sustainable economic growth and more needs to be done at the regional level.
"In Ikaroa Rawhiti it is about people as much as it is about market drivers.
"Oil exploration and dams that wipe out complete valleys are not sustainable," she said.
"The people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti need quality sustainable jobs."
The Whakatu resident said almost one quarter of those residents in Ikaroa Rawhiti spoke te reo Maori and more than one quarter of those employed in the electorate were in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing sectors. However, unemployment rates were doubled in the region.
"The manufacturing sector which employs many Maori has taken a hammering in my electorate.
"The flow-on effects of these job losses on whanau and small communities is devastating - the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti need quality sustainable jobs," she said.