IronMaori co-founder Heather Skipworth says the main reason she lost her seat in the recent Hawke's Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) elections was because there were too many Maori running.

Of the 15 candidates 7 were Maori.

"It is great that so many Maori stood, but that is what I think split the vote," she said.

"There is no way I want to deter Maori from standing, we just need to be more strategic about how we do that."

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Because of the high number of Maori candidates she was not surprised at her loss after just one term.

"I do have a lot of non-Maori support as well, which I am grateful for."

Taking her place is newcomer Ana Apatu. With a career spanning both health and social work, she is chief executive of the U-Turn Trust which supports the well-being of Flaxmere families, based at Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere. Originally a nurse, her previous role was senior population health adviser for the HBDHB.

Ms Apatu was already a member of the HBDHB Maori Relationship Board and chairs primary healthcare service Directions Youth Health Centre and the Hawke's Bay Youth Health Trust.

Another elected Maori board member is incumbent Jacoby Poulain, also a Hastings District Councillor.

Ms Skipworth said she will miss being able to give her view on health issues at boardroom level "but I am sure Ana, Jacoby and a lot of the board members genuinely have their finger on Maori Health issues".

"I'm more sad that I can't share in the discussions."

She said she has no shortage of work organising multi-sport events and has an education project in mind.

"I want to create some kind of strategic plan along getting people to vote.

"People campaign on what they can do and what someone else might not have done, which I don't like, but we never talk to the people about why they should vote. We say they should but we never really say why they should vote.

Many voters did not understand "political speak" and when she personally encountered language she did not understand she was more likely to back off.

People sitting around the governance table start to speak a different lingo than many of those people who vote for them.

"If we just talk to them in plain English before we enter into the governance round they probably would understand what we are saying.


"As soon as you say democracy, it actually sounds quite scary even though they don't know what that word means.

"I want to get together and work out a strategic plan explaining what politics is and what their votes can actually do for them, but do it in plain English.

"The more you talk about it, the more you normalise it."