Mojo Mathers still hopes to be NZ's first deaf MP

By Paul Harper

Mojo Mathers of The Green Party. Photo / supplied
Mojo Mathers of The Green Party. Photo / supplied

At number 14 on the Green Party list, Mojo Mathers is hoping the special votes will deliver the party another Member of Parliament.

The Greens obtained their highest share of party votes ever on Saturday, with their 10.62 per cent giving the party 13 seats.

However if enough special votes go the Greens' way, as has been the case in the past, Ms Mathers will become New Zealand's first profoundly deaf MP.

The London-born Christchurch resident was starved of oxygen at birth, resulting in her being profoundly deaf.

On her Green Party website page, the 45-year-old lists her cell phone with "txt only" alongside, and she writes that she is "very accessible by email".

So if she does get into Parliament, how will she cope with the fiery debate in the House?

"I will use electronic notetakers (as happens with Hansard) with a screen at my desk. I also feel its really important for NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) interpreters to cover the debates so that the deaf community can follow them," she says.

Ms Mathers is confident she can communicate effectively with the public, other politicians and the media as an MP.

"My communication skills are excellent and I have extensive experience in making submissions to councils, responding to media and also engaging with the wider public."

She says more needs to be done to accommodate the deaf population in New Zealand, particularly around the use of sign language, which is one of three official languages in New Zealand.

"Deaf people have the right to the same level of access to the information and our culture that the wider population has. To make this happen will require among other things, more captioning of TV and DVDs and other visual resources. Also we also need to see more NZSL interpreting of our news and events. The Christchurch earthquake showed how it can be done. We need to build on that.

"More needs to be done to ensure that deaf children and children with hearing loss are able to access a good education.

"One goal I have is to build cross party support around making information about elections and the political debate accessible to everyone. Among other things this would mean making sure that there are NZSL interpreters covering all election debates on TV, election broadcasts by parties are captioned, large print versions of all printed material are available, and so on."

Ms Mathers says she joined the Green Party because of her concern around environmental issues, in particular water issues in Canterbury.

"I have a background in mathematics and conservation forestry. I have skills in environmental activism especially on water issues. I have worked extensively on disability issues and bring with me an insight into the challenges and barriers that people with disabilities face as well as my own experiences of what it is like to live with a disability."

She says the next three years will be a time of growth and opportunity for the Greens.

"We need to build on the gains we have made this election so that we are ready to be in government in 2014. We need to juggle being a strong clear voice for those affected by National's more draconian proposals particularly around their welfare reform proposals while at the same time working with National where we have areas of common ground."

Ms Mathers was pleased with the Greens' result on election night, despite not knowing just yet whether she will be heading to Wellington.

"I am really thrilled with the outcome. We ran a great campaign and have gained a bunch of skilled and hard working new MPs"

She will have to wait until December 10 to find out whether she will be another one of those new MPs.

"I have been told that if the special votes swing our way as much as they did in 2008 then I will be in and that there is a fairly good chance of that happening."

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