Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

The backbenchers: Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party

Te Ururoa Flavell is the only Maori Party backbencher now the party is down to three, writes Audrey Young

Te Ururoa Flavell tries to keep up a social media profile. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Te Ururoa Flavell tries to keep up a social media profile. Photo / Mark Mitchell

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?
I think the consolidation of a lot of the stuff we have been working on for the past three years like whanau ora starting to find its feet and those sorts of projects that took a while to bed in and to try and convince our partners that they were worth a punt. Same with the constitutional review, those sorts of things that are big ideas stuff are just starting to take hold.

Has there been a low point?
Not being able to implement your ideas. The one that stands out is my oaths and declarations bill. I thought it was a relatively straightforward exercise that ... would have been quite huge for those who wanted to declare an affirmation to the Treaty of Waitangi. It didn't seem to me to be such a big deal but in the context of Parliament it clearly was because it was voted down and that was disappointing.

What is most frustrating about working at Parliament?
Losing one member [Te Tai Tonga MP Rahui Katene at the election] ... more pressures go on, because you've got two ministers and everything else becomes a part of your own brief. So just dealing with the demands that come from having a small party.

What MP outside your party impresses you and why?
I've got a bit of respect for Lockwood Smith because of what he has been able to do for the position of Speaker in his time. He is really clear about what Parliament is all about and he tries to bring that same sort of feeling and passion to how he attempts to present Parliament to the nation. He recognises things Maori do have a place but I suspect even he might feel constrained. But I like the dignity he brings to the office. And I always kind of like Nick Smith because he is one politician who had his hand on the pulse in terms of his understanding of the portfolios that he ran - Environment and Local Government - really knowledgeable and his willingness to engage with us.

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?
Yes. It would give iwi, hapu and whanau a veto right for all permits approved under the Crown Minerals Act and establish a joint management committee with the applicants if they are successful in getting a permit.

Do you engage in Facebook, Twitter or other social media?
Yes, I try to keep up with Facebook as much as I can and when able to, put something up on Twitter. It's a good way of getting ideas out there and getting responses to the things that are going on. It's quite good to engage people. We ran a campaign on 12 days to Christmas and 12 different things we have done as a party for the past year, and just to know you can put out a small little thing and know that between 600 and 1000 people look at it is really quite mind-blowing. You've got to get amongst it, in particular to engage young people and young Maori.

What is your position on the same-sex marriage bill?
I'm comfortable enough to allow it to a first reading because [Labour] have generally put bills up they think are going to add to New Zealand society and I think that is one. The debates on that one are going to be coloured by the religious movement or homophobes. Clearly it has been part of a huge campaign rather than thinking about human rights.

Name one of your heroes outside politics.
I kind of liked Willie Apiata [VC] right from when he first got his award and whenever I see him there is something about him. I don't know what it is. He really impresses me as a neat person to talk to yet ever so humble. He must be courageous. And just how he carries himself, I think he is a bit of a hero for me.

What's one of the best shows or concerts you've been to in recent years?
My son [aged 20] was in Troilus and Cressida done all in Maori and they took it over to the Globe [in London]. So I was pretty proud of him and the company. We went to the show twice in Auckland. It was neat seeing how Maori language can carry anything, even Shakespeare. It was a one-off thing. Scotty Morrison and Waihoroi Shortland were in it.

Was there a beach special to you during your childhood?
Yes. It's right across from where I live right now, which is our family homestead. There's a little reserve right opposite us and that's where I learned how to swim and ski with all the people who used to holiday around here. I went away to boarding school and had a teaching career but I'm back in the family house I was pretty much brought up in. Our house is on an area of land called Te Akaaka.

- NZ Herald

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