Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Rotorua's 'other' mayor (+ video)

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Rotorua has two mayors living in the district - the difference between the two is that one is the new mayor of Porirua City.

Mike Tana was elected mayor of Porirua City at last week's local government elections.

His family are based in Rotorua, where they have lived for the past two years, but Mr Tana flies to Wellington every week.

He has had to resign from his roles as president of the Public Service Association and as senior adviser for bio-security for the Ministry of Primary Industries after being elected mayor.

He was one of six candidates for mayor of the city that has a population of about 54,000.

"We are based in Porirua, and we came up to Rotorua a few years ago when my wife had our last child. I travel down there every week," he said.

Mr Tana said four of his five children attended Te Kura o Te Koutu and the family had always planned to move back to Porirua but circumstances, including the ill health of his father who lives in Rotorua, along with his brother, meant the permanent move had to be put on hold.

He was born in the Wellington region, is of Ngati Whatua (Te Uri o Hau) descent and is believed to be the only Maori mayor in Porirua's history.

"Our kids love the kura and dad is getting old and had a stroke, so our plans got waylaid.

"Our home is in Porirua, and that's where our jobs are."

He said the fact he travelled to and from Porirua was used against him by his opponents during the election and he "did have to fight quite hard to make it clear our family home is in Porirua".

His children were all born in Titahi Bay and he has lived and worked in Porirua for 13 years.

Mr Tana admitted he had been an outside chance for the mayoralty but was thrilled and excited at the prospect.

"I had the skill set and it's the one place I know really well, and have had a lot do with the community.

"This last week has been flat out, I'm so busy and it reminds me I have made a good choice. I'll need to be there full time, 100 per cent."

He said this weekend he would be working on council business, including new committee structures for the council.

"There's a lot of public scrutiny.

"I'm the first Maori mayor of Porirua and there's a lot of focus on that."

He said he was mentored by outgoing mayor of New Plymouth Andrew Judd, who fought for Maori wards in his district, only to have them removed by a public vote.

But, yesterday, he said the death of his friend, former Council of Trade Unions boss Helen Kelly, who died after a battle with lung cancer, had been a big blow.

"One of the reasons I'm doing this and why I feel competent is Helen Kelly.

"She was an incredible person, one in a million. A huge loss to the people who don't have a voice.

"There are only a couple of people in my life who when I talk to them make me feel silly, and one of those was Helen, who was really smart and always told the truth.

"My wife is the other one."

He said even though his kids loved going to school in Rotorua, they would have to move to Porirua eventually.

"The kids also go to a full immersion kura in Porirua. Rotorua's great, but Porirua has elected me their mayor and I need to do them justice."

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