New Voices: Rahui Katene, Michael Woodhouse, Rajen Prasad

By Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett continues our series on Parliament's new MPs, based on their maiden speeches.

Rahui Katene
Maori Party, Te Tai Tonga MP

Rahui Katene was blunt about her views of the Crown's treatment of Maori and the Treaty settlements, saying claims of strong race relations was a "national myth".

However, she said it remained her strong belief that the best way for Maori to achieve their goals was to work within the system to do so.

A lawyer who worked in Treaty settlements, Ms Katene said she had gone to various United Nations' conferences for the Maori Congress.

"The biggest eye-opener ... was how hard the Crown worked at maintaining the fiction that New Zealand was a harmonious community, that our race relations were the best in the world and that the Crown upheld the Treaty of Waitangi."

She described working in the predecessor to the Office of Treaty Settlements, as a "brutal initiation" into the Crown's handling of Maori, and while it would be easy to become "cynical and defeatist" "I still think it is vital that Maori keep working within the system to effect change."

The daughter of Maori activist John Hippolite, she said her family was "programmed to be political" and his influence on her was "profound".

She remembered his "pursuit of justice and determination to fight for the people" not only in his enlisting to fight in the Korean War, but later forgoing the front line for the protest lines during the Vietnam War.

He was also active protesting against apartheid in South Africa - when "rugby, the national icon, crashed headfirst into the national myth that New Zealand had the finest race relations in the world".

Her father "a strong union and Labour man" stood for selection in the Southern Maori seat in 1967 after the death of Sir Eruera Tirikatene. He lost to Sir Eruera's daughter, Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan.

"Today, 41 years later, the daughter of John Hippolite completes the circle."

She also spoke about her personal background, saying she had never intended to go to university. She did so to set an example for her five children.

After a year, she moved from Waikato University to Victoria to pick up law because of her experiences working with Women's Refuge.

A Christian, she said her first days of serving others began at the age of 12 when she played the piano and organ at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

Of late, she had served through the law in Treaty law and a Maori community law centre. Now she had come to Parliament to "serve my people".

"I cannot be a bystander to life. I choose to immerse myself in the mechanics of law and now the machinery of government in order to ensure the powerful and powerless are reconciled."

Ms Katene added to the Maori Party's clutch of the Maori seats by winning the Te Tai Tonga electorate from Labour's Mahara Okeroa by 1049 votes.

Her iwi affiliations are Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Toa, and Ngai Tahu.

She is a member of the finance and expenditure, regulations review, local government and environment, and emissions trading scheme review select committees.

Michael Woodhouse
List MP, National

Vital Statistics:
A list MP, was ranked at 49. Stood as candidate in safe Labour seat of Dunedin North, which was held by Labour's Pete Hodgson with a majority of 7155. On health committee and transport and industrial relations committee.

Background:
Was chief executive of Mercy Hospital Dunedin for seven years. President of the Private Surgical Hospitals Association. Worked at Dunedin Hospital and as a senior manager for ACC. Passionate advocate of the use of the private sector to reduce waiting lists. Married with three daughters, the born and bred Otago man says he has "blue and gold blood running through my veins". He is a premier grade rugby referee. Is National's replacement representative for the city after Katherine Rich retired.

Personal:
Mr Woodhouse's ancestors include Lawrence's first butcher and James Woodhouse, who emigrated from England and discovered gold near Roxburgh: "No great wealth passed down, however, as he purchased the Bannockburn Hotel and fathered eight children." In the days of transient clerics, family legend had it that his great great grandmother grabbed whichever man of the cloth was in town at the time of the birth of each child. "Thus, according to legend, descendants of James and Mary were christened Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican and so on. If true, my great grandfather was born when the Catholic priest was passing through."

In his own words:
"We must accept with reasonable grace that not all needs can be met from the public purse, but I don't accept that this is as good as it gets."

Rajen Prasad
Labour, list MP

Vital statistics:
Aged 62. A list-only candidate, ranked very high at 12. Labour's spokesman for voluntary and community sector, and associate spokesman for ethnic affairs and social development (family and Child, Youth and Family). On social services select committee.

Background:
Former Families Commission chief commissioner. Race Relations Conciliator between 1996 and 2001 and led Massey University at Albany during its establishment. Started out as a social worker, moved into academic field where he gained PhD. Has done top-level research and international projects in field of social work.

Personal:
An Indo-Fijian, Dr Prasad arrived in New Zealand in 1964. He married Prem, which friends joked was for a "Green card". But soon after wedding, he was told he did not qualify for residence, and a three-year battle to have it overturned failed. As they prepared to leave, a group of community leaders from West Auckland took up the fight, eventually winning. He has been married for 40 years.

In his own words:
"The leaky home problem has been well publicised and many of us know of families whose mental health has suffered; some have taken their lives in desperation. I ask [members] to find out the extent of the problem in your areas and meet some of the desperate people who are victims. You will find their stories compelling. Many currently live in limbo and are out of pocket while lawyers, builders, and developers are benefiting enormously from their situation. I hope this can be resolved."

- NZ Herald

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