Twelve Questions: Claudette Hauiti

Three weeks ago, Claudette Hauiti tweeted the hashtag #63listrankingsucks. Today, thanks to disgraced MP Aaron Gilmore, she is in Parliament and the Maori lesbian broadcaster and mother of two says she always knew she would get there.

Claudette Hauiti says she's always had a strong work ethic. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Claudette Hauiti says she's always had a strong work ethic. Photo / Mark Mitchell

1. It's been said you were a Labour Party supporter and campaigned for them. So why the switch?

There's a misconception. I've never been a member of Labour - I've never campaigned on behalf of Labour. As for National, it is a broad-based party that welcomes people from all walks of life. Personal responsibility and living within our means are messages that resonate beyond party politics.

2. There were also a few raised eyebrows that a Maori gay woman was the new National list MP. Have there been those who have questioned your suitability?

I've had huge support from the party and from members of the caucus - from the moment I raised my hand and now that I'm in the House. I've made friendships that I know will be life-long.

3. What about the sheep farmers?

I have never had a deep and meaningful conversation with the sheep farmers. However, I could tell them a few things about docking. And shearing.

Rousing. That's all part of growing up as a Maori girl. That's what I did in the Christmas holidays and to make money as a student.

4. How would you describe your childhood?

I was born at St Helen's Hospital on the corner of Pitt and Hopetoun Sts. That's where a lot of first-generation urban Maori were born. I was the only one of my family that didn't have their whenua (placenta) returned home. Instead, my parents allowed it to be flushed down the plughole. That's why I have such a strong connection to Auckland, I think. Auckland and I grew up together. We've watched each other's trials and tribulations.

5. Your father died when you were 16 - how did that affect you?

My father, Teretiu Jerry Hauiti, remains a huge influence. He was a visionary, he was aspirational for us his whanau and for iwi. He instilled in me, my brother and sisters an incredible work ethic - at school and then in whatever profession we chose to follow. He was the first Maori to be trained and certified as a building inspector in the 1950s. When he died, I felt adrift ... but I never went off the rails. We had such an entrenched knowledge of right and wrong that it never entered my mind.

6. How much does your sexuality inform your politics?

Being Maori - Ngati Porou, Ngapuhi - informs my perspective on life, as does being a wife and mother and being takataapui (homosexual). I've been blessed with a full life allowing me to connect to many communities, all of whom have influenced me.

7. Have any of those descriptions ever been an obstacle to you?

Not at all - all of those things have helped me achieve. The fact I'm Maori, a woman and gay has allowed me a voice, and access. People have asked for my opinion because I have represented so many things. I got my first opportunity in journalism from a conservative white gentleman - Bob Pearce, then sports editor of the Herald. He said, "You've got a couple of things going for you, honey. You're a woman and you're Maori. Now get your pencil and get out there."

8. Did your family accept your sexuality, or was there a period of adjustment?

No, I'm very much indulged because I am the youngest, the potiki. It affords me many liberties - forgiveness for being late to whanau hui, tolerance for dominating conversations with my sisters, clemency for disappearing at clean-up time after hakari/feasts.

9. You asked your partner to marry you (via Twitter) on the night the marriage equality bill passed. What will the wedding be like?

Small and intimate, because our civil union was huge, loud, fabulosity in its gayness.

10. You've experienced failure in your political career too (losing a local board election in 2010 and the race for the Mangere seat at the 2011 general election). What does it feel like to lose, and how do you pick yourself up?

Failure is just a moment in time. It doesn't define who you are.

11. What do you teach your children about love, strength and success?

My wife, Nadine, and I show our tamariki that our love for them is in the recognising and nurturing of their strengths. We show them that strength is a type of determination - a key to overcoming whatever challenges they may face.

12. Strength is determination?

Oh yes. Absolutely. That goes to the core of being successful with whatever you do. If you are determined and focused you can achieve anything.

- NZ Herald

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