Pot-taking past 'no barrier'

By Yvonne Tahana

Mana party byelection candidate says marijuana just part of growing up in Gisborne.

Te Hamua Nikora says he is fed up with questions over how he spent cash fundraised for an operation on a brain tumour. Photo / Alan Gibson
Te Hamua Nikora says he is fed up with questions over how he spent cash fundraised for an operation on a brain tumour. Photo / Alan Gibson

Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection candidate Te Hamua Nikora says previous health problems forced him to quit a marijuana habit - it's part of a past he says won't do him any harm in the race for the Maori seat.

Of the four main candidates standing, the Mana party hopeful is the most colourful.

He is a songwriter, a former Homai te Pakipaki host for Maori Television, testicular cancer survivor who does motivational speaking in schools and is an ambassador for men's health issues.

In 2010 the 38-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Speaking to the Herald yesterday, Mr Nikora said doctors told him then he needed to quit the habit.

"I grew up in Gisborne. I'm not too sure if you know but it's actually a big part of everyday life around here. It's not looked on as a bad thing, even though it may be thought of as such by some people. It's a huge part of our youth culture and we grew up listening to Bob Marley, reggae music.

It resonated with us and smoking marijuana was all part of that."

Asked if he thought the admission would hamper his chances because of perception issues around drugs use, he pointed to his career achievements.

"At the end of the day I've spent 14 years in front of the cameras and laying about doesn't get you 14 years in front of the television camera."

Last week's party housing announcement to build 10,000 state homes a year and give Maori access to low-interest loans to enable home-ownership was overshadowed by repeated questioning about money that was fundraised for an operation on the tumour, but instead used to buy a car after the surgery was done publicly.

On Sunday, he told Marae Investigates host Miriama Kamo he was sick of the questions about how he spent the $12,000 fundraised in Gisborne. He doesn't see it as a defensive response. He reiterates that Gisborne people would not accept a return of the koha.

Other cash raised around the country went to charity.

"The issue is about honesty and I am most definitely honest."

Politics is a passion that runs deep, he said.

He claims kinship with Sir Apirana Ngata and Parekura Horomia and became politicised at a young age after learning about Captain Cook's first encounter with Maori, which ended in deaths.

The explorer was refused supplies - leading to him dubbing the area as Poverty Bay.

It is a name that still irritates but does aptly describe the situation faced by many in the region. He is proud that Mana is a voice for the disadvantaged.

"The cloud of poverty has hung over my hometown ever since 1769 even though we've got the most fertile land in the eastern seaboard, we've got some of the best wines that come out of here, we've got some of the best fruit, some of the best vegetables ... we as Maori people are still very poor here.

"Poverty is the biggest issue here and unemployment is the reason for that poverty."

Whatever happens on Saturday night he expects to be back to run at next year's general election, and is hoping for a high list placing.

- NZ Herald

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