Iwi leader puts hand up for Te Tai Hauāuru seat

By Laurel Stowell

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Ngāti Ruanui kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer may stand for Parliament. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED
Ngāti Ruanui kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer may stand for Parliament. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

Ngāti Ruanui leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer would like to represent the Māori Party in the lower North Island's Te Tai Hauāuru Māori seat.

She's one of a few candidates for the job, and expects to know whether she's been chosen in a month or two. If chosen she will leave her role with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui.

Known for her youth work and environmental advocacy, Mrs Ngarewa-Packer was shoulder tapped by former Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia before the last election - but the time wasn't right for her then.

As kaiarataki she is both a manager and political leader for the South Taranaki iwi. She and her team have dealt with many mining and oil exploration resource consents. The tribe has had its Treaty of Waitangi settlement and is now focused on development.

She is also a member of the national Māori Economic Development Panel, and has taken young Māori to Silicon Valley in the United States, to further skills that will get them good jobs.

The large Te Tai Hauāuru electorate had it good when Mrs Turia was its MP, she said. There was a big gap now, with only two Māori Party MPs in Parliament and current Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe "probably doing exactly what Labour want him to be doing".

"I see that there's a big, huge gap for some of our issues to continue fighting for the betterment of our whanau."

With an average income for Patea people of $17,000 a year, things had got to improve for people in the electorate, she said.

"Never have I seen it as tough for families to survive as it is now."

She has had no time for the Labour Party since the foreshore and seabed issue that caused Mrs Turia leave it. She's not looking to the state to help Māori people, but to the state to empower Māori to look after themselves.

As to the Māori Party's agreement to work with the National Party, she's had many a passionate debate about that. She concluded it was the way to get things done, but the relationship shouldn't get too comfortable.

"Surely people put you there to deliver on something you're going to do for them," she said.

Under new president Tukoroirangi Morgan the Māori Party had new vigour and other iwi leaders would be standing as MPs, she said. Its aim was to win back all the Māori seats.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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