Raewyn Bennett's grandfather inspired her to be a voice for Maori people.

The Bay of Plenty Maori Party candidate was raised by her grandfather during her early childhood and remembered his strong stance on politics.

"I think that is where I got it from," Mrs Bennett said. She said her mother would tell stories about his reaction when New Zealand politician Sir Apirana Ngata campaigned in Maketu.

"My grandfather used to give them hang at the political rallies. My mother was so proud of him," she laughed.


"In our family, there has always been a sense of identifying and advocating for the underdogs. I do believe in Maori self-determination."

Mrs Bennett said she had learned a lot from her grandfather which she adopted into her role as a political candidate.

"I was very special to him," she said. "He taught me how to read people better, to be a good listener and to observe body language."

The Bay candidate said she was deeply concerned about child poverty. "I do not like the stress that lies on the kids in poverty," said the grandmother of four.

"As Maori who have whanau [family] who are in those circumstances, I see that in my relations.

"It is the kids who bore the brunt of poverty. I want every kid to have a space where they can shine."

Mrs Bennett said addressing poverty should not be a political issue and instead be something all parties co-operated on.

"I am campaigning for the future of the children," she said.

Mrs Bennett said if she was successful in this election she would ensure the Maori Party's policies to address poverty were put in place.

She said that meant helping families into housing and offering better wages and work.

Mrs Bennett's five-year goal was to have everyone employed in a job that paid well.

"I am not saying everybody needs to be rich," she said. But she believed the current living wage of $15.75 per hour was not enough.

She said the Maori Party's policies aimed to boost the Whanau Ora programme which gave families the skills to get back on their feet.

Mrs Bennett worked for a few years at a national machinery company in Auckland as a teenager before moving to the Bay where she had lived most of her life.

As a young adult, Mrs Bennett stood on the Tauranga Moana District Maori Council and observed her elders who worked there voluntarily.

"Some of them would take minutes and give us insights into situations that others would not know about. I am lucky to have had that opportunity."

In 2004, Mrs Bennett became one of the inaugural councillors for the newly formed statutory represented seats for Maori on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

She has also worked for indigenous people's rights and travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, every year for a few years as a Ngaiterangi representative on the indigenous forum.

"I was quite proud of that," she said.

She had also travelled to Alaska to study the Exxon Valdez oil spill following the oil spill at Astrolabe Reef.

"I am interested in the environment and the impact it had on indigenous people," she said.