Election Candidate Profile: Meka Whaitiri (Labour Party)
Entering Parliament in 2014, Meka Whaitiri of the Labour Party is committed to serving the people of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate and believes she has the track record to prove it.
The incumbent MP, a mother of two teenage sons, has come a long way since she started working at the local freezing works and puts it down to the amazing opportunities she has had throughout her working life.
"All my working life I've been given amazing opportunities. Being raised on two marae, one in Gisborne where my father's from and one in Hastings which is my mother's, has given me a good insight into the dynamics of Maoridom; the positives and the challenges."
Ms Whaitiri went on to complete a complete a masters degree in education from Victoria University and spent four years as the chief executive of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.
When asked to represent the electorate four years ago she said yes to the service, knowing her life would never be the same again.
"I made the decision to commit for 10 years so standing this year round is part of my 10-year commitment to the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti."
The Labour MP said sitting in opposition had not been easy but she that she worked on portfolios she believed would "unlock a lot of opportunities for the people" of the electorate, she said.
"I've been fortunate because I was born in one end [of the electorate], raised in the middle and work at the other end. So that's given me good insight into the electorate, I don't ever say I know everything, but it's given me good relationships."
When asked what her proudest moment was Ms Whaitiri said it was advocating for Maori landowners "shut out of the process" of a Maori land reform bill, Te Ture Whenua, that was eventually pulled from Parliament.
"I'm very proud of the work my team and I did on that. We don't have lot of resources in opposition. Literally it was pretty much me and my staff treading through all that documentation to make sure we were really clear on everything."
She said she kept the pressure on Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell during that period as many people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti had expressed their concerns about the bill to her.
"I've just continued on that line to get around the electorate as often as I can to be seen. Maori electorates want to see their MP and it's a sizable electorate... so getting around is really important to me which gives me a heads-up on what the actual local issues are on the ground in these communities."
In the past term her office had also helped 70 families out of homelessness; an issue she had mixed feelings about.
"We've had such a high level of homelessness unseen and unheard of in this country and all I know is my offices are not Housing NZ, are not Work and Income but somehow families find themselves walking through my electoral door and of course we're going to help them get into homes.
"I'd rather have said I hadn't helped any homeless families because there wasn't any."
Ms Whaitiri, of Nga iwi katoa o te Tairawhiti me Ngati Kahungunu, said she wanted to encourage people to get enrolled, informed and to turn out to vote come election day.
"The period of sitting on the sideline and giving up and saying your one vote doesn't matter just won't help the many that really desperately need help."