New Napier mum, kohanga reo teacher and former Miss Universe New Zealand Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia has traversed another comfort-zone barrier by joining submitters at the Napier City Council annual plan hearings.
It was the first time for the 21-year-old who gave birth to her son less than a fortnight ago, having already taken over the care of two other young children whose parents were unable to cope amid their battles with drug addiction and other issues.
"Every day I see struggles our people go through," she told councillors, as she spoke without notes. "I've been coming up with a plan as to how I can put things in place to help our people move forward and grow in our culture."
The last of about 20 submitters on the first of two days of hearing and council deliberation, she has asked the council to support her hopes for a "village" where young people can get the help and guidance to help turn around their lives of turmoil.
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She describes it as a "space" where people can go to learn more about themselves, their history, and, incorporating problems such as lack of a job, mental health issues and other factors and says it will generally help them to become "whole" again.
Dedicating her address to social justice warrior Minnie Ratima, who died on Sunday, she hopes it can be incorporated within Te Pihinga Project (formerly Activate Maraenui), which aims to address a range of issues in the area, which has been hit perhaps harder than all in the housing crisis, after the demolition and removal of a large number of state housing units in the suburb.
There was a significant social issues thread to the submissions of those who appeared before the council, from a record more than 300 who contributed in writing.
Among them were Napier Pilot City Trust stalwart and veteran social justice campaigner Pat Magill, who turns 91 next month – stretching the age span of submitters appearing in person to about 80 years.
The high number of submissions was reached after the council held consultation via three social media "chat" sessions, replacing public meetings which would have been held had it not been for the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
Ihaia represented New Zealand at the 2017 Miss Universe finals in Las Vegas.