Putting her hand up to run in a general seat in the election, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is “a first mover and treading ground like no one else has ever done for Te Pāti Māori”, party president John Tamihere said at her official launch last night.
Tamihere acknowledged Raukawa-Tait’s courage for putting her name up for a general seat in the electorate. Rotorua has one of the largest Māori populations on the general roll.
“Merepeka is going to set a precedent that we become the party for all Kiwis, not just Māori. For the first time in history it will be Māori-endorsed and Māori-led. It’s our time to start to shape the way we see our nation and the land of our ancestors,” Tamihere said.
Raukawa-Tait’s launch at the Princes Gate Hotel in Rotorua attracted a diverse group of Māori and non-Māori people of influence and various political party affiliations who came out on a cold night curious to know more.
Business leaders, board trustees, regional council and local government representatives, corporate professionals, church leaders, various families, iwi rangatira and urban Māori whānau packed out the conference room.
Under the chandeliers with television cameras rolling, the crowd heard about what influences had shaped Raukawa-Tait growing up as told by her sister, Donnarae Raukawa-Doughty, a former union delegate and legal counsel in employment law.
“Our parents instilled very good values. We were to be respectful, kind to people and have very good manners. Mum used to say speak and dress correctly girls, put your shoulders back, hold your head up high and look people straight in the eyes. Learn to stand up for yourself. That’s why Mere is a straight shooter,” she said.
Raukawa-Dougherty’s recollections about their life growing up with working-class parents who lived in their state house for 40 years resonated with many in the room.
“Our Mum always said ‘my girls are beautiful, can speak for themselves and can do anything’ - and that’s what we live by. Merepeka is the woman she is today because of those values instilled in us.”
Raukawa-Tait responded with an enthralling speech that captivated the room that canvassed who she is and why she is standing.
“It took me three attempts to get a council position here but I never gave up as I was as good as anyone else standing and that was proven to be the case and it was a privilege to serve my community for 11 years,” Raukawa-Tait said.
Brochures laid out at the launch detailed her background and beliefs, noting her Te Arawa roots, her international career that started in Switzerland followed by 40 years’ experience working in public, private and not-for-profit sectors, and positions of governance on boards and trusts.
“We are all capable, with the right support, of reaching our potential,” is her view.
Being the chairperson of Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency is the “love of my life concerning work because we make a difference to the lives of many”.
“Within 24 hours we can tell any government minister what is trending up or trending down. Our 100 Whānau Ora providers are working hard up and down the country and bring in better data than the government agencies.”
On ram raids, Raukawa-Tait said: “We should’ve been concerned years ago. We’ve had so many opportunities for early intervention and if we valued our children enough and focused on the whole whānau, then some of these issues that are confronting us as a country would not be as major as they are today.”
She also targeted the banks, echoing the intention of one of the Te Pāti Māori tax policies.
“Their profits are going offshore. New Zealand is contributing to the economic growth of Australia, where our super funds are being invested overseas when a significant part should be invested here to develop our economy, infrastructure and education system of our country.”
“Where have we been the last 30 years? Why haven’t we challenged the government to put our people first? We will never thrive as a country if we do not grow our people. That’s the message we should be delivering to the people that represent us.”
Co-governance was another topic she shared an unapologetic view about.
“I’m not overly found of “co-governance”. We have to be told to come to the table. We don’t have to be invited. We are a Treaty partner. Somebody doesn’t determine for us when we can have good input. We determine the issues that are important to iwi Māori, to tamariki Māori, to whānau Māori - we are not asking for permission to determine the future of our mokopuna. We are there to make mokopuna decisions. Nobody will do them. They’ve done it for decades and look where we are? Move over, move out, it is our time,” Raukawa-Tait said.
She applauded the business owners of Rotorua who are doing it tough and deserve to be successful.
“It’s always Parliament that sets the environment for the economic and business growth of Aotearoa. Now we must fund differently and reframe the thinking.”
If Raukawa-Tait was elected to the general seat in Rotorua through winning over Māori and non-Māori voters, it would be the progressive next step for the party, Tamihere concluded.
Sarah Sparks is a consultant and works for a number of kaupapa Māori organisations.