It has been a big week for former Whanganui MP Harete Hipango who is preparing to make her comeback to Parliament after the sudden resignation of National MP Nick Smith earlier this week.
Smith said on Monday that he was being investigated by Parliamentary Service after a "verbal altercation in his office", and that he would be retiring and was set to leave by June 10.
Hipango was pouring herself a glass of wine that afternoon when she got the unexpected call from National leader Judith Collins advising her of the resignation and telling her to hold tight.
Smith's resignation has opened up a spot for Hipango in Parliament as a new list MP for National.
She has been quietly hanging out for this since October last year when she lost the Whanganui seat to newcomer Labour MP Steph Lewis. Hipango has been unemployed since, resting and reconnecting with home and whānau, and reflecting on her first term.
Her short stint in Parliament was not without controversy. Hipango earned widespread criticism over some questionable comments accusing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of criticising farmers and supporting late-term abortions.
National media is already labelling her as anti-abortion.
She admits the intense public scrutiny took a toll on her whānau, and the reality is now sinking in about what her return to Parliament could mean for them once again.
Hipango told me that just before the last election, a handwritten note was left on the windscreen of her husband's car – which was branded in Hipango's name – referring to her as a "f****** Māori b**** MP of a wife".
The person clearly knew the car was driven by her husband, which is disturbing.
She also told me the branded car was vandalised again with faeces smeared on the door handle.
She recalls another day out walking the dog, when someone stopped her on the street and verbally abused her, calling her 'a f***** Pākehā'.
Then there is the constant mispronunciation of her last name, which undermines the family's whakapapa and tupuna. Hipango has thick skin, but it is her children and husband that she is most concerned for, saying these experiences have impacted their mental wellbeing.
"That is the ugly underbelly of Whanganui that people do not know about," she told me.
"I think a lot of MPs have not experienced this to the extent I have because of the
particular community I come from and how I am viewed being a Māori woman and sharing Pākehā heritage."
Hipango told me earlier experiences in Whanganui included being assaulted by officials outside the Court House in the 90s when she was working as a lawyer and believes it was "blatant racism".
She said she had "been judged by Māori for being too Pākehā" and "judged by Pākehā for being too Māori".
But she is comfortable in her own skin and believes her upbringing has armed her with a valuable set of skills.
If she gets back in, she wants to help bridge differences between Māori and Pākehā and to build levels of tolerance and insight.
And goodness knows the National Party needs that. National lacks diversity and I have been alarmed with Collins' increased use of separatist language, feeding into racist rhetoric against Māori. But Hipango is game and says it is time for National to value Māori voice and input.
While I do not necessarily agree with her politics, I am saddened to hear of the experiences she and her whānau have suffered. It is completely unacceptable that they have been subjected to aggressive outbursts and racist attacks in our community.
This is yet another example of the lack of tolerance in Whanganui and the racial division.
We must be more accepting of each other.
I think it would be great to get another Māori MP from Whanganui into Parliament.
It would see us having three Māori MPs from our wider region – that's Hipango, Adrian Rurawhe and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer - and that is something that I would be proud of.
It is now a matter of wait and see for Hipango but she feels rested and ready to go.
If she makes it back in, we can count on her to still be forthright with her views but maybe a bit more cautious with what she puts on social media.
She will continue to look at everything through a legal eye and remains unapologetically focused on the wellbeing of children and the next generation.
"I am more ready and prepared than I ever was before. I served three years and it was an internship."
She told me: "I am a professional woman, I am seasoned, I am weathered, knocked around and brutalised but you come back all the more robust for those dents and standing the test of time."