The Northland electorate is shaping up to be a major battleground in the upcoming election. Reporter Jenny Ling spent time with key candidates to uncover the person behind the politics. Today Green Party candidate Darleen Tana Hoff-Nielsen gives a mini tour of Kawakawa with her e-bike.
Meeting Green Party candidate Darleen Tana Hoff-Nielsen in Kawakawa turns out to be particularly pertinent.
Not only are there strong memories of her whānau here, it's the former home of Austrian-born artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who Tana Hoff-Nielsen greatly admires.
She rocks up to 39 Gillies St Café on her trusty cargo e-bike; a Larry vs Harry model from Denmark known as "the Bullitt".
She drove from Kerikeri on this rainy morning with the bike in the back after deeming it too dangerous to cycle.
Before the second outbreak of Covid slammed the brakes on campaigning, she had peddled from Kaikohe to the Hokianga and up to Ahipara and Cape Reinga before heading back through Mangonui and Kerikeri.
Inside the storage container is a bike helmet, lunch, water, a change of socks, a tool kit and packets of seeds she's giving out to encourage residents to grow their own vegetables.
She immediately hands over a packet, containing broad beans, beetroot and kale.
"Get some planting in," she said. "The maramataka is good from tomorrow."
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Tana Hoff-Nielsen explains the concept of the traditional Māori lunar calendar used to guide planting, harvesting, fishing, and hunting.
She's inspired by what's happening in the soil and the effects of the changing moon on energy levels.
"I know times of the day I've got very low energy levels so I plan my day around that. That's who I am.
"I was working in the corporate world for 17 years in Brussels. That's 24/7, every waking moment, it wreaks havoc on your soul."
Tana Hoff-Nielsen - businesswoman, wife, mum of four and cycling advocate - is talking about her former high-profile career working in corporate telecommunications as a business analyst where the smallest project she managed was for €2 million.
She initially left New Zealand in 1997, venturing to Belgium on a Rotary Foundation scholarship and completed an MBA majoring in strategy and finance at Solvay Business School.
While there she met her husband Christian and the couple had four children; a now-17-year-old daughter, 16-year-old son and 11-year-old twin boys.
The family returned to New Zealand at the end of 2013 and moved to Waiheke Island where "everybody is from everywhere".
The Tana Hoff-Nielsens set up a business called Bikes & Beyond selling electric bikes, mopeds and motorbikes, initially on the island before opening stores in Devonport, Newmarket and Queenstown.
I ask how she got into e-bikes?
She talks about uprooting the family from Belgium, how it was a massive undertaking - and she's not just talking about the logistics.
None of the children spoke English and it was a tough call tearing them from their friends and routines.
"We came to New Zealand and said to ourselves let's take three months out and do nothing.
"We're both very entrepreneurial, we see opportunities all the time so we had to force ourselves to do that.
"I wasn't looking forward to coming back to New Zealand. I'm Māori and I'm a woman and in Brussels it was wonderful, no one knew what that was. They couldn't label me. I would spend my days in Brussels speaking at least three languages, I could travel an hour and be in another country with a different culture, music and artists...everything is something else in Europe. It was absolutely wonderful being there.
"To come home and speak one language, to earn less money, to not have all that variety, and to be having to deal with racism - it was not attractive."
Tana Hoff-Nielsen loves languages and speaks fluent French and Flemish. She grew up with te reo which is an "ongoing journey".
She also loves being 50 which ties in with "the need to slow down and get real".
"The truth for me is whānau; family is the backbone, community is the backbone. For me, interpersonal connections, that's what's real."
Tana Hoff-Nielsen joined the Green Party after the 2017 general election.
Though she now lives in Auckland, she still has strong ties with Northland.
Kawakawa in particular has played a big part in shaping who she is today, along with Moerewa and Waitangi.
As we walk down a side street, past the memorial library, she points out her grandparents' house up on the hill, and her mum's house nearby.
Her sister and her husband used to own the local butcher shop on the main road, and further along is Bay of Islands College where Tana Hoff-Nielsen was a student before she attended Whangārei Girls High School.
She completed a bachelor of technology majoring in chemical processing and engineering at Massey University in Palmerston North and worked for a time as an environmental scientist at Horizons Regional Council.
Her favourite memories of growing up in the Far North are spending time with her Nan, picking pipi at Te Haumi beach, preparing for Waitangi Day celebrations and catching pākirikiri [fish] from the bridge.
Then we walk to the new Te Hononga community hub which is taking shape behind the town's famous Hundertwasser toilets.
Tana Hoff-Nielsen is a fan of Hundertwasser; she appreciates his contributions to the world and was wowed by his architectural buildings while biking around Austria.
Then she comes full circle, back to the topic of how she got into e-bikes.
It was after moving to Waiheke, where she was surprised to see traffic jams, that the opportunity to buy a business presented itself.
She met a 78-year-old man with a small bike rental business. Ten bikes in total, turning over $20,000 a year.
"It was a watershed moment," she said.
"We saw the business model straight away, we could see the potential.
"We talked to him on a Friday and bought it on Monday."
Standing in front of Te Hononga, Tana Hoff-Nielsen reflects again on Hundertwasser's philosophies and how he championed the curve of nature and shunned straight lines.
She talks of connectedness to others, "life's bends and curves" and the importance of being non-judgemental.
After all, the artist's appearance might have been modest but his creations were truly inspired.
"Everybody to me is whanaungatanga [sense of family connection]," she said.
"In every person there's surprises, there's something you can't see on the cover. You just need to dig deeper."
TOMORROW: Willow-Jean Prime