Tauranga's new council is once again an all-white affair. And while one new councillor gets a lot of attention for his anti-Treaty comments, there is another softly-spoken new councillor who local Māori are pleased was elected.

Jako Abrie is still in disbelief after being voted onto Tauranga City Council. He is the youngest councillor of this term by fourteen years.

"I was surprised and happy, and I was just thinking to myself, 'okay, who do I need to let know first?'"

When asked if he was expecting to get on Council, Abrie said, "no, not at all."

Advertisement

"Most candidates were promising to sort out roading, or keep rates affordable," Abrie said. "There wasn't really anyone who I felt had the most disadvantaged at the forefront of their thinking."

Abrie is the Otumoetai-Pyes Pa Ward Councillor and received more than 4,000 votes. He's also a board trustee of Takitimu House and a volunteer/trustee with Under the Stars. He ran his campaign on advocating for the vulnerable.

"I don't think people realise how bad it is," he said. "Our homeless rates in New Zealand are five times worse than the United States. But people live in Tauranga ... you know, you've got a nice beach, you've got a nice flash hotel ... but if you go to Trinity Wharf and you look across, you'll see two tent sites."

Abrie lives in Pyes Pa with his wife Kyla. His family are from South Africa. He studied engineering and works as a Strategic asset manager at Trustpower. But he's unsure whether he'll be able to stay at Trustpower now that he's a city councillor.

"I've budgeted 50 hours a week for council actvities, put work on the backburner and I'm just trialling it to the end of the year."

One of the first policies he wants to push for is to get rid of the begging ban in Tauranga.

"You can't tell a certain group of people they can't be somewhere. You might as well be telling door-to-door salespeople 'you can't be there'.

"So the obvious thing is to repeal that so it doesn't breach New Zealand law. So we don't have to waste money fighting that in courts, and use that money elsewhere for a better cause."

Advertisement

His millennial outlook is likely to bring a different perspective to the new council.

"Climate change is an undeniable fact," Abrie said. "In a hundred years, sea levels will be a metre higher, and we have to think about that. We can't just bury our heads in the sand.

"I would like to see Māori wards or a mechanism for Māori to have a voice. It's really hard in this current environment because of the current law - like, in Taranaki when they tried to set up Māori wards and they got attacked - because anyone can trigger a referendum that's binding. [But] I'll push for that."

Made with funding from