She's been Rotorua's political pride but now she's making her move to central government politics. Journalist Kelly Makiha talks to Tania Tapsell about her career ambitions.
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Tania Tapsell has made her political move to the National Party but isn't yet revealing what that will mean for her role as a Rotorua District Councillor.
She says New Zealand is in an economic crisis and the country needs MPs who have skills and can deliver.
She told the Rotorua Daily Post she can do more to make change as an MP than as a local
Tapsell was selected on Saturday as the National Party candidate for the East Coast electorate, a National stronghold that spans from Te Puke to Gisborne and is currently held by MP Anne Tolley. Tolley isn't seeking re-election but will remain on the party list.
Tapsell moved to Maketu, which is in the East Coast electorate, at the end of last year.
Tapsell would not reveal what her plans were with her role on the Rotorua Lakes Council, where she is the chairwoman of the operations and monitoring committee, saying it was "it's very early on and I haven't made any decisions".
The Local Electoral Act 2001 states if a vacancy occurs more than 12 months before the next triennial general election, the vacancy must be filled by an election. Last year's local body elections were October 12 and this year's general election is September 19.
Tapsell stormed on to the council in last year's local government elections and was the highest poller for the second election in a row, surpassing mayor Steve Chadwick in vote numbers.
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She increased her popularity in 2019 by 326 votes going from 9567 to 9893, meaning of the 21,215 Rotorua voters, 46 per cent put their faith in Tapsell.
As the grand niece of former Labour MP and first Māori Speaker of the House, the late Sir Peter Tapsell, some might have thought she would follow a left-wing political career but Tapsell said she had been a member of the National Party since she was 16.
"I love that National doesn't tell New Zealanders what to do but empowers us through values of individual freedom and choice, equal opportunities and limited Government."
She said National had always been committed to "responsible economic management" and she believed only National could lead the country out of its economic crisis.
When asked if people had been surprised she chose national given her family connections and the fact she was Māori, she said "I've been overwhelmed with the positive reaction to the announcement".
"National has worked hard for Māori and only National delivers for Māori. Treaty settlements, te reo Māori funding, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and Māori Women's Welfare League are all examples of initiatives established and delivered under National. Whanau Ora was also started under National, it's by Māori for Māori and Labour has dropped the ball on it."
She said in Government National had completed more than 60 Treaty Settlement Bills in nine years, with more than 30 in various stages of completion.
When asked what she'd say to Rotorua supporters who voted for her last year, Tapsell said she would bring greater change as an MP.
"I feel a moral obligation to fight for and protect the communities and country that I love."
She said her core values of "families, finance and future" remained.
"These values drive me in all that I do. It's great to be standing for a party whose values align closely with my own."
On the topic of how Labour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had handled the coronavirus pandemic, she said National's leader Todd Muller said it best.
"The Government has handled the health crisis well and all New Zealanders should be commended on our hard work to flatten the curve. However we are now facing an unprecedented economic crisis and that requires a different set of skills. National is the only party with the experience to guide New Zealand out of this economic crisis."
When asked who she looked up to in the National Party, she said Rotorua MP Todd McClay because he had worked hard and delivered for the people of Rotorua.
"I was his Youth MP 10 years ago, he has been a valuable mentor and it would be a pleasure to join him as a colleague."
McClay described Tapsell as a fantastic young woman who would make a great MP.
"It is clear she engages with the public well and this was a natural next progression in her career."
When asked if she could potentially be the right-wing answer to Jacinda Ardern, he said voters wouldn't make their decisions based on one person.
"They will look at who is best to build the economy. She shouldn't be compared with anyone ... I have a great amount of respect for her and look forward to working with her."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick told the Rotorua Daily Post she would need to discuss Tapsell's future on the council, including her role as chairwoman of the council's operations and monitoring committee.
"We now need to sit down together and have a discussion about her chairing role and how she will conduct herself during the election period."
Chadwick said she stood down temporarily from the council during the election campaign period when she was a Rotorua District Councillor and stood for Labour in 1999.
She resigned officially from the council when she won the Rotorua seat.
"It's not looked upon well and it is advised for MPs to stand aside from local government."
Chadwick, who had mentored Tapsell since she became a councillor, said she was disappointed she could be losing her on the council.
"I saw her as a future leader for Rotorua and council and I am disappointed but I understand her political ambition and aspirations and we've discussed it."
When asked how she felt about Tapsell choosing to stand for National, Chadwick said:
"She's chosen her party and that's her choice so kei te pai."
Fellow councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said Tapsell would make an excellent MP.
"She wants the job for all the right reasons. She works hard and has strong family values, evident in her decision making."
Raukawa-Tait said she was pleased Tapsell had decided to make politcs a full-time career.
"Her time as a hard working Rotorua councillor means she already brings local government experience to the role in central government. She know first hand the impacts of government policy on local communities.
"She is young, respectful and lives by the values instilled by her family and elders. She is a credit to her family and will make Te Arawa proud as she moves into this new role. On a personal note I will miss her as a councillor colleague and friend."
Fellow councillor Reynold Macpherson said he took a "pretty sanguine view" of Tapsell's move saying she was a professional politician, highly competent and deserved to be on the way up.
"She is also one of the more rational, reflective, informed and analytical people on council. I hold her in high regard, wish her well and look forward another independent thinker replacing her on council."