Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has been adjusting to her new status as Member of Parliament over the weekend and enjoying a warm community response to the news.
The Māori Party co-leader learned on Friday that a final election vote count put her party up to 1.2 per cent of the party vote, earning her a list seat to join Rawiri Waititi, who won the Waiariki seat.
"I am really thrilled that the Māori Party has a presence in the house again," she told the Chronicle.
"I am humbled by the level of support I have been given as I wasn't sure if people beyond South Taranaki and Whanganui really knew who I was."
Ngarewa-Packer stood in the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate, losing to incumbent Adrian Rurawhe (Labour) by 1035 votes in the final count.
She was committed to supporting Waititi from outside the House for a term and preparing to stand again in 2023 so the news she will now be joining him in Parliament came as a "pleasant shock".
Ngarewa-Packer was greeted by Māori Party members and well-wishers as she prepared for a news conference in Palmerston North on Friday afternoon.
"It was so nice to see people waving and holding flags.
"I didn't expect to see that and I was still a bit shocked so it gave me such warm feelings."
Does she expect that there will be support in Parliament from Rurawhe and other Māori MPs?
"Yes, I do - there is goodwill towards our presence and towards cross-party co-operation," she said.
"I am happy to work with anyone on the things we need to address for Māori and for the country.
"We need to address the two-tier benefit system where people who lost their jobs during the Covid lockdown are paid more than those who were previously receiving benefits. We need to address poverty, housing and create real employment opportunities for our rangatahi.
"There has to be a cross-party collaboration for these things because they are not problems for a government or one party to address - they are national problems for everyone to help solve."
Ngarewa-Packer said she will be an unapologetic champion for Māori and she looks forward to promoting and seeking support for iwi initiatives in horticulture, construction and conservation.
"We have created 20 new jobs for rangatahi in South Taranaki just recently and there is potential for so many more."
The new MP served as deputy mayor of South Taranaki District from 2007 to 2010 and has been South Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui's chief executive since 2010.
In that role, she has led the opposition to the Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) bid to conduct offshore ironsand mining in the South Taranaki Bight.
Ngarewa-Packer said she looks forward to getting on with "the all-important mahi ahead" and working towards bringing more Māori Party MPs on to the waka by 2023.