Friendly whānau rivalry for new council seat

By Contributor

A surprise, albeit friendly whānau rivalry has arisen in the competition for the new Māori ward seat of South Taranaki. Photo / Supplied

By Craig Ashworth, Local Democracy Reporter

An uncle and his nephew are battling it out for a new Māori ward in South Taranaki District, but it's all in good spirits.

Glen Katu (Ngāti Hawe of Ngāti Ruanui) declared his candidacy at the monthly church service at Pariroa Pā.

"I said, 'I've seen that there's no one standing for the Māori ward for Te Tai Tonga, I'd like to stand with your support', and everybody just nodded and didn't say much," said Katu.

"And I sat down and saw my young nephew Tuteri was at the back, he stood up and said 'aw uncle I'm gonna stand too - I've already spoken to my whānau!'," he laughed.

The nephew is Tuteri Rangihaeata (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru Kītahi, Ngāruahine, Te Ātiawa), who's also standing for Te Tai Tonga ward in the south and east of the district, Ngāti Ruanui and Ngā Rauru Kītahi territory.

Rangihaeata was put forward after talks amongst some iwi leaders and Katu's candidacy came as a surprise, but the nephew said there were no hard feelings.

"It was good, it meant Uncle Glen and I could catch up, and I said 'full respect to him and his whānau' and 'all the best in the race'."

Katu served eight years on the board of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui as Ngāti Hawe hapū representative, then from 2016 on the board of Ngāti Ruanui Holdings.

The son of Hughes and Te Aroha Katu, he also served in his mother's home area of King Country. He was on the Maniapoto and Ngāti Rereahu boards during Treaty settlement talks and took part in the Waikato River settlement. Last year he returned home after 17 years away.

Katu is the longest standing board member on the NZ Māori Tourism Board, with several terms as chair, heads the NZ Ginseng Association, and has a Certificate in Company Direction from the Institute of Directors.

He was on the Taranaki DHB during the fight to retain Hāwera Hospital and through his career has been a senior manager in banking, forestry and ecotourism.

But Katu wasn't sure all that would hold much sway in the election.

"It's not so much the expertise with Māoridom - it's how your families will feel confident and comfortable with you representing their interests."

His time in kapa haka including the Pātea Māori Club, activity in the Māori Methodist Church, and work with the Hāwera High School whānau alongside Mere Pirikahu might count for more.

"It's your involvement with your Māori community... and do they see you at home, do they see you around the place, or do you live in Auckland?"

The son of Tāme Rangihaeata and Miri Prime, Tuteri Rangihaeata came home from Auckland and Christchurch 15 months ago to look after his kuia Pauline "Bub" Prime.

Continuing work for his Māori branding and marketing company Waha, he also became the Ngāti Hine hapū representative on Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui. The board said it would support any reps who stood for the ward.

Rangihaeata then sought approval from Ngā Rauru and Ngāruahine.

Political party affiliation is rare in Taranaki local government, but he accepted an invitation to stand under the Te Pāti Māori banner.

"They approached with mana and dignity, they didn't put any pressure on me, and I had to... take a couple of days to think about it - because I needed to think less about me and more about what value am I going to add to Te Pāti Māori brand."

He said the support gave him the resolve to stand.

"When we have our whānau, our marae, our hapū, our iwi, our rūnanga and Te Pāti Māori there's no fear."

"Part of it also having that the support of my whanaunga and māreikura Debbie Ngarewa-Packer."

He wanted to help whānau access full services from council, and to protect "our iwi and our pepeha from the mountain right down to the ocean and everything in between.

"The kai sources how healthy are they? How many tuna are in the rivers and streams, how healthy is the watercress and puha?"

Without a specific policy agenda, Rangihaeata said listening to iwi and hapū would tell him what was needed.

"It's not just me, I'm an opportunity to lift our whānau voice in the community: one person, many voices is how I see it."

In contrast, Katu is taking aim at four specific policy areas.

He said the council should encourage local efforts to tackle climate change, such as subsidising solar panels for homeowners, making available more electric car charging points, and planting more trees on public reserves.

Planting fruit and nut trees could also strengthen food security, said Katu, and council should also coordinate community gardens and neighbourhood planter boxes.

Red tape needed cutting to stop obstructing papakāinga development and encourage affordable housing.

Katu said the economy needed boosting with more industry-specific education, and by a shift in community outlook to better welcome immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds.

Anyone on the Māori electoral roll can vote in the Māori ward elections.

Voting papers have already been mailed out and need to be returned by midday, 8 October.

If you're not enrolled, you can still vote: pick up special voting papers at the council offices in Te Hāwera or any district library.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air