'I'm just so humbled': Allanah Burgess, Marlborough's first Māori ward councillor

By Contributor
Photo credit: Anthony Phelps / Stuff

By Maia Hart, Local Democracy Reporter

Allanah Burgess was surrounded by whānau when she found out she would be the first person to represent Marlborough's Māori ward on the District Council.

"Everyone got up and did a wee mihi for me, and sung a waiata, I can't even think of words at the moment, I'm just so humbled," Burgess said.

Manager of Waikawa Marae, Burgess said she wanted to be the person that Māori in Marlborough could approach to talk to about things of importance.

"I'm also learning to find my voice, I'm very much a listener … I'm the back part of the marae, and I think going forward, now, I'm voicing the people's voice," Burgess said.

"It's still unknown territory for me, but it's a challenge I'm willing to accept and hopefully do it justice."

Burgess (Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu) said she felt privileged to be the first to take on the seat, seeing off the only other candidate for the ward Tony MacDonald (Te Ātiawa, Rangitāne).

"I'm humbled by the result ... to be the first in Marlborough, I guess that's what makes it a bit surreal, it was just amazing being surrounded by all the whānau here when the results came in as well.

"I'm proud of Marlborough for taking this step and accepting a Māori ward.

"It's new to all of us … it's going to take a lot of effort and hard work for not only me ... but for other councillors to accept having that new voice."

She said she felt more than ready for this next step in her journey, and was looking forward to doing that under the leadership of newly elected mayor Nadine Taylor.

"I'm surrounded by female leaders, and I think that at the moment that's our way forward.

"I think that through my current experience I thrive on women leaders because I see what they have achieved, and they do it strong, holding integrity and really leading the way.

"Especially in these types of positions, women can, and women will do. I'm looking forward to being part of council with Nadine at the head, to be honest."

Burgess said she was "quite a busy person" so knew she would have to lean on the support of others as she "championed" the role.

"We kind of had a wee bit of that kōrero (conversation) throughout the campaign and this afternoon around just us all being there for each other," she said.

"It's going to mean that I'm going to have to say 'no' sometimes, and I'm going to have to say 'yes' to people that offer me help, which is quite a big step for me, because usually I like to be that person myself."

She hoped to spend the next couple of weeks "speaking to and sending love" to those who had supported her.

"Final results aren't until Wednesday, so it'll sink in a wee bit more then I guess, but I want to have a chance to mihi to Tony [MacDonald], and I hope to talk to him today.

"For not only putting his hand up, but he's been beautiful and kind in the way he's supported me throughout this whole process."

Marlborough District Council preliminary results (based on about 90 percent of votes):

Blenheim ward

Jamie Arbuckle

David Croad

Deborah Dalliessi

Brian Dawson

Cyril Dawson

Matt Flight

Thelma Sowman

Marlborough Sounds ward

Barbara Faulls

Raylene Innes

Ben Minehan

Wairau-Awatere ward

Scott Adams

Gerald Hope

Mike Insley

Māori Ward

Allanah Burgess

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