Tania Tapsell, of Te Arawa, has been selected as the National Party candidate for the East Coast in the 2020 general election.
Tapsell succeeds National MP Anne Tolley, who has held the seat for 15 years.
“What I’ve come to realise is the playing field is still quite small. So when our people are facing a significant housing crisis and now a significant economic crisis, to be honest, I just felt a moral obligation to step forward for our communities across the East Coast.”
Tapsell was 21 when she was first voted on to the Rotorua District Council in 2013 and she has continued as an elected councillor for the past seven years.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned about politics is that it’s actually about our people and, until you can understand our people and advocate for them properly, you’re not going to be a good leader,” she says.
Tapsell has been the highest-polling candidate on the Rotorua Lakes Council for the past two elections and surpassed even the mayor in voting numbers in 2019.
“It’s been such a pleasure to meet all the families and the business owners within our communities and actually being able to make some positive change for them.”
The National Party recently received criticism for a lack of Māori representatives positioned high in their Party-list.
Tapsell agrees that National’s front row should reflect the diversity of New Zealand and although they may not be Māori, "they have worked incredibly hard for Māori and their policies are Māori friendly".
“If we were to put people high up on the list purely because of their ethnicity or their age or their gender that is actually tokenism in my personal perspective. So for me personally, I would rather be in a place because I am capable of it and I’ve worked my way there and not necessarily just because if my ethnicity.”
Tapsell is chairperson of the council operations committee, which oversees $1.2 billion in public assets. She has a passion for the environment and led the council's sustainable living strategy.
"East Coast is a diverse, beautiful electorate spanning from Te Puke through to Gisborne with farming, forestry, horticulture, fishing, manufacturing and tourism the backbone industries of our electorate."
Tapsell's great-uncle was the Māori Labour MP, Sir Peter Tapsell. She has previously been named deputy chairwoman of the Community Boards Executive Committee, an advisory committee to Local Government New Zealand's national council.
The board represents the country's 110 community boards, supporting and advocating for them while helping build stronger relationships between those boards and their partner councils.
As a female leader, she acknowledges other women in politics.
“It’s been quite a journey for us but I love that coming into this space, being a woman is nothing new now and any other young woman looking at getting into a leadership role knows that there’s absolutely no barriers anyway.”
Rising political star has sights set on future mayoralty and Beehive / Te Ao 2019
Tapsell represents more than 30 boards across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and East Coast.
She has a bachelor of management studies from the University of Waikato, diplomas in business and marketing, and is completing her masters in management.
Tapsell's first career was in tourism and iwi organisations before she went on to work for BNZ Business Partners and later Deloitte.