Tory Whanau hoping Relationship Management will be the key to Wellington Mayor's Office

By James Perry

Tory Whanau is running for the Mayoralty in Wellington. Photo: Tory Whanau for Wellington Mayor/FaceBook 

After six years in the halls of Parliament, Tory Whanau is stepping out from behind the scenes with the hope to “add value” to Wellington City.

“Now is the time for a wahine Māori who can carry the lens of all these different communities, who has a strong political background, and actually just go hard and put it all into a leadership position.”

Whanau, the former Green Party Chief of Staff, confirmed she will contest the Wellington Mayoralty at next year's Local Body elections. She says the communities around the capital have been let down by previous Wellington City Council decisions.

“Like many in Pōneke, we’re feeling a bit frustrated about the state of our city because of the issues around our broken pipes, infrastructure, water issues, crumbling buildings. That sort of thing. We are quickly losing our sense of community and our whanaungatanga,” she told Te Ao Māori News.

Should Whanau be elected to the Mayor's office in 2022, the Taranaki descendant could very well join two other strong wahine Māori, Jill Day and Tamatha Paul around the council chamber.

“I have huge respect for both Jill and Tamatha. In fact, Tamatha and I have become quite close in the last couple of weeks. Actually, she’s inspired me to make a run. I’ve seen her do the kind of mahi and speak her mind. That’s exactly what the council needs.

“The mere thought of the three of us working together -  it just excites me.”

Her time with the Green Party in parliament included being involved with negotiating the three-way government agreement between the Labour Party and New Zealand First, the latter notoriously not natural bedfellows with the Greens.

She says those experiences will play a big role in her bringing the council, which has been described as divided in the past year, together to work towards fixing the problems caused.

“It was an experience that was so valuable, but one of my favourite parts of the job. The conversations were tough, each party had to compromise but that’s what negotiating is about. By the end of it, I ended up becoming quite close friends with a lot of people in New Zealand First.

“I think relationship management and being pragmatic is key, especially with councils. I’m really excited, if I become Mayor, to work with the different individuals who represent their communities, respecting what they have to say, respecting what their communities have to say and getting around the table and get things done.

“At the end of the day, I think most people care about the future, the state of our city, we just have a different way of getting there.”

One of the relationships Whanau intends to strengthen is that with iwi, and Māori in general in the city. She says it’s integral for the council to work with iwi for Wellington City to be successful.

“I made it clear at my campaign launch that Te Tiriti [o Waitangi] is at its core. It needs to be part of the decision-making process, as well as the environment. As Tangata Whenua, naturally, I’ll come with that in the back of my mind, but over the next few months, I will be engaging with iwi and getting their thoughts on what that looks like, that decision making process and making them part of that process,” she says.

The controversial Three Waters bill currently being debated in parliament, and pushed by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, will be one of the biggest issues facing councils across the country in the lead up to next month's election. Whanau is personally in favour of the change, however, is equally in favour of hearing what the people of Wellington think on the issue.