11 Aug 2022

Local elections 2022: Wāhine Māori challenge mayoral seats

11:24 am on 11 August 2022

A number of wāhine Māori have put their hat in the ring to become mayor at this year's local body election across the motu.

Arama Ngapo, Lawyer and District Councillor

Arama Ngāpō says diversity is the best representation of a community as she puts her hand up for mayor of South Waikato this election. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Georgina Beyer is believed to be the first and only Māori woman ever elected as mayor in New Zealand's history when she became mayor of Carterton in 1995.

Arama Ngāpō had been a councillor for six years before putting her hand up for mayor of South Waikato this election.

Ngāpō said she was confident things would be different after the vote.

"The face of democracy at a local government level is going to change after this October election."

Diversity was the best representation of a community, Ngāpō said.

However, it was often not seen at a governance level, she said.

"I don't think this country has ever seen such a high proportion of Māori people stand but that really is just indicative of where we stand in society."

No one should look at council and wonder whether they belong there, she said.

But as a practising lawyer, she had experienced that feeling before, she said.

"I guess I am used to being in places that aren't traditionally comfortable, but we most definitely belong there."

Candidate for Rotorua's mayor seat, Tania Tapsell says the discrimination actually fuels her to prove people wrong. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Tania Tapsell (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whakaue) is standing for mayor of Rotorua for the first time.

She received more votes as a councillor than the elected mayor, Steve Chadwick, in the two previous elections.

Racist and ageist backlash only fuelled her, she said.

"It was almost a challenge where I go, 'I'm going to prove you wrong' and I am going to work so hard that there will be no doubt that ... Rotorua, for us, or the country for others, was not better off through our involvement."

Tapsell believed the strong number of wāhine Māori standing for mayor had crystallised from the challenging times the whole country had experienced.

"We now require a different style of leadership. A leadership that is actually connected to all parts of our community because we know only four out of 10 people actually bother to vote.

"That's why we have had the councils that we've had in the past, that haven't been focused on all areas of the community."

Far North District Councillor Kelly Stratford in Kawakawa.

In the Far North, Kelly Stratford (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāi Te Rangi) says strong Māori leadership is needed across the country. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

In the Far North, Kelly Stratford (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāi Te Rangi) is also standing for mayor for the first time.

Strong Māori leadership was needed across the motu, Stratford said.

"Society has changed, we have the Māori Health Authority and Māori Wards.

"Some people feel like something has been taken from them and, most of all, Māori feel they are more empowered. We need diverse Māori leadership to lead in these new times of challenge."

Alongside Stratford, Tapsell and Ngāpo, wāhine Māori are also standing for mayor in Kawerau, Ruapehu and Wellington.

Candidate nominations close at midday 12 August.

  • LGNZ members despondent over low number of election candidates
  • Nominations slow for mayoralties, council seats and Māori wards
  • ‘No pet projects under me’: Tapsell launches Rotorua mayoral bid
  • Councillors experiencing racism, discrimination on the job - survey
  • Raetihi local enters race for Ruapehu mayoralty