Auckland's first wāhine Māori councillor wants mana whenua to have more say

6:00 pm on 18 October 2022
Auckland councillor Kerrin Leoni

Auckland councillor Kerrin Leoni Photo: Supplied/ Labour Party

Auckland's first wāhine Māori councillor says she will encourage a change to let mana whenua have voting powers.

Labour-affiliated Kerrin Leoni won the Whau ward with 8373 votes, surpassing incumbent Tracy Mulholland by only 300.

Leoni said the council should introduce Māori wards and mana whenua should be part of decision-making.

"I acknowledge mana whenua here and the voice that they need to have at the council table too, so they have voting rights with the committees but not at governing boards," Leoni said.

"I do believe [we] need to move towards a system where mana whenua do have a say."

Leoni said waiting for the final votes to be counted was nerve wracking.

"I was really nervous. Even though we received the updated results to say that we were ahead, we just didn't know which way the special votes were going to go."

Leonie said it was important the council finally had a wāhine Māori voice at the decision-making table.

"From a wāhine perspective, I definitely want to prioritise things like health and well-being for our people here in Tāmaki Makaurau. I want to share a lot of the values that we hold in terms of tikanga and break down some of those barriers between Māori and non-Māori," Leoni said.

"I believe that we do need to recover from Covid, our economic development strategy needs to be clear over the next three years on how we're going to rebuild our finances," she said.

She wanted the city's infrastructure and waterways cleaned up, a youth hub in her ward and wraparound support services for rangatahi.

After graduating with a degree in Māori development 20 years ago, she was inspired to help combat issues relating to poverty, domestic violence, drug use and child abuse.

"It was very shocking to see the difference between the severity of the issues that are happening for such a small population here, compared to what's happening on a larger scale in the UK," she said.

"And when I returned, I could see that a lot of those issues were still occurring... I thought I need to come home and to get involved in my local community."

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