Former Kiwis player to tackle national politics

8:01 pm on 28 June 2016

Former Kiwis rugby league international Howie Tamati is aiming to take his winning mentality to the national political stage.

Mr Tamati, a New Plymouth councillor for the past 15 years, is seeking the Māori Party candidacy for the Te Tai Hauāuru seat.

The seat, which extends from Putaruru and Tokoroa in the north to Porirua in the south, is currently held by Labour's Adrian Rurawhe, who succeeded Dame Tariana Turia in 2014.

Howie Tamati

Former Kiwis rugby league international Howie Tamati wants to be the Māori Party candidate for the Te Tai Hauāuru seat. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mr Tamati, who played 24 tests for the Kiwis between 1979 and 1985, said he had been thinking of stepping up to national politics for a while and now seemed like the right time.

The 63-year-old believed the Māori Party was making a significant contribution to New Zealand and said he wanted to be a part of that.

"I've had a very close association with [Māori Party co-leader] Te Ururoa Flavell. I think he's a tremendous person and I think the job he's doing in Parliament is awesome," said Mr Tamati, who is of Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāi Tahu descent.

"I think Marama Fox is another very special person that is doing a great job.

"The Māori Party is something I really do truly believe in and is something I'd really like to join and try to make a difference."

Mr Tamati, who is also the chief executive of Sports Taranaki and was awarded an MBE in 1994 for services to rugby league, said he already had issues he would like to pursue if he was successful and elected to Parliament.

"Obviously I'm interested in [the] local government representation area. I think it's really really important how to build relationships with iwi and hapū at the local community level.

"But also moving the Māori nation is obviously something that is dear to my heart in terms of the health and well-being through physical exercise."

The geography of the Te Tai Hauāuru seat was a challenge that he was up to, he said.

"The difficulty for Māori politicians and parliamentarians is trying to actually service the area.

"I know the responsibility around that means a lot of travel to get around and try and convince people I'm the right person to be their candidate, but I've been thinking about that for a while now and it's something I'm prepared to do, get in a car and just do the travel to meet the people."

A decision on who will contest Te Tai Hauāuru for the Māori Party is expected at the end of the year.