10 Oct 2022

First wāhine Māori elected to lead their cities identify major issues

6:44 am on 10 October 2022
Tania Tapsell won the mayoralty in Rotorua and Wellington's Tory Whanau made history as the capital's first wahine Māori mayor.

Tania Tapsell won the mayoralty in Rotorua and Wellington's Tory Whanau made history as the capital's first wahine Māori mayor. Photo: RNZ

The local government election was a big win for two newly-elected mayors who have become the first young wāhine Māori to lead their cities.

Tania Tapsell won the mayoralty in Rotorua with more than 6000 votes, twice as many as her closest opponent Fletcher Tabuteau.

The first-time mayor has been part of the Rotorua Lakes council since being elected nine years ago at the age of 21 - the youngest-ever councillor in Aotearoa at the time.

She plans on tackling one of the town's biggest problems - hotels being used for emergency accommodation.

"When you give landlords healthy home standards but then you say but we're going to put our most vulnerable people into motels that are not adequate and not fit for purpose, the question actually comes back to the government," Tapsell said.

"So we will be pushing back hard at the government but also using our regulatory powers as council around the building act and consent."

This includes lobbying against a controversial proposal to sell public reserves for social housing.

She's also speaking out against the introduction of Māori wards, which she says was a rushed decision that has backfired.

"Before we had four Māori councillors around the table, now we only have three. Two previous Māori councillors have unfortunately lost their jobs, they were not successfully re-elected. So you have to be careful what you wish for when you set these policies and unfortunately, we haven't seen a good result in Rotorua because of them," Tapsell said.

Wellington's Tory Whanau has also made history as the capital's first wahine Māori mayor - beating her nearest rival Andy Foster by more than 16,000 votes.

She wants to deepen the council's relationship with mana whenua saying it's crucial they're included in all the decision-making.

"This is their whenua, this is their land. All tangata whenua want is to look after our resources, our land, our people. Decision-making, or co-governance or co-design is actually a beautiful thing. It benefits everyone, now we have a mandate to do that and that's really great."

She wants to focus on housing, water infrastructure public transport and reducing the impacts of climate change.

"We need our kids to know they can afford a home in the future, that they won't be paying for the impacts of climate change, that we're here to look after them and that really hints what people were looking for. Who's going to focus on the future, who's thinking about the next generation and that's exactly what I intend to do."

"So I'm really keen to work with the central government to see how we can either encourage innovation in New Zealand, support our supplies more, have a look at regulation so we can really get houses built as soon as possible."

Aotearoa has five new Māori mayors compared to only one in 2019.

This year also saw 66 Māori ward councillors elected in 35 Māori wards.

Despite this, voter turnout amongst Māori was even lower than on the general roll, Local Government Te Maruata chair Bonita Bigham said.

"It's going to take a few election cycles and a lot more interaction with our people to understand that their voices matter in this space and that we need them to manifest their mana in their election cycles so their communities are well represented," Bigham said.

Ruapehu District saw the highest turnout for Māori voters at 30 percent , with general turnout in the area sitting at 37 percent. Special votes are still being counted.

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