Series Classification: G (General Programmes)
*At the time of recording Harete Hipango is speaking as a former member of Parliament
Former National MP Harete Hipango may have had a short stint in Parliament. But the Whanganui lawyer has a long history of fighting for her people.
“I was assaulted by the police in the courthouse because I was Māori” – Harete Hipango talks with Mantangireia presenter Maiki Sherman about her career as a Māori lawyer, and later a National Party MP.
*The views expressed in this interview are the honestly held opinion of Harete Hipango who is speaking as a former member of Parliament at the time of recording.
In the world of politics Harete Hipango is a name which remains relatively unknown.
The one-term National MP barely had time to familiarise herself with the rabbit warren that is Parliament, before losing her seat during last year’s bruising election defeat.
“Three years went by too quickly… not nearly enough was done and achieved,” she said.
Harete Hipango is however a household name amongst her people of the Whanganui River.
A descendent of a prominent whānau within the area, she served as a criminal defence lawyer representing the collective and individual voices of her people for decades.
One of the cases she was involved in was the 1995 land occupation of Moutoa Gardens, led by Te Rūnanga o Pākaitore.
Having repossessed the disputed land block the occupation lasted 79 days and sparked a standoff with local police.
“I haven’t spoken publicly about this, but the journey that I went on was one of real struggle and hardship,” she said.
“I was treated appallingly by the justice system, by the police, by the court’s staff, by the judges, by my colleagues – because I was a Māori woman and I was down there amongst my people, but I was also seen by my people, some, as kūpapa because I worked in the courts.”
Holding back tears she recalled one day in particular during the land occupation.
“I was assaulted by the police in the courthouse because I was Māori – no doubt in my mind about that at all, whatsoever,” she said.
Walking into the courtroom as a duty lawyer, police demanded they search her.
“I got searched, I mean patted down the full body search by male police officers. I had two police officers come up to me to restrain me physically, then I had about another two come up and my arm was forced up behind my back.
“They body slammed me up into the wall.”
Ms Hipango said she was thrown out of the courthouse and was later told if a formal complaint were to be laid against the officers involved, she would never work as a lawyer in the town again.
“I wasn’t resisting, I was just asking ‘why have you done this to me?’. And I couldn’t think of any other reason – is that racist? I would say, yes.”
Harete Hipango’s career in politics came much later in life. In 2017 she was selected to contest the Whanganui electorate for National after being approached by former MP Chester burrows.
It would prove to be a tumultuous term for the party in recent times including multiple leadership changes.
“What a rocky turbulent ride that’s been for the party,” she said.
National’s election campaign was just as troublesome.
“It wasn’t tight, it wasn’t a collective, people were going off on their own kaupapa and course.
“Out of adversity though come good things, and it’s about having the mindset and the way of moving beyond.”
The former MP also spoke of her experience as a Māori MP in the National Party.
“The Māori voice in the National Party is still yet to be truly valued I believe… I believe it’s valued by some but not by enough.”
Harete Hipango said she believed change was coming within the National Party.
While she hasn’t closed the door on politics completely, any possible return for her will also be a decision for the party and for voters.
“Whether it’s the next election or not, my hope and my desire to make a difference is still there.”
Made with the support of NZ On Air
About the Presenters
Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Maniapoto
Mihingarangi Forbes is an award-winning broadcaster who is known for her fearless brand of journalism, never shying away from asking the tough questions and tackling the big issues.
As the Māori Affairs reporter for One News in the late 90s Forbes spent much of her time at Parliament reporting on Māori politics. During that time she reported extensively on the fortunes of NZ First and their clean sweep of the māori electorates in 1996.
Today Forbes hosts three’s current affairs programme The Hui where she regularly interviews politicians from various parties. In 2020 Forbes won Best Presenter News and Current Affairs at the New Zealand TV Awards.
Ngāpuhi, Te Whakatōhea
Maiki Sherman is an award-winning senior political reporter for TVNZ’s 1news. She’s also the deputy chairperson of Parliament’s press gallery. Having worked across three television networks including Māori Television, Three, and TVNZ, Sherman has developed a reputation for breaking stories and courageous reporting.
During her career Sherman has covered several general elections, the rise and fall of the Māori Party, Sir John Key’s National government, Hone Harawira’s failed merger with the Internet Party and the ascension of Jacinda Ardern.
In 2014 she showcased her presenting skills when she shared co-hosting duties with Mihingarangi Forbes for Māori Television’s election night coverage.Sherman is a kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa alumni and a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo, the invitation only academy for excellence in te reo Māori.
Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pūkenga, Te Arawa
Scott Campbell is a former press gallery reporter, communications specialist and political commentator. During his time in the gallery Campbell was known for his fair but firm style of journalism.
He began his television career in 2004 under Three’s editor Stephen Parker before being appointed deputy editor in 2010. Campbell was based in the press gallery during the controversial seabed and foreshore legislation which saw 20,000 Māori march on Parliament. He reported on the rise of the Māori Party under the co-leadership of Dame Tariana Turia and Sir Pita Sharples. He also covered Don Brash’s tenure as leader of the National Party.
Campbell left the press gallery in 2010 and is now the chief executive of Campbell Squared, a communications company based in Tauranga. He is a regular commentator for RNZ, The Hui, Newshub Nation and other media outlets.
About the production team
Annabelle Lee-Mather, Producer/Director
Annabelle Lee-Mather (Ngaai Tahu/Ngaati Kahungunu) is an award-winning journalist with 18-years experience in broadcasting. She served as an EP on RNZ’s NZ Wars series. As well as producing The Hui for Three, Annabelle is the series creator and co-producer of The Casketeers.
In 2020 Annabelle was named Editorial Executive of the year at the Voyager Media Awards.
Mihingaarangi Forbes, Producer/Director
Mihingaarangi Forbes (Ngaati Paoa /Ngaati Maniapoto) Mihingaarangi is an award-winning investigative journalist and the presenter of weekly current affairs series The Hui on Three. She began her career in the 90s as a rookie reporter at Te Karere. Since then she’s worked across a range of channels and mediums, with roles on Campbell Live, 20/20, Native Affairs, and as Māori correspondent for RNZ. In 2020 Mihingaarangi was named Best Presenter News and Current Affairs at the NZTV Awards.
Wena Harawira, Executive Producer
Journalist Wena Harawira has a career that spans 4 decades. Harawira was just 19 years old when she became the first wahine to work on TVNZ’s fledgling Māori news service Te Karere alongside the legendary Whai Ngata.
She went on to become the Executive Producer of news and current affairs at Māori Television where she now leads the newsroom.
Having worked in nearly every aspect of the Māori media industry, Harawira is much admired not only for her leadership and journalism but also for the many reporters she has mentored and inspired.
in 2017 Harawira was honoured with Te Tohu a Tanara Whairiri Kitawhiti Ngata for lifetime achievement at Ngā Kupu Ora awards.
About Aotearoa Media Collective
AMC is a boutique Māori production house that specialises in indigenous storytelling and content. Founded in 2019, by journalists Mihingaarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee-Mather AMC has created NZ Wars: Stories of Waitara (RNZ) and The Hui (Three) with Great Southern Television as well as independently producing Matangireia (RNZ) and Coastwatchers: Operation Pacific (TVNZ).