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More Maori women eye Mayorality on North Island

“Improving access to local democracy is at the heart of the Nelson City Local Elections campaign,”
says Deputy Electoral Officer Devorah Nícuarta-Smith

Leah Tebbutt
Bay of Plenty, August 11, 2022

This year’s local elections will have more Maori women aspiring to become Mayors.

Elections for Mayors, Councillors, Local Board members and other bodies will be held throughout the country from September 16 to October 8, 2022.

Nominations for all posts close tomorrow, Friday, August 12, 2022, at midday.

Georgina Beyer is believed to be the first and only Maori woman ever elected as Mayor in New Zealand’s history. She became Mayor of Carterton in 1995.

Arama Ngapo: Diversity is the best representation (RNZ Photo by Andrew McRae)

Arama Ngapo

Arama Ngapo had been a Councillor for six years before putting her hand up for Mayor of South Waikato in this year’s local government election.

“I am confident that things would be different after the vote. The face of democracy at the local government level is going to change after this October election,” she said.

Ms Ngapo said that diversity is the best representation of a community.

“However, it is not seen often at a governance level. I don’t think this country has ever seen such a high proportion of Maori people contest, indicative of where we stand in society. No one should look at a Council and wonder whether they belong there,” she said.

As a practising lawyer, Ms Ngapo has experience in public life.

“I am used to being in places that are not traditionally comfortable, but we definitely belong there,” she said.

Tania Tapsell: Racist and ageist backlash fuels desire to contest (RNZ Photo by Samuel Rillstone)

Tania Tapsell

Tania Tapsell (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whakaue) is standing for the post of Rotorua Mayor for the first time. She received more votes as a Councillor than the current Mayor Steve Chadwick, in the last two local government elections.

She said that racist and ageist backlash fuelled her desire to contest the Mayoralty.

“It is almost a challenge where I go, (with people saying)  ‘I am going to prove you wrong.’ I am going to work so hard that there will be no doubt that Rotorua, for us, or the country for others, is better off through our involvement,” she said.

Ms Tapsell believes that the rise in the number of Maori women contesting for Mayor had crystallised from the challenging times that the entire country has 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 who bother to vote. That is why there are Councils that have not been focused on all areas of the community,” she said.

Kelly Stratford: We need diverse Maori leadership (RNZ Photo by Nita Blake-Persen)

Kelly Stratford

In the Far North, Kelly Stratford (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāi Te Rangi) is also a debut candidate.

She said that strong Maori leadership is needed across the country.

“Society has changed, we have the Maori Health Authority and Maori Wards. Some people feel that something has been taken from them and, most of all, Maori feel that they are more empowered. We need diverse Maori leadership to lead in these new times of challenge,” she said.
Apart from Ngapo, Tapsell and Stratford, Kawerau, Ruapehu and Wellington also have women among Mayoral candidates this year.

Leah Tebbutt is a Bay of Plenty and Waikato Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above Report (modified) and pictures have been published under a special agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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