National | Māori

Waikato-Tainui keen to connect Bennett to Māori heritage

Waikato-Tainui are keen to assist new deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett in understanding more about her Māori heritage.  Rahui Papa, Iwi chair of Te Ara Taura, says because she is from Waikato, it's only right for the tribe to assist her.

Waikato-Tainui will take up the responsibility to ensure the new deputy Prime Minister knows her culture.

Te Ara Taura Chair Rahui Papa says, “As a result, Waikato will sew a passion within the politician for her culture.  Going forward, this is how it is for her in politics, but now she knows her ancestry, therefore, she can wear her culture as cloak within her role as deputy Prime Minister.”

Bennett grew up in Taupō, but her grandmother and her dad lived in the Waikato. She says she is open to learning her heritage.

“I've always known that I was Tainui. I grew up with King Tawhiao on the wall. My grandmother who has been a huge influence on me and my life, this was 50 years ago. She felt that Māoridom were a bit negative, and more in a grievance mode.  I didn't grow up knowing right back through my whakapapa, I didn't grow up marae-based. I've started the process, and then through circumstances, I couldn't follow through.”

Five years ago, Bennett approached Waikato-Tainui about establishing a joint initiative with Child, Youth and Family, called Mokopuna Ora, to ensure the tribe's children remain in whānau care or placed back with whānau.

“Further at the meeting, she brought her genealogy book for me to look at, and next thing, I saw she was of Tainui descent.  From that time we've known about her links to the tribe,” says Papa.

Her appointment drew a mixed reaction from some opposition Māori MPs.

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta says, “Firstly we should congratulate her. Her Māori links have been made known, no doubt, that's a huge position for her.”

Labour MP Peeni Henare says, “She did say she never grew up on the marae, however, the challenge now is for her to return to her marae.”

Whether Paula Bennett returns to her marae remains to be seen.