National | Chatham Islands

Maōri making history in local government

Faylene Tunui who was elected unopposed as the first Māori wahine mayor in Kawerau

Three wāhine Māori have made history in local body election results this week and one more may be by Wednesday.

They're among five Māori to date who have been elected as mayor by their constituents and there is another tāne waiting to hear if he will win his close election.

Tory Whanau, Tania Tapsell and Faylene Tunui have been confirmed as new mayors while Monique Croon won’t know if she has kept her mayoralty until special votes have been counted.

Ron Mark and Gary Petley are the two confirmed tāne Māori mayors while Moko Tepania is also waiting to hear if special votes have won him his election.

Tory Whanau in Wellington is the city's first Māori mayor, with a landslide majority of 16,426 votes. Whanau (Ngāruahine) is a former Green Party chief of staff and paid for her own $40,000 campaign.

Whanau told Te Ao Māori News that more indigenous representation in local councils means more normalisation that tangata whenua are ready to be part of local councils such as the inclusion of Māori wards.

How far can Māori representation in local councils go?

Raring to go

“I’ve already had a lot of mums get in touch with me to say ‘my daughter thinks it’s awesome that you’ve won.’ Now we can see the mayoralty as a possibility for their future.”

Tania Tapsell who is 30, is the first Māori woman to be elected mayor in Rotorua. The management consultant (Te Arawa, Tainui), who stood for National in the last election but did not win, was first elected to the Rotorua Lakes District Council when she was 21.

Tapsell had immediate plans today to work with the new council to reverse the planned sale of reserves.

She told the New Zealand Herald she was also looking forward to "getting rid of this 'emergency housing motels situation' here in Rotorua".

She said as the motels were only consented for short-term tourist accommodation, she wanted a "tougher regulatory approach" to them.

Deputy mayor steps up

"For those buildings that are known to be dangerous or a fire hazard to be notified as a dangerous building, which gives them 10 days notice, and those need to either be shut down, no longer be used as residential [properties], or upgraded to meet those standards. I think that's very fair."

Kawerau has elected its first wahine Māori as mayor. Faylene Tunui (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) had served as deputy mayor and was elected unopposed.

Monique Croon (Ngāti Mutunga), the first wahine Māori mayor of the Chatham Islands, is waiting to hear if her knife-edge election will go her way. Before special votes, her challenger deputy mayor Greg Horler was only eight votes behind her.

Croon is the owner and operator of a business that supplies fuel and hardware for the island population of 650 people

Meanwhile, former New Zealand First MP and Defence Minister, Ron Mark (Ngāti Kahungunu. Ngāti Kea, Tuara, Ngāti Porou) returns as mayor of Carterton, a position he last held in 2010. He told Te Ao Māori News his approach to the role would be no-frills, describing his priorities as "high-quality democracy, better engagement with the community, getting back to the basics and focusing on things that really matter, like infrastructure".

Putāraru mayor

Gary Petley (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Mutunga) is the new South Waikato District mayor, which includes Tokoroa. A Fonterra truck driver, he stepped down last month to concentrate on the mayoralty. He beat Tokoroa-based lawyer Arama Ngapo.

Petley, 67, was born and bred in Putāruru. He told Stuff the new council had a  "good mix, with experience and youth and some really talented women like Maria Ta Kanawa, who will help strengthen our links with Raukawa, which will be a really good thing moving forward."

Special votes are still being counted in the Far North to decide whether mayoral candidate Moko Tepania will become the district's new leader. Today he had the lead over deputy mayor Ann Court by more than 200 votes.

If he's successful, Tepania at 31 years old will be the youngest-ever Far North mayor. The kuru kaupapa teacher (Ngāti Kahu Ki Whaingaroa, Te Rarawa)  has separately won re-election to the council – standing in the Māori ward that he was largely responsible for introducing.