‘Democracy is alive’: Candidate events kick off in Tairāwhiti

Tairāwhiti got a first look at the options for this year’s local body elections last night as the candidates took the opportunity to present themselves at a ‘meet the candidates’ event.

Twenty-eight electoral candidates were present at the Te Poho-o-Rawiri Marae in Gisborne on Monday evening for an event giving them the opportunity to present themselves.
Photo: Matthew Rosenberg/LDR

Nearly 100 people gathered in Te Poho-o-Rawiri Marae to hear from 28 contestants on a range of issues selected by the host, as well as questions from the audience.

Topics included land issues in the area, the busy road network, the introduction of Maori ward seats and how the council could gain greater priority from central government for funding.

A series of quick questions asked candidates if they supported the sale of Eastland Network and whether the city should grow or expand to support more housing.

The event was also an opportunity for the public to meet those who wish to fill the five new Maori ward seats created under the November 2020 council resolution.

Ani Pahuru-Huriwai described the upcoming elections as a historic year for Te Tairāwhiti, saying the introduction of the Maori quarter was long overdue, and Jodie Toroa echoed that sentiment.

“We have been very patient since 1840, and this is one more step towards partnering with Te Tiriti,” Toroa said.

Chris Haenga, who is also running in the Maori quarter, said he stood on behalf of anyone who had no voice or was afraid to “come out”.

“The only promise I can make is that rates will go up,” he joked.

The contestants had a few minutes to introduce themselves before the microphone was once again passed around the room to answer questions from the host and MC, Manu Papuni-Iles.

Four people are running for mayor this election. Three were present at last night’s event – Mayor Rehette Stoltz, Rhonda Tibble and Darin Brown.

Tibble showed up with a waiata, while Brown said he never thought he’d get the chance to run for the job.

Stoltz wanted to give “a big thank you” to everyone who submitted their name.

Democracy is alive. I’m delighted to see our Maori quarter and our headquarters this time,” she said.

“What an adventure it’s been. I’m excited about our future, we have so much potential here.”

The event featured candidates from a variety of backgrounds, including teachers, farmers, lawyers and artists.

One candidate – Jordan Walker – received the full support of the crowd when he answered the question of why he was running.

“I’m arguably the most diverse person standing right now. I’m Maori, I’m Pākehā, I’m a creative, I’m also takatāpui, so that means I’m not binary. I have six months in my stages of transition.

“I am directly engaged with young people. I think it is important if we think in the future that we have someone like me on the board.”

The room erupted in applause. A question from the public about which mayoral candidate they would most like to work with received diplomatic answers.

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On the issue of the sale of Eastland Network, Ian Proctor said he heard from the community that it was not a good idea and that he did not believe in “selling our people”.

Rawinia Parata said Trust Tairāwhiti had an ethical obligation to consult on the sale, even though it was not legally obliged to.

“The answer is maybe. Potentially, we would support it if we were engaged and consulted.”

Thirty-nine people raised their hands in the elections this year in the two wards and the town hall.

A similar event will take place at Tokomaru Bay Sports Club tonight from 5.30-7.30pm before moving to Te Waha o Rerekohu School, Te Araroa at the same time on Wednesday.

Election day is October 8 and voting materials will be released from September 16.

Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air