Saturday, June 15, 2013
Parekura Horomia was a huge man, with a huge heart, and he loved our people.
I met Parekura when I was 20 years old and finishing my degree down in Wellington.
I waited in his office for eight hours before he finally had time to see me for my first interview. After a quick discussion about who I was and where my whanau were from, he told me to pack an overnight bag and be back first thing in the morning.
That was the first day of what would become a 25-year journey of travelling up and down the country, working in service of our people alongside a great man, Parekura Horomia.
Since he passed, I’ve reflected on what I learned from him and his lessons were basic: love our people, serve our people, trust our people and do the yards on the ground.
Ikaroa-Rawhiti is an enormous electorate. I have travelled thousands of kilometres over the past month meeting nannies in the kitchen, kids at kura, whanau, hapu and iwi leaders on farms and in offices, freezing and forestry workers at the factories, and many of our people doing what we can to get by.
These weeks have affirmed a few things for me: our people are struggling on the ground and no one has been listening; our people are talented and travelling to Australia in droves because there is a lack of opportunities at home; and finally, there are opportunities that are not being realised because the current government is out of touch with us and we have been ignored.
I was born in Manutuke and moved to Whakatu (Hastings) when I was a child. I started my working life as a rousey in Uncle Pong Wyllie’s shearing gang up on the East Coast, and then later worked in the casings department at Whakatu Freezing Works. Looking back, I feel fortunate at the life we lived, where we all had mahi, and I know that this is no longer a reality for many of our whanau.
Our people need jobs and we need to be heard.
A key motto that Parekura had was “local solutions to local problems”. I have been privileged to be the chief executive of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated for the past four years. Our key focus was on developing local talent and building capacity. For example, we recently bought a 3680-hectare farm that spans 12 kilometres of coastline, which we will use to train our own to work the whenua.
The role of Government should be to enable hapu, iwi and our people to create sustainable solutions for our whanau. That is why I have put my hand up to be a part of a major party that will form a new government in 2014.
Our people face major issues and we need major solutions and major champions sitting at the cabinet table ensuring that our voice is heard.