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Tākuta Ferris and Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke
Tākuta Ferris and Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke

PoliticsOctober 16, 2023

Meet the two new MPs from Te Pāti Māori

Tākuta Ferris and Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke
Tākuta Ferris and Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke

Saturday’s election has delivered Te Pāti Māori two more MPs, with Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke and Tākuta Ferris set to join Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi in parliament. So who are these fresh faces?

Continuing its upward trajectory since its 2020 rebirth, Te Pāti Māori’s success in the election will see it grow its caucus from two MPs to four. The party’s return to parliament was expected via Rawiri Waititi retaining the Waiariki electorate, and while their party vote percentage did grow – from 1.17% in 2020 to 2.61% this time – the crucial factor turned out to be the electorate vote. Not only did Waititi easily win again in Waiariki, Te Pāti Māori picked up three more electorate seats, with co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer taking Te Tai Hauāuru and Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke and Tākuta Ferris nabbing surprise wins in Hauraki-Waikato and Te Tai Tonga respectively. 

So who are these two fresh faces?

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke

Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Taranaki, Te Atiawa and Waikato-Tainui

#4 on the party list

Winner in Hauraki-Waikato

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke heading to parliament is a historic achievement – the 21-year-old is the second-youngest MP ever. The Raahui Pookeka local who grew up around Waahi Paa represents the rangatahi of Te Pāti Māori. 

Despite her youth, Maipi-Clarke has an impressive CV. As a tauira at Huntly’s Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga, she published a book, Maahina, which encouraged rangatahi to use the maramataka for their hauora. She has also supported the Ministry for Primary Industries to encourage whānau Māori to grow their own food – which was informed by working at her local māra kai, Kahui Tua. 

While she has been described as an “expert” in the maramataka and māra kai, Maipi-Clarke told The Spinoff in 2022 that she doesn’t yet see herself as a knowledge holder but instead as a messenger for her generation. Nonetheless, she clearly knows more than most rangatahi, having taught the Warriors about Matariki and the maramataka. 

She burst onto the political scene by giving a rousing speech during the 50th-anniversary celebrations for the Māori language petition. But Maipi-Clarke’s political roots go much deeper than that. She is the mokopuna of Ngā Tamatoa members Hana Te Hemara and Taitimu Maipi, and a descendant of the first-ever indigenous parliamentary minister, Wiremu Katene. “I’ve been brought up around a lot of activists,” she told Jack Tame during an interview on Q+A

Maipi-Clarke turned down political parties four times before joining Te Pāti Māori. She explained to Tame, “I don’t think I want to be a politician. I want to be a kaitiaki. A kaitiaki for our reo, a kaitiaki for our whenua, a kaitiaki for our mātauranga that’s been handed down.” But Maipi-Clarke conceded that she’s “sick of our people being the first to serve the motu but the last to eat at the table”, and to counter that, “sometimes you have to be in it to win it”. 

That initially reticence makes her electoral success all the more remarkable, starting her parliamentary career with a victory in Waikato-Hauraki over cabinet minister Nanaia Mahuta, who had been an MP in the rohe since before Maipi-Clarke was born. Maipi-Clarke’s underdog win in the longtime Labour stronghold was likely enabled by the amount of rangatahi in Waikato-Hauraki, the country’s youngest electorate, where around half of voters are under 40.

Rawiri Waititi has said Maipi-Clarke embodies the future of Aotearoa and in his 2022 profile of Maipi-Clarke on The Spinoff, Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes wrote that she “paints an indigenous perspective that reflects maturity and leadership beyond her years”.

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke (Photo: Supplied; additional design by Tina Tiller)

Tākuta Ferris

Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Porou and Rangitāne

Winner in Te Tai Tonga

#5 on the party list

Tākuta Ferris’s victory in Te Tai Tonga was one of the biggest surprises of the election. Not only had Labour’s Rino Tirikatene held the enormous electorate, which covers the entire South Island, plus Wellington and parts of the Hutt, for the past 12 years, members of Tirikatene’s whānau had represented the seat and its predecessor for 72 of the last 91 years. In 2020, Tirikatene beat Ferris, his closest rival, by a margin of 6,855, earning nearly twice as many votes as the TPM candidate.

So what happened? In a June interview with Radio Waatea, Ferris described the Tirikatene whānau as dynastic, while acknowledging the whānau’s enormous contribution to Te Wai Pounamu. But he also said that rangatahi and mokopuna see the world differently than those who make up Labour’s Māori caucus. During a Whakaata Māori debate with Tirikatene, Ferris said those young people were the ones whom Te Pāti Māori was targetting: “Te Pāti Māori is about developing a movement that claws in mokopuna Māori.”

Ferris is an artist and carver and, according to his bio on Te Pāti Māori’s website, “a fine exponent of kapa haka, having led his kapa Tamatea Arikinui to many Matatini”. He holds a master of mātauranga Māori and bachelor of Māori art from Te Wānanga o Raukawa and has worked in academia for many years, most recently as a lecturer and adviser to Massey University. In his Waatea interview, Ferris explained how his academic background carried over into his political career. “When it comes to holding senior Pākehā to account, I’ve been doing that a long time, and I’m very happy doing that,” he said.

Ferris has said he’s dedicated to fighting relentlessly for Māori independence on behalf of tamariki and mokopuna. “Our people have begun to believe again, to rebuild, to reclaim, and to stand in our mana as our mātua and kaumātua taught us to. Our younger generations are more culturally and politically aware than we have ever been before, the future is bright! The future is Māori,” he said in a press release announcing his candidacy.

Ferris’s profile has grown over this election campaign, peaking when he held his own against David Seymour, Marama Davidson and Winston Peters during the Press leaders’ debate in Christchurch last week. His impassioned speeches and interjections – including calling Seymour “Treaty-illiterate” and saying people who try to incarcerate their way out of crime are “out of their mind” – impressed many debate watchers, including Herald political reporter Michael Neilson. Stay tuned for some fiery debates in the house when parliament resumes.

This is Public Interest Journalism supported by NZ On Air.

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