Merepeka declines Waiariki offer

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait.


High profile Rotorua politician, Merepeka Raukawa Tait, has declined an approach for a possible role in central government.

Rotorua Now followed several rumours linking Merepeka and fellow Rotorua Lakes councillor Tania Tapsell to interest from Wellington.

Merepeka, head of Women’s Refuge in the 2000 decade, had been sought by the Maori Party to stand for the Waiariki seat, held by Labour’s Tamati Coffey.

Tania Tapsell, still in her 20s and now in her third term as a local councillor, does not appear interested.

Her prospects emerged following a decision by Anne Tolley to opt for the National Party list against standing again in the safe National-held East Coast seat.

“I’ve heard the rumours, as well as others,” Tania says.My understanding is the selection process for a new MP is confidential and the National Party will no doubt make an announcement within the next few months.”

But overtures by the Maori Party to woo Merepeka for the seat held for several years by co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell have been spurned.

“This hasn’t gone down particularly well with some Maori Party supporters, locally and from around the country,” says Merepeka.

“They believe I have the profile to have a good run at it.”

Merepeka says she’s “heavily involved” with taking Whanau Ora to newer heights and “battling to get Oranga Tamariki out of the lives of Maori families, [so] they can hand over their substantial funding in the process”.

“And, of course, my RLC and Lakes District Health Board commitments keep me busy, too.”

It’s her understanding that so far only one person, Rawiri Waiteti, has put his name forward.

Rawiri is to be considered at a full Waiariki meeting later this month.

“I heard him speak at Ratana and at Waitangi. He is very impressive and ‘hungry’ for the job. That in itself goes a long way.

He is young and will need support to make himself known but he knows Maori aspirations, through his hands-on work, can clearly articulate these in both languages, and I am happy to do what I can to support him.”

Merepeka, who once stood for Christian Heritage in the Wairarapa district, made her name with Environment Bay of Plenty many years ago.

On returning to Rotorua in more recent times, Merepeka won a place on the Rotorua council, via a byelection created by the resignation of popular Geoff Kenny.

Since, especially under current mayor Steve Chadwick, she has flourished with responsible chairmanships.

She has also been elected to the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust.

Until recently, she proved a popular columnist for Rotorua’s daily newspaper.

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