CHELSEA BOYLE

chelsea.boyle@age.co.nz

Three women are vying for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat, an electorate that stretches along the east coast from the Te Araroa area all the way down to Wellington.

The Green Party’s Elizabeth Kerekere, the Maori Party’s co-leader Marama Fox and the incumbent MP from the Labour Party Meka Whaitiri, will all be hoping to grab votes in Wairarapa.

Mrs Fox has recently nabbed the top spot on the Maori Party list which features 17 women and nine men.

“We wanted to ensure that mana wahine was prominent in the Maori Party,” Mrs Fox said.

Mrs Fox said Wairarapa people were facing problems with affordable housing, the regulation of water, health services and methamphetamine addiction.

“What we really want to do is make sure that people get into homeownership and that there are affordable rental options available,” Mrs Fox said.

“Emergency housing is a temporary plaster to a long-term solution – what we need to do is build more homes.”

They wanted to see more housing options such as the Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae’s papakainga development, she said.

Mrs Fox said dams did not work and they needed to look to local water storage solutions for individual farmers.

The community also needed to work together to “continue the fight against P”.

She expected that decriminalising marijuana would be a “hot topic” over the next three years and the greater conversation about the legalisation of marijuana needed to be had.

“I mean marijuana is not completely ‘unharmful’ but neither are alcohol, cigarettes, and so on.”

Mrs Fox said they would also push the government to review how district health boards (DHBs) are funded.

“DHBs should not be in control of the money if they are also the provider.”

Ms Whaitiri said the issues facing Wairarapa people had been exacerbated by “general neglect” from the government.

“Under National, the homeownership rate has fallen by eight per cent in Wairarapa,” she said.

“Schools here got a $135,000 effective cut in operational funding in 2017.

“National has cut $5m from Wairarapa DHB since 2010.”

In this year’s budget, National announced a $98m funding package for the railways in the Wellington region – but Wairarapa was left out, she said.

“Labour believes in investing in our regions and that includes Wairarapa.

“We know we need to invest in infrastructure, and Labour will build a replacement route for the Manawatu Gorge Road and upgrade the Wairarapa rail line.

“The current Wairarapa rail link is not fit for purpose, it does not cater to the needs of commuters.

“Labour will double funding for roads and transport projects of regional importance.”

Labour was going to increase homeownership in Wairarapa through its KiwiBuild policy, she said.

Dr Kerekere said looking after the waterways was a huge issue, and that all rivers should be swimmable.

The Green Party wanted to clean up every single river in the country – “That’s do-able.”

From the latest reports, they knew Wairarapa had one of the highest suicide rates in the country, she said.

The Green Party wanted a full independent review of all mental health services in New Zealand, she said.

“We are chronically underfunded for mental health services, especially at the local level.”

Affordable housing was also another big issue that needed to be addressed.

Her party would be focussed on building more affordable homes and they needed to be “sustainable and energy efficient”.

“It’s a basic human right that you should have somewhere to live.

“Whether you are renting or whether you own that home, everybody should have a warm dry home.”