Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, the Green Party’s candidate for the Ikaroa Rawhiti seat. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, the Green Party’s general election candidate for the Ikaroa Rawhiti seat, said a major reason she is standing for the Greens is that it is the only political party “honouring the Treaty of Waitangi” in its charter.

She also said in the party’s four pillars: connection with earth, non-violence, social justice and appropriate decision-making, is local and iwi driven as needed.

“I like fighting for justice and speaking up for people,” Kerekere said.

She became politically active at age 18 when in 1984 a personal mentor, Toni Waho, gave her the opportunity to speak in Parliament as part of the Hui Taumata. This meeting was known as the first major Maori economic summit.

She founded the Tiwhanawhana Trust, ‘The Curve of the Rainbow’, an organisaton that supports queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender indigenous people. The Maori name for an individual with an identity of this nature is Takatapui and it is one Kerekere identifies with.

She also identifies with mana wahine – women of strength. She is very comfortable with her moko that she created and carved four years ago on the day of her late father’s unveiling. It is ‘waiwai pukara’ – a pukeko, the purple bird.

“It is about the footsteps of that bird, the way it will keep on claiming its space and safety.

“I spoke with my great-grandmother just before she died about my desire for a moko and she told me of her regret at not having one like her own mother did.

“I knew I had her blessing and she was happy for that as the head is sacred for Maori.”

But having an Irish mother there were discussions between daughter and mother about how the Irish identity may be diminished by Elizabeth wearing a moko. But like many other issues Kerekere navigates, her mother was present at the time the moko was carved and was supportive.

Kerekere also has a passion for taonga [treasures], art and museums. She is an artist. She was employed by Te Papa at age 26 to be the Institutional Planner for Maori. She advised on the design for the Te Papa marae, Te Marae Rongomaraero. And this is where her civil union with partner Alofa Aiono was held.

Running as a candidate for a second time the issues she is most concerned about are adequate housing and poverty. She is now travelling across the large east coast electorate talking with Maori leaders to gauge their concerns.

Kerekere’s iwi are: Whanau a Kai, Ngati Oneone, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri. Her parents are the late Karauria Tarao [Bison] and Erin [nee Ryan]. She was raised in Gisborne.

  • The general election is on Saturday September 19.
  • A person is eligible to enrol and vote if 18 years or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and has lived in New Zealand continuously for 12 months or more at some time.
  • Parliament dissolves on August 12.