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Māori ward councillor ready to listen

Masterton District Council’s first elected Māori ward councillor says she is a mouthpiece for the people of Masterton and the most important part of her job is to listen.

Marama Tuuta says she takes every opportunity, including hairdresser appointments, to learn more about what the people of Masterton want for their town.

“It’s really hard because different people want different things, but my job is not to sway anyone, it’s just to listen.”

Despite representing everyone, she says she has a special interest in helping Māori thrive and succeed.

She says she hopes her 2022 election as Māori ward councillor signals to Māori that their voices are important.

Leadership comes naturally to Tuuta. As a student, she was a house captain and a prefect at Wairarapa College – “I just knew how to handle people,” she recalls.

After school she followed her passion for education as the principal at Masterton East School, and a lecturer and co-director of the Wellington College of Education Kura Māori.

A saying from her time as a principal has always stuck with her: “God gave you two ears and one mouth.”

More recently Tuuta has been the director, trustee, and advisor for many groups that are close to her heart – often iwi based or in the health and disability sector.

These include Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa, Whaiora Masterton, and Wairarapa Tāngata Whaikaha.

In all these roles she learned the importance of listening to people.

Tuuta is continuing her advisory work as a member of the Masterton Council’s Climate Advisory Group and the newly formed Disability Advisory Group.

She says the projects, including enviro-schools and community gardens, that she visits as part of her climate advisory duties are exciting and insightful.

“If people could see the things these groups are doing, they’d be so impressed.”

Certain aspects of being a councillor have surprised her – “It isn’t what I thought it would be,” she says, noting that many issues seem to take a long time to resolve, and she sometimes finds herself thinking, “But didn’t we deal with this three months ago?”

“There are all these processes you need to go through, and I haven’t quite learned them yet.”

Tuuta says her proudest moment as a councillor so far was being involved in solving the wastewater problems around Cockburn St and Colombo Rd.

“One family came into the council and complained that the water had come up with all the waste into the garage that was their son’s play area”

As reported by the Times-Age earlier this week, a temporary medium-term solution for residents is now in place while a longer-term project is underway.

Tuuta says she doesn’t promise to solve everybody’s problem, or to even agree with them. But she says she guarantees she will share the concerns with others who might agree.

“And maybe along the way I’ll learn something, change my mind, and become more aware.”

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