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Whaitiri targets primary industries

Meka Whaitiri is ramping up her campaign. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri would love to see a woman in charge of primary industries in New Zealand.

Whaitiri, of the Labour Party, took over as MP for the Maori electorate in 2013 following a by-election after the death of her predecessor, Parekura Horomia.

She remained the incumbent after the 2014 election, winning by over 4000 votes from Te Hamua Nikora of the Mana Party.

Masterton’s Marama Fox, of the Maori Party, finished third.

The electorate runs from Wainuiomata in Lower Hutt, right up to the top corner of the east coast above Gisborne.

Whaitiri knows the work she has done in the last few years will ultimately be judged at the general election in September.

As always, she is prepared for anything.

“To be an effective MP, I believe you have to have a plan that reflects the people you represent,” she said.

“When I look across my electorate I see absolute challenges, but I also work in that development space and I’ve always had a passion for unlocking the potential in our primary industries.”

Targeting the primary industries had allowed her to engage with growers and farmers, key stakeholders including iwi, councils and tertiary institutions.

“I’d love to see a woman in charge of primary industries in this country . . . I’ve made no secret that primary industries is my angle.”

Whaitiri was born in Gisborne but raised in Hastings, and was head girl at Karamu High School.

She was also a talented sportswoman, playing both netball and softball at national level.

She worked at a local freezing works and eventually completed a master’s degree in education at Victoria University.

Whaitiri currently holds multiple roles within the Labour Party, including spokesperson for local government, associate primary industries spokesperson, associate food safety spokesperson, economic development, and trade and export growth.

She identified plenty of local issues she was keen to address, with the proposed amalgamation of Wairarapa’s three councils at the top of the list.

“I’m going to meet the mayors, so I want to hear what they think.

“Of course I’m going to support what the locals want, but there’s still a lot of detail to come through.”

She was concerned about the way the process was being run, particularly when the “large council and its voters can outvote the smaller ones”.

“It’s about making sure the process is robust and people’s voices are properly recorded.”

Another area of concern for Wairarapa was the declining number of social workers, she said.

There had clearly been a “lack of resourcing” in the region around social workers, and Masterton in particular had a “chequered past”, she said.

“If it morphs into this new entity, I want to make sure their resourcing decisions change from what we currently witness under CYF (Child, Youth and Family).”

Ongoing problems with water storage was another issue she was looking to combat.

Although she agreed water storage was needed, she was not convinced a proposed dam was the solution.

“I saw figures saying the dam would be used to irrigate 10 per cent of the land area, so what happens to the other 90 per cent?

“There need to be red flags in place so that if you don’t meet a certain condition, you have to make a decision on whether it’s the best way to spend the money, or you opt out.”

Ultimately, she urged voters to vote “strategically”.

“We just want our people to be in the moment.

“Opposition always take us back to the past, and I get it, but we’re not back in that time.

“If there’s a better deal in town, by all means go and do it, but we want to provide a clear outlook of the Labour picture.”

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