July 14, 2022, 5:53 p.m.
MOKO TEPANIA’S GRANDPARENTS, AUNTIES, UNCLES, COUSINS, NEPHEWS, NIECE AND WHĀNGAI SON (PHOTO SUPPLIED BY MOKO TEPANIA)
As nominations open for the Far North District Council (FNDC) local elections, Councillor Moko Tepania has decided to put his hand up for mayoral elections. The mayoral seat will become vacant as John Carter stands down after serving as mayor for three terms. This will make the way clear for new leadership. There will also be four Māori seats and six general seats contested.
Tepania was a key figure in bringing Māori Wards to the Far North District, Māori representation on Council committees and elevating te reo Māori in Council Chambers. Tepania has proven himself to be a smart and influential advocate for Māori in local government politics, despite this being his first term.
Tepania spoke to Te Hiku Radio about his goals and why he has chosen to put his hat in the ring for the upcoming mayoral elections;
"It is time to step up and unite our communities, there has been conflict for far too long. It's time to allocate funding toward worthy kaupapa that best serves our communities."
MOKO TEPANIA AND HIS COUSINS CAMPING IN MITIMITI (PHOTO SUPPLIED BY MOKO TEPANIA)
Tepania is of Te Rarawa and Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa descent and his whakapapa ties him to the communities of Mitimiti and Waihapa. Growing up, his fondest childhood memories on home soil were camping each summer, either in Mitimiti or Taemārō, Whangaroa, where his father is also from.
"We reconnected with our whenua each year - learnt to ride horses, fish, collect kaimoana. My best memories are from heading home" said Tepania.
WAIHAPA MARAE TEAM AT THE PIRI MŌKENA MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT IN KĀEO - 2010 (PHOTO SUPPLIED BY MOKO TEPANIA)
Tautīnei asked Tepania what inspired him growing up, and how his upbringing has shaped his aspirations to become involved in politics and represent Māori in council;
"I am incredibly fortunate to have hardworking, grounded and dedicated parents who brought me up with strong values to be motivated, show manaakitanga and to do everything with tika, pono and aroha. My dad is a civil engineer and my mum worked throughout my upbringing in public service. They also made sure that I always knew who I was and where I am from."
MOKO FISHING AS A CHILD IN TUTŪKĀKĀ (PHOTO SUPPLIED BY MOKO TEPANIA)
Although he didn’t grow up knowing te reo Māori, he picked it up as a subject in school and was lucky enough to still have his karani who spoke the language. He then became a te reo Māori teacher and became a constant advocate for the revitalisation of tikanga and te reo Māori.
"From being a teacher to becoming a councillor, I’ve seen how council plays a huge role in the wellbeing of our communities so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed in life," said Tepania.
Tepania graduated from Waikato University with a Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary) and a Bachelor of Arts in Te Reo Māori and Anthropology. He then returned north where he is also a teacher at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe.
Tepania is the Young Elected Member (YEM) representative for Te Rōpū Whakahaere o Te Maruata. He is also excited to be one of the Co-Chairs of the YEM Committee. Tepania is a first-term councillor for the Kaikohe-Hokianga ward of the FNDC and holds the council’s Te Ao Māori portfolio. He also represents the Far North for the Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs alongside Cr Rachel Smith from the Far North. Tepania is on the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board and the Far North Creative Communities Scheme and loves seeing funding go directly to worthy kaupapa in the community.
Tepania spoke to Te Hiku Radio about his involvement in creating room for improvement when it comes to the use of tikanga in the FNDC. Tepania's advocacy to set a policy for te reo Māori and tīkanga has been a work in progress but hopes to include the appropriate way to induct new staff members in accordance with tikanga and the use and encouragement of te reo Māori. The councillor says there is already good work being done in this space and has been a key part to this process.
Tautīnei asked Tepania what made him put his hand up for mayoral elections;
"Definitely, the huge support and encouragement from whānau and from the community for me made me put my hat in the ring. The past three years in council have been a huge learning curve and I’ve seen the positive impact that mahi in council can have for us. I know that the Far North is going to need a strong and dedicated mayor to work with fellow councillors and our communities to be someone our district can be proud of to lead us forward."
Tepania forced the Extraordinary Meeting to revisit the establishment of Māori Wards after it was voted down last year. He has been a strong advocate for equitable Māori representation since entering local government politics in 2019. He told Te Hiku Media's Haukāinga team that;
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that this Council would leap so far. Because our mahi in this space was so diluted and to go from one spectrum to the other is beyond my wildest dreams."
The nomination period runs from the 15th of July to the 12th of August 2022. Voting is held between the 16th of September to the 8th of October with results announced on Friday 14th of October 2022.