First our Land - Now our Water

Sept. 1, 2022, 5:08 p.m.

Penetaui Kleskovic has always had a voice in spaces that matter within te ao Māori. He actively participates in and upholds tikanga, hītori, mātauranga Māori, te reo, taiao and whenua Māori kōrero with whānau, hapū and iwi in search of better strategic community solutions. 

His vision for, and mission toward, creating stronger pathways for future generations, whilst upholding traditional tikanga, has steered him in many successful directions whilst bringing together all iwi within Muriwhenua. 

Now he is combining everything he has into one kete to contest for one of four Māori Ward vacancies within the 2022 Far North District Council Local Body Elections.

When Tautīnei asked Kleskovic what inspired him to accept his nomination to fulfill one of four seats as a Māori Ward, he replied;

"I have a vision of the future where our people have a platform to contribute to solutions for, and raise concerns about, issues that matter to them, and to us from a Māori perspective. 

Our whenua needs to be cared for through a lens that understands what kaitiakitanga really is. Our understanding of whenua is unique in a sense that we are linked to whenua via whakapapa, therefore we are caring for our lineage when we are practicing guardianship in any sense. Take the SNA saga for example where whenua, including whenua Māori, was mapped out to suit their own agenda. We need to be present in these spaces, not only to hold to account, but to ensure we have a voice and that our future is safe," said Kleskovic.

Kleskovic wants to highlight and create solutions toward;

  • Creating clearer communication channels between council and communities, especially Māori.

  • Providing a platform for Māori to voice concerns.

  • Rate portions and how they are allocated on general title properties. 

  • How we are able to, or not able to, utilise whenua Māori - no red tape!

  • Hydrology & Wai Māori.

  • Asset management, who manages what, why and how?

  • Historical site protection and preservation.

  • Environmentally sustainable infrastructure.

  • Drainage, including by-laws.

  • Reserves Act.

  • By-laws and action plans which include roading and flood management.

Kleskovic attended Mangonui Primary School, Taipa Area School and then went to Wellington College. His northern ties are deeply rooted within Muriwhenua, with his iwi being Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa. 

He is the proud pāpā to Paengatai, and his partner, Trinity Edwards, is a candidate for the Kaikohe-Hokianga community board. Edwards is also passionate about creating better outcomes for her community and works within the health and well-being industry alongside local rangatahi.

"I am a small business owner based in Kaikohe. Through my business I have delivered small community projects and health and wellbeing initiatives including being a Community Sports Co-ordinator for the Northland Paraplegic Association and as as a Physical Education Officer for the New Zealand Police. I currently work as a Life Coach with youth in Kaikohe," said Edwards.

Kleskovic is one of seven siblings and has grown up surrounded by an abundance of whanaungatanga, regularly enjoying the company of his many loved ones. This old soul has experienced a lot in just over three decades of life.

Tautīnei asked Kleskovic if his upbringing in Te Taitokerau has shaped his aspirations and vision for the future.

"My culture has a collective orientation. I have been raised in a family that emphasised group events and activities. Attendance at tangi and other types of hui have been a major part of our upbringing. Māori language was a regular part of our daily routine whether it was from our father and mother, or church, kapa haka or daily schooling. Waiata, whaikōrero, marae ritual and ceremony, Māori kai, participation in iwi sport such as Pā Wars and iwi politics were a regular feature of our home life," detailed Kleskovic.

His rangatira qualities have fed down from his many esteemed tūpuna. He is the direct descendent of Te Aupōuri chief, Te Kaaka through his whaea tupuna, Erina Kaaka, the first recorded Māori woman to marry a Dalmatian settler, Andrija Kleskovic. He also carries another tupuna ingoa into the future, being a direct descendent of Muriwai and Penetaui, who defeated the British at Ngawha in 1845. 

One of his latest endeavors, as the Commercial Operations Manager for Te Rūnanga Nui o Te Aupōuri, includes securing a partnership with Te Wai Pounamu-based Westport Deepsea Fishing School for careers in the industry. 

This initiative was created to support rangatahi from Te Aupōuri and Whangaroa into employment. Once they have been through the 12-week course, the young men and women will be able to step into jobs with firms like Sealord or Talleys, either offshore or in processing roles on shore.

Another recent project for Kleskovic was his challenge toward the Government's plans to remove exotic trees from the permanent category of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Iwi representatives, including Te Aupōuri, together with Māori forestry leaders, joined Māori trade leadership group, Te Taumata, to discuss the proposed forestry changes which stand to strip $7 billion from the Māori economy. Kleskovic spoke as a discussion panelist on Te Hiku Media's Whitiwhiti segment about the proposed changes and what this meant for Māori carbon forestry farming businesses.

"Back in Muriwhenua we simply want to protect our options to use our whenua in a commercially rational way without too much red tape. Given my whakapapa to Te Aupōuri, we are attuned to this and it is wrong to prevent us using our land to economically survive and deliver for the multitude of owners," Kleskovic told Stuff.

Kleskovic's manaaki for his people doesn't stop at infrastructure and employment, his collaborative and innovative efforts have even pulled off a successful Covid-19 vaccination push in December 2021. Conor O'Sullivan spoke to Te Hiku Radio about Vax in the Hood, a kaupapa that Kleskovic was a key driving force behind, contributing to the vaccination push to increase the vaccination rate in Te Taitokerau. 

The 2022 Māori Ward candidate will be able to utilise many attributes reflective of his tūpuna, such as his fierce voice of passion, confidence when debating inequality, innovation, his ability to bring all corners of Muriwhenua together and his fluency in te reo - a master in oratory. He has already proven a strong stance across many kaupapa over the years.

"We can't make progress if we aren't represented in those spaces and I feel so passionate about making the most of my time here on this earth, that this is one way for me to be able to do that. I can create change, both behind the scenes and at the forefront of those decision- making panels," said Kleskovic.

His sharp focus and results driven attitude will definitely seat Māori at the decision-making tables.

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