Whangārei Māori Ward Councillors Speak About Their Inspirations

Nov. 17, 2022, 3:11 p.m.

The Whangārei District Council has two new councillors that were voted in as part of the Māori Wards and represent the Māori constituency residing in the area and enrolled on the Māori roll.

There has been plenty of support for Māori Wards as well as opposition to their establishment of them, they were passed and for the first time, this year in council the representative stood in these seats.

The two successful councillors, Debra Harding and Phoenix Ruka share what this means to be in this role.

Phoenix says that he's never felt represented by anyone in council before and didn't feel that any of the previous councillors were people who resembled him or where he came from in life. His focus is to encourage a future generation to aspire to be in governance at a council level.

"Growing up in Whangārei and Te Taitokerau I've never seen anyone in the council who looks like me, who struggled in school like me, who came from high deprivation areas like me. I want to represent them... I want to be a voice for people who have never had a voice in council", Ruka says.

Debra Harding says, "I think you've got to get past the fear of saying something you shouldn't be saying. It's pretty disciplined but I felt confident, get your feet under the table and get some kōrero done".

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