THE race for the regional council is heating up with the announcement from local Tuhoe and media personality, Toi Kai Rakau Iti, that he will be standing for election in the Kohi constituency.
The son of veteran activist and artist Tame Iti, Mr Iti is more widely known for his satirical documentaries and for speaking truth to power from the host chair of Maori Television’s Media Take.
“Hosting a political show like that certainly prepared me for taking up this kind of challenge,” he said.
“We live in a complex world with competing interests. Guests would come on to the programme with very strong positions on a kaupapa and it was my job to allow each side to put forward their perspective while finding a common sense of purpose between the two sides so we could explore a unified way forward.”
He said that with so many stakeholders in the Kohi constituency it was important to find common ground that we could all traverse.
“You can’t please all the people all the time but everyone should have the opportunity of authentic input and have their view represented. That should not be too much to ask for.”
Mr Iti was the Eastern Bay co-ordinator for this year’s Sustainable Backyards and it was this experience that galvanised his choice to run for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
“The work with Sustainable Backyards really drove home for me the challenge we face in terms of climate change, loss of bio diversity, water quality and our general disconnection from the true costs of our consumption.
“At a regional council level, it is not a time for business as usual. It is not a time to warm a chair at the table because we have bills to pay.
“In contrast, it is a time to ask really difficult questions, a time to find better solutions and a time to show strong leadership.
“We are making important decisions for not only us right now but for us in the future. We have a moral obligation to start cleaning the ecological mess we have created.”
Lack of Maori participation in local government is also a kaupapa that Mr Iti is passionate about confronting.
“As mana whenua we have a deep connection with the whenua and waterways and we have very strong views on how we should behave towards these taonga. But largely, we see the local government bodies who manage these taonga on behalf of the wider population as Pakeha set ups that have nothing to do with us.
“We view it as another scam of the coloniser. I get it.
“My message though, is this, if we disengage, we continue to be disempowered. We must participate in all levels of leadership, from hapu, to iwi, to local and central government.
“I know everyone is busy with daily life but nobody is so busy that they can’t vote for someone to do the mahi that needs to be done.
“So, it’s a mix of putting forward competent people who Maori can trust to do the mahi and taking the time to vote for them.”