Far North Mayor Moko Tepania hopes to use Waitangi Day t o “get in the ear” of Wellington politicians about Northland’s failing infrastructure and fear-mongering about co-governance. Photo / Tipoki Photography
“Abysmal” roads and political fear-mongering about co-governance are two of the key issues Far North Mayor Moko Tepania plans to raise with national leaders as they descend on Waitangi this weekend.
Once a year Waitangi Day provides a golden opportunity for Northland leaders to get in the ear of Wellington politicians, and Tepania is planning to make the most of it.
The freshly elected mayor said he was looking forward to welcoming MPs and Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro, along with the rest of the country, to Waitangi.
This year’s Parliamentary powhiri would be run by the hau kainga, the home people, so it would take a different format to welcomes of recent years.
“It’ll be cool to see how it all goes, but I’m also very much looking forward to the opportunity to have all these people in power up here in the North, to get in their ears about the great needs we have here.”
High on that list was Northland’s “absolutely abysmal” roading, particularly given the region’s lack of public transport, and the nation’s road funding model.
The current system of paying for roads, public transport, shipping, rail and mass transit from the same pot led to inequities, especially for people in remote areas, Tepania said.
The Far North also suffered from a “huge” housing shortage and “woeful” wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
“So I’m looking forward to having conversations with the government around things like that and where they can help us pick up the pieces as a council.”
Tepania said he had been chosen as one of five speakers from “the home side” to address Parliamentarians during Sunday’s welcome, and would also use that platform to address what he said was a lack of understanding about co-governance.
“There’s a lot of politicisation going on because it’s a hot topic and it gets votes. Certain parties are trying to fear-monger in that space, but co-governance is an absolute necessity. Māori have been fighting for too long for a say on how we need to protect our environment and everything like that.”
Labour deputy leader and Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said a number of ministers had met Northland leaders on Thursday afternoon to hear about issues affecting their areas — transport included.
“What with the roads between here and Auckland closed at the moment, and the bigger issue of Mangamuka Gorge, it’s an opportunity for the mayors and councillors to talk directly to ministers on a range of topics relating to their portfolios,” he said.
Davis said Waitangi Day would be different now that Jacinda Ardern was no longer prime minister but he was confident Chris Hipkins could fill her shoes at Waitangi.
“Chris is extremely competent and capable but he’s a different person to Jacinda and will forge his own path. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be known only as the person who replaced Jacinda, and he’s got the capability and people skills to make that happen.”
Asked if he expected Māoridom to demand a response to the Waitangi Tribunal’s momentous stage 2 Te Paparahi o Te Raki report released just before Christmas, Davis said the government wouldn’t make any quick decisions.
“It’s a 2000-page report that’s going to take some time to really go through and analyse carefully, so we’ll take our time as the government to go through it and form our response. We have to look at it seriously and we won’t be making any quick decisions.”
The report calls, among other things, for the return of all Crown-owned land in Ngāpuhi’s tribal area, and for the Government to begin talks with Māori about how to rework the country’s constitutional framework in light of the Tribunal’s earlier finding that Ngāpuhi chiefs did not cede sovereignty when they signed Te Tiriti in 1840.