Far North mayor Moko Tepania wins award for mahi promoting youth in politics

Far North mayor Moko Tepania has been named one of the world’s top five young politicians of 2023. Photo / Far North District Council

By Peter de Graaf of RNZ

Far North Mayor Moko Tepania has been named one of the world’s top young leaders by a global organisation working to promote youth in politics.

Tepania is one of five winners of the One Young World Politician of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding politicians aged 18-35 making a positive impact on young people.

The 32-year-old, a Kaikohe-based te reo teacher who previously served one term as a councillor, became the youngest and first Māori mayor in Far North District history when he won the 2022 election.


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Tepania said he felt “blown away” and hugely humbled just to be nominated, let alone shortlisted or named among the winners.

He also felt a little conflicted about the award given how much work needed to be done in the Far North and the fact he had only been in the role since October.

“I was a little bit nervous to be honest about winning this award when I’ve only been in for two seconds and need to get my feet on the pavement and get some wins for our people,” he said.

“But I understand this award isn’t just about me. It might be my name on there but really this is for everyone working in these spaces, so I’m really stoked.”


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He hoped it would encourage and inspire Northland’s other young leaders to continue their mahi.

Tepania was looking forward to attending the awards ceremony in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in October.

It would be his first time in that part of the world, he said.

Mayor Tepania made the global shortlist for the inaugural One Young World Politician of the Year Award. Photo / Supplied.
Mayor Tepania made the global shortlist for the inaugural One Young World Politician of the Year Award. Photo / Supplied.

The judges’ citation stated that Tepania made history in 2019 as the youngest elected member on the Far North District Council, and again in 2022 when he became the district’s youngest and first Māori mayor.

He was also the first councillor to submit a report in te reo Māori or to speak only in Māori for an entire council meeting, which he did to celebrate Māori Language Week.

The judges said Tepania used his office and background in teaching to strengthen youth involvement in politics.

He supported the Make It 16 campaign to lower the voting age and was a member of the Mayoral Taskforce For Jobs, which aimed to improve employment and education opportunities for youth.

Tepania (Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Te Rarawa) was raised in Hikurangi, just north of Whangārei.

He worked as a butcher in Australia and considered taking up an apprenticeship there, but instead came home and studied teaching, Māori and anthropology at Waikato University.

He taught at Pompallier College in Whangārei before moving to the Far North to teach at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe.


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Tepania is finishing a master’s degree in education. His dissertation explores how Maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, can be used to benefit learning.

The other winners in this year’s awards hail from Canada, Australia, Belgium and Nepal.

Arielle Kayabaga fled Burundi during that country’s civil war and settled in Canada, where she was the first black woman elected to London City Council. In 2021, she was elected as an MP for London West, also the first time a black woman had held that position.

Ayor Makur Chuot, who was born in an Ethiopian refugee camp after her family fled South Sudan, is Western Australia’s first MP of African descent.

Samuel Cogolati, of Belgium, is an MP and deputy chair for the Foreign Affairs Committee who has campaigned tirelessly for human rights and volunteers as a law lecturer in Congo.

Sobita Gautam, 27, was born in an un-electrified village and educated in poorly equipped government schools, but is now the youngest female parliamentarian in Nepal’s history.


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