Conversation with Kiritapu Allan

Kiri is the new political driving force across the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Kiritapu Allan is the List MP for Labour who covers the East Coast electorate. She has become the driving force that is connecting the region with decisions being made in Wellington.

Last week the Prime Minister announced that a Cabinet reshuffle could be on the cards after the delivery of this year’s Government Budget. Kiri is one of the contenders to receive her first Ministerial warrant.

Over a few coffees at Javaman Café, I tried to find out some more about Kiri and her politics.

Ko wai koe?

He uri ahau o Ngati Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Tuwharetoa hoki. I tipu ake au i te rohe o Mataatua me Te Tairawhiti hoki. He hononga ki te rohe o Ngati Awa ano mai taku tamahine, he uri ia o Te Pahipoto.

Favourite Political Moment in NZ History?

In an era of upheaval, coming out of the Great Depression, World Wars and off the back of mass land confiscations, Rt. Hon. Michael Joseph Savage had the foresight to introduce our welfare scheme. At the same time, he entered into a political union with Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana. Together, they had the leadership to begin mobilising cultural unity across the country.

What’s your leadership style?

The community is the best driver for any solutions to issues that arise and my role as a political leader is two part: make sure I have a close ear on the ground to be able to communicate the messages either to Government or to the community; and second, to cut through bureaucratic red tape to get things done.

Most professional embarrassing moment?

Being asked to be the inspirational speaker at an event for an elderly population. I angst over my speech much more onerously than is typical hoping to make a compelling impact given my father had a relationship to the group. Two minutes into my remarks of a 20-minute speech, all the elders had decided that I was not worth listening to and commenced very vocal discussions over mine so I couldn’t be heard. Following the speech, I was told that I would never be listened to if I didn’t introduce exactly who I was, where I was from and how I was connected to the audience. From that experience, I learnt to always introduce myself at the outset!

What was your first job?

Stuffing boxes full of propolis lozenges for Comvita when I was 5 years old. I graduated to picking gherkins by 7, cleaning a motorbike shop at 12, and then KFC, Rebel Sport and a Postie for NZ Post during my teenage years.

If you were Prime Minister for a day what policy or legislation would you introduce?

I would reintroduce the Trades Training Scheme that saw immeasurable benefits for generations of families during the 70s and 80s.

Do you have a Private Members Bill?

I have two in draft. The first is a member’s bill that amends Schedule 2 of the ACC Act that provides remedies for families, across generations, that have been impacted by the PCP contaminants at locations like the Kawerau and Whakatane Paper Mills. The second is a member’s bill that aims to enhance our nations biosecurity by ensuring our biosecurity standards are shown in audio visual form on every international flight coming into the country.

Are there any political party’s that you would not form a coalition with?

In principle, the National Party. We shouldn’t have a ‘mega-government’ and it’s important to have a strong opposition to ensure constitutional protections for citizens.

In principle, should the Labour Māori Caucus form a relationship with Māori Party?

There are numerous grounds where we have shared principles. In areas we share common political aspirations, I think everyone is better off if we can work together.

Members in the coalition you respect the most?

Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern. She is great on the world stage, the national stage and genuinely believes in progressive, transformational change.

Members in opposition you respect the most?

Barbara Kuriger, their Senior Whip is someone I find great to work with and we have a shared interest in seeing the primary industries do well.

Best and worst thing Hon Anne Tolley has done for region?

The Motu Bridge was an achievement. Failure to meet with local constituents citing conflict of interest as a Minister was an ongoing weakness.

What foreign policy focus would you like to improve?

I think we should play a stronger role in protecting human rights across our current trade agreements as well as contributing to the evolution of such protections in international law.

Published in the Beacon on 5 February 2019.

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