A first-time rangatahi voter struggles to see a voice that will represent her.
I voted last week, for the first time. I chose to endorse the governing structures of this country; structures that have repeatedly betrayed my people in our history together.
The 2007 Tūhoe Terror Raids, Helen Clark’s failure on Foreshore and Seabed Bill, the treatment of Māori children in the foster system, Tohunga Suppression Act, historical education failures to uphold te reo Māori, urban planning that facilitated Māori assimilation into te ao Pākehā etc. All these things were influenced by decisions in government. So I voted, because I hoped we would see change in our government and I hoped Māori would be a part of that.
Instead, results have excluded Māori and Mana Party from that change. There is a gathering unease in my stomach about the future of my country. Can these MPs hold the mana of our people in the same way that Māori Party has historically?
Māori Party has had a hard run, especially because of its relationship with National in the previous government. For some the move is unforgivable. National has never at its heart held policy for Māori. For those who could not forgive, this union was a compromise of integrity.
Besides this, it is hard for me as a rangatahi not to notice that many Māori Party MPs are pakeke. It is a well-established party with a formidable history, but I have heard little in the way of its MPs appealing to issues relevant to rangatahi.
It is crucial that Māori voice be represented independently at the table. Not because this is the only way for us to make change, but because the government should not exist without our voice.
Like many young people I have only a small amount of faith in our democratic system. What I want is a government that prioritises kaupapa Māori, not two major parties who "entertain" an alliance with us. The loss of the Māori Party and Mana Party from Parliament is a loss for te iwi Māori.
I am scared that Labour MPs may have to back down when Te Ururoa Flavell, Marama Fox and Hone Harawira would not have. We still have wāhine toa like Marama Davidson in, but I fear it is not enough. It is crucial that Māori voice be represented independently at the table. Not because this is the only way for us to make change, but because the government should not exist without our voice.
There is an important conversation to be had about citizenship and te ao Māori. How can Māori successfully sit at the table and not be othered? When do Māori represent their interests as individuals, and when are we the voice for our culture?
When we imagine New Zealand, Māori are a part of that image. But still we doubt the necessity of Māori seats, the place of the Treaty, and who owns water.
We cannot stop with the vote, but must find solutions within our own means to our problems. Like the marae that are sheltering those without home or in disaster.
I find it hard to identify with the label of a New Zealander, because mainstream New Zealand does not cater for me as a Māori person. Te ao Māori does. This is where our solutions lie. When I voted I could not help but think about our history of betrayal.
Māori are powerful on an individual level. I am blessed to be surrounded by grassroots changemakers – most of them under 25 – who will continue to uphold our mana outside of the government. The wero remains to our whānau in parliament to uphold mana Māori inside those marble halls.