Māori youth have lessons for Wellington mayors

28 March 2019

The Wellington region’s mayors and deputy mayors in the corridors of power are once again getting tips from Māori youth.

Since 2011, Wellington’s Mayor has mentored a rangatahi (young person) each year as part of the Local Government New Zealand Mayors Taskforce for Jobs Tuia programme.

Tuia aims to develop the leadership capacity of young Māori by pairing them with city leaders, who mentor them on a one-on-one basis. The city leaders get to know te ao Māori and the rangatahi get to know what the world is like for a mayor.

“I love that we can learn and share experiences with rangatahi,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

“I learn a lot from the views of a young Māori person and I hope I can help them to gain confidence and learn things around leadership.”

The mayor’s mentee this year is Tamatha Paul. The pair will meet at least once a month, at both formal events and informally.

“She’s fantastic person. She’s from Rotorua, one of eight siblings and the first of her family to go to university. And she’s the Victoria University Student Association president. She’s got a really bright future and I want to help her be the best person she can be.”

Tamatha says the Tuia programme is mīharo (amazing).

“I met lots of like-minded rangatahi from around Aotearoa who were all passionate about creating positive change within their communities. I met lots of people from my hometown Tokoroa which was really cool.

“The wānanga helped me think about what I’d like to contribute to Wellington as a community and I’m really keen to get started.”

Wainuiomata’s Molly Weston, 21, was last year paired with Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace and admitted before the Tuia programme she wouldn’t have known who he was.

She was also far more introverted.

“I was way too busy focussed on myself and becoming part of Tuia opened up a new me.

“I don’t think I could do what I’m doing now… standing up, speaking to people, being out there.”

The Tuia programme opened doors for her and she now enjoys doing voluntary work.

“It’s like a big family that you feel welcome to. They slowly make you feel safer so you can open up.”

Deputy Mayor Jill Day is also a mentor, and says it's a valuable experience for all involved.

We need more Māori on council. We need more Māori in leadership positions around the entire country, and across all society,” she says.