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Tapsell’s sights on Rotorua mayoralty

Rotorua Lakes Council was in the news last month as it sought to change national electoral laws to ensure it had better Maori representation, via changes to the number and make-up of its wards.

It had the Government’s support at the first reading of its bill, until the Attorney-General stepped in with his view that the bill was discriminatory against general ward voters and therefore inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Rotorua now has a good chance of having its second Maori mayor from later this year (the first was Harry Dansey in 1941-42).

Tania Tapsell, the highest polling council candidate in its 2019 election — almost 1000 more than retiring mayor Steve Chadwick — has shifted her sights from national political aspirations to announce her candidacy for the Rotorua mayoralty yesterday, saying she was “humbled that so many people wanted to see me in Parliament” but she was “committed to Rotorua”.

Tapsell, 29, has been a councillor for three terms now and stood for the National Party in our East Coast electorate at the last general election. She received 15,089 votes or 35.3 percent (well ahead of National’s party vote here of 26.8 percent) versus the winner Kiri Allan’s 21,420 or 50.1 percent of votes, which exactly matched Labour’s party vote here.

The great niece of the late Labour Speaker of the House Sir Peter Tapsell, who lives in Maketu near Te Puke, was also rumoured to be in the mix for the Tauranga by-election triggered by the resignation in March of Simon Bridges. That was probably just hopeful rumour for those wanting the National Party to at least appear to be trying to address its diversity problem, before a shortlist was announced of four Pakeha men.

Affable and switched-on former New Zealand First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau, who is of Maori descent through his mother, is also in the Rotorua mayoralty race. He received just 3.7 percent of votes when he stood for the Rotorua seat at the 2020 general election, not much more than his party’s 2.6 percent result nationally.

A greater challenge for Tapsell is likely to come from Raj Kumar, one of two other councillors in the mayoralty contest. He polled second with 251 votes less than Tapsell’s tally of 10,213 at the last Rotorua council election.

The Rotorua race is obviously a far cry from our local election amble, where only the Mayor and one councillor have so far confirmed their intentions to stand for re-election this year.