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Kerekere brings commitment and network to election racer

The Green Party candidate for Ikaroa-Rawhiti at the upcoming general election says she is proud to be No.9 on her party's list.

“That speaks to their recognition of grassroots experience and Maori leadership, but also gives life to our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” said Dr Elizabeth Kerekere.

“The membership obviously wants some movers and shakers representing them in Parliament.”

A Greens party vote of 7.5 percent would send her to parliament.

Dr Kerekere, who lives in Kaiti, is best known for her advocacy for takatapui (Maori lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex — LGBTQI+) and Rainbow communities, Treaty relations and youth development.

She is the founder and chairwoman of Tiwhanawhana Trust, a national organisation that advocates for a takatapui to “tell our stories, build our communities and leave a legacy”.

Her passions include suicide prevention, violence prevention, healthy relationships, youth leadership and research.

Her suicide prevention resources for takatapui and their whanau are used throughout the youth and health sectors.

Dr Kerekere was born in Gisborne, raised in Dunedin and returned home to attend Toihoukura in 2010.

Her art can be seen at the Family Court and Community Probation Service in Gisborne, the Rainbow Room in Parliament and the United Nations in New York.

Locally, Dr Kerekere is known for her work restoring Te Poho-o-Rawiri Marae and working with whanau at Whangaia Nga Pa Harakeke — an iwi/police initiative aimed at reducing family violence.

In the past year she has spoken all over the country and represented Aotearoa on takatapui and indigenous human rights issues at the UN in Geneva and Bangkok, and in Dublin, Chicago and Kingston, Jamaica.

“What I bring to the Greens is someone who has been working inside Maori communities for nearly 40 years.

“I bring great networks, organisational strategic planning skills and a deep commitment for fighting for our people at whatever level I'm involved in.”

Dr Kerekere said she would focus on the party vote, but would also ask for “two ticks”.

“Ikaroa-Rawhiti has been a Labour stronghold for a long time.

“By splitting your vote to ‘Party Vote Green', you get me as well — someone from here, who lives in Kaiti.

“This election, though, I am also asking for the candidate vote — two ticks.

“Voters want a candidate who shares their values and does the hard work on their behalf.

“Aotearoa has seen what the Greens can achieve as a partner in Government.

“Imagine what we could achieve with a Labour-Green Government.

“For example, the nearly $24 million for Tairawhiti's regional economic support package comes out of the $1.1 billion the Greens secured for environmental jobs.

“Initially aimed to support displaced forestry workers, the project has expanded to include environmental work across the region.

“That includes work on Titirangi (Kaiti Hill), parks and coastal beaches, the remetalling of unsealed roads and the clearance of hazardous trees from local routes.”

Dr Kerekere said the housing crisis and having a liveable income were issues long before Covid-19.

“With so many people losing their jobs, it makes it even more obvious that the benefit is not enough to live on.

“Health is a big issue for our people, particularly mental health given the outrageous rates of Maori, youth and Rainbow suicide we have in this country.”

“Sometimes when people are struggling it is hard for them to see the bigger picture. But I think people in the Tairawhiti do see it.

“People here care about the land and clean water. They might not make it to the hui and meetings but they still care.

“This campaign I will focus on talking to lots of different communities within Tairawhiti to find out what is important to them and see how the Green's vision will help with that.”

Dr Elizabeth Kerekere