Return to Raro in a changed world

Monday November 06, 2017 Written by Published in Local
Former Maori Party MP Marama Fox (far right) with members of the delegation who accompanied former New Zealand prime minister Bill English to Rarotonga 12 weeks ago. 17110227 Former Maori Party MP Marama Fox (far right) with members of the delegation who accompanied former New Zealand prime minister Bill English to Rarotonga 12 weeks ago. 17110227

After losing her seat in New Zealand’s 2017 election and seeing the Maori Party wiped out, the party’s first-ever list MP, co-leader Marama Fox, headed to Rarotonga for some rest and recuperation. In this story written exclusively for CINews, Fox reflects on the election outcome and her relationship with new deputy prime minister Winston Peters.

And after enjoying all that Rarotonga has to offer, Fox asks the question, “Where to for this sacred isle of the sea?”

My first trip to these idyllic islands was just 12 weeks ago as part of the New Zealand delegation accompanying the then “new” New Zealand prime minister, Bill English, on his introductory visit to Rarotonga, Niue and Tonga. 

Given the events of the past few weeks following the New Zealand general election it really does feel as though the world has turned over and done an inverted triple twisting dive. The political landscape has made a Ruaumoko-worthy shift to the left. 

During that trip I had what some might term the unenviable pleasure of being flight cabin buddies with New Zealand’s new deputy prime minister and Foreign Affairs minister Winston Peters. 

This was not my first overseas delegation with “Koro Winnie,” as I’ve come to call him, and I found once again what a genuine pleasure it actually is to be his travelling buddy.

Over the last parliamentary term Koro Winnie and I have had many a verbal scuffle. Yet we remain amicable to the point of great belly laughs when reminiscing about our vocal swordfights. 

I actually deem it a mark of respect from Winnie to be included in his verbal tirades. One of my favourites was when he remarked, “That Marama Fox stands with her mouth open letting the wind blow her tongue around!” 

So it seems I am destined to stand on the sidelines – now only a spectator watching the new government.  A government that has the youngest ever New Zealand prime minister - Jacinda Ardern, supported by the longest-serving MP, political legend Winston Peters.

Hence, I am back to the islands to reset and overcome my political hangover. 

There is no better place in the world.  I am mesmerised by the scents, the visual sensations in every direction and even the chickens and roosters who don’t seem to know when it’s time to crow to the rising sun.  In fact, I think they may be blinded as a result of the intense rays of Tamanui te Ra, so revert to praising him at every hour of the night and day. 

My one goal on the island is to go home with a sun-kissed tan. So far, the island has been fulfilled my every desire.  Rest, relaxation, food, church, music, company and even a little business on the side. 

I have avoided the party bus as the domain of the young, yet it is easy to see why Rarotonga is the desired destination of the over-worked and stressed New Zealand workforce. Island time seems to be an oxymoron of terminology as “time” really has no essence here - a perfect cure for my political addiction and overcrowded headspace. 

So as I lie on the beach watching my worries and cares evaporate with the sea spray I find I have one thing left to contemplate: Where to for this sacred isle of the sea?  It’s plainly evident as I absorb the rays and push the sand around with my feet that there is change on the island that lends itself to an island-esque urbanisation. 

Locals who cater to the tourist trade both in daylight hours and during the long warm nights benefit from the income it brings, but must also despair at the loss of traditional island life. 

This friendly island is forever changed from the seafaring navigator lifestyle of our ancestors.   


Outspoken in her views

Marama Fox has been described as one of the most outspoken and unapologetic politicians since her entry to Parliament in 2014 – the year she also became the Maori Party co-leader.

The fact that she’s a mother of nine, explains much of her passion for the most vulnerable people. 

The daughter of Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Porou, she was raised in Christchurch and lives in Masterton with her husband Ben and their tamariki who are all very involved in shearing – a way of life that has created a strong work ethic within her whanau.

“Fox has been a staunch voice in the corridors of power for Maori whanau – particularly women, children and youth, says her profile on the Maori Party website.

“As an experienced educational leader Fox also brought Maori-based solutions to some of the toughest challenges facing New Zealand.

“Her advocacy and persistence made the Government sit up and take note on a number of matters from homelessness to justice and the obligations to Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi.”

Some of the highlights of Fox’s three years in parliament include securing $1.3 billion in funding for kaupapa Maori initiatives, undertaking an inquiry into homelessness alongside other parties, influencing the government to invest more funding to accommodate homeless families; influencing the government to shelve its plans that could have put every single Treaty settlement at risk; and influencing the government to rethink another plan it had that risked creating another “stolen generation” of Maori children in state care.

            - Source: Maori Party


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