As this column goes to print, New Zealand will be realising the outcome of an election like no other with so many firsts.
I would have come home from the event in the Mana electorate, congratulating Barbara Edmonds as the new Member of Parliament for Mana, adding to the number of qualified, experienced and strong community connected MPs of Pasifika descent that will enter Parliament this weekend.
Barbara is a proud mother of eight children, a tax lawyer and Samoan who has worked in the office of one of our Ministers here.
What I know is that she is a woman of integrity and hard work and so deserving of the vote.
But we also have the opportunity to celebrate as Cook Islanders.
For the first time in the history of our Cook Islands people being in Aotearoa, we have seven candidates of Cook Islands descent standing in this election and two running against each other in the electorate of Palmerston North.
It has taken close to 60 years but we potentially will have more Cook Islanders in Parliament than ever before.
Acknowledging our first ever woman Parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister – Munukoa Poto Williams, our Pa Tokerau Rangatira, who stood again in the Christchurch East electorate and has as an aspiration on her profile “for communities where everyone has a place, everyone has a voice and we are all loved”.
And our first ever male Member of Parliament and previous Cabinet Minister Alfred Ngaro who has a long community service history and ran again in the Te Atatu electorate.
If we look down at the electorate of Palmerston North, an Atiu warrior and Mangaian warrior were battling it out for the seat, with Tangi Utikere coming in as deputy mayor and has a strong following left behind with the departure of the previous Member of Parliament.
And standing against him, our Atiu and eco-warrior, Teanau Tuiono, grandson to Papa Teariki Tuiono, a great uncle of mine and rangatira for our Ngati Ingatu clan.
Regardless of the outcome and as long as the Greens get over the five percent threshold, Teanau is sitting at number seven on the Greens list and has a good chance of getting into Parliament on the list.
Teanau is not alone in the Greens with Lourdes Vano standing in Manurewa, and Mark Simiona standing for the Greens in Panmure Otahuhu.
Lourdes said on her profile that “we deserve a leadership that represents us, with so many people left out of the conversation for far too long. It is time to change that, and bridge the gap between my communities and the government”.
Teanau said: “I’m passionate about justice for people and the planet, working with our diverse communities to make Aotearoa New Zealand a great place to live.”
Fellow Green candidate Mark Simiona, acknowledges his Aitutaki heritage and says: “I'm from the beautiful island of Aitutaki and work with families in our community. I have a vision, that sees all people who live, learn, work, play and pray in Panmure Otāhuhu are thriving. We all want healthy homes, healthy neighbourhoods, healthy communities, a healthy environment and a healthy world.”
And then we have our Labour candidate in Pakuranga Nerissa Henry who has a long history of working in the community and on council.
She says: “Leading community initiatives centred around health and wellbeing through an environmental, waste reduction, and financial literacy lens, has helped her to grow leadership within our youth and providing them pathways, connections and opportunities.”
We should be so proud of all our Cook Islands candidates standing in this year’s election.
They potentially take into Parliament not only their dreams and aspirations, but more importantly the dreams and aspirations of their parents and families, their wider communities and those of our Cook Islands people both here in Aotearoa and at home.
They make wide the path for more Cook Islanders to put their hand up as candidates for Parliament here in 2023.
To finish I would like to congratulate all our Cook Islands candidates, whichever party they stand for and for wherever electorate they may be and to those that succeed in securing a seat into Parliament – will see you ready for work on Monday morning.