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MP Utikere: A privilege to serve his community

Saturday 20 April 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National, New Zealand, Regional


MP Utikere: A privilege  to serve his community
Cook Islander Tangi William Edward Utikere has been a Member of Parliament (Labour) for Palmerston North, in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2020. He is visiting Rarotonga with the NZ Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gerry Brownlee and a cross-party Parliamentary delegation. MELINA ETCHES/24041823

The visiting New Zealand Parliamentary delegation includes a Cook Islander who is making his first ‘official’ visit to his homeland.

Cook Islander Tangi William Edward Utikere has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Palmerston North in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2020.

The Labour MP is one of two MPs in NZ Parliament with the Cook Islands heritage. The other is Teanau Tuiono of the Green Party.

Utikere is visiting Rarotonga this week with Gerry Brownlee, the Speaker of the NZ House of Representatives, and a cross-party Parliamentary delegation. This is the first Speaker’s delegation to the Pacific in the 54th Parliament.

He is Labour’s Chief Whip, and spokesperson for Transport, Oceans and Fisheries, Racing, and Associate Education (Pacific).

Born and raised in Palmerston North, Utikere is the eldest of four. He received his name from his paternal grandparents, the name Utikere originates from Mangaia, his grandfather’s island home.

Utikere’s father is from the Cook Islands, from Aitutaki’s Nikaupara village. Their family has connections through the Williams Hewett family. His mother is a New Zealander.

His father moved to Aotearoa NZ when he was young, settling in Palmerston North.

Utikere has been to the Cook Islands several times but this is his first official visit.

He is looking forward to his big family reunion here in a couple of months. The reunion will also be his dad’s first time back in the Cook Islands in 25 years.

Utikere attended Parkland School, then had one year each at Ross Intermediate School and Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School, before attending Freyberg High School.

His background is in education as a school teacher, and his focus has been on community development.

Utikere was first elected to Palmerston North City Council in 2010, serving for 10 years, four of which he spent as deputy mayor.

In 2020, he transitioned to national politics by entering Parliament.

He is also the first of the Government’s Class of 2020 MPs to successfully steer a member’s bill through Parliament – the Local Government (Pecuniary Interests Register) Act, which became law in 2022.

“For me, it has always been about representing my community, making sure actually that the people who make decisions are representative of the community that they serve,” shares Utikere.

“Since that time it has been a real privilege to represent not just the constituency in Palmerston North who elected me to Parliament and re-elected me last year, but also being one of two members in New Zealand Parliament who have Cook Islands heritage.

“It’s important that I’m able to connect with Kūki ʻĀirani members of our community back in Aotearoa New Zealand as well.”

Utikere says this visit is an opportunity to confirm strong links between the two countries.

“New Zealand has always had a strong relationship with the Cook Islands so it’s important that as Members of Parliament, we’re able to come here to not just demonstrate that but to share and learn with and alongside each other.”

In 2020, New Zealand held the title of the most rainbow Parliament in the world, going by the percentage of LGBTQ+ MPs.

Utikere is a member of the rainbow community and lives with his partner, and their Papillon dog, Reichen.

“It is great also for this to be the Pride Week celebration of the Anuanua festival as well, it’s wonderful to see that being acknowledged here in the Cook Islands.”

Utikere holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a triple major in History, Political Science, and Social Policy, along with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) from Massey University.

He also serves as a Justice of the Peace and a couples celebrant.