Atina Currie-Sawtell, the Democratic Party candidate for the constituency of Arenikau in Aitutaki. SUPPLIED/22071803
Nearly 40 years ago Atina Sawtell raced around the Tereora National Stadium winning the 1985 South Pacific Mini Games gold medals for the nation in the 800 metres and 1500m races.
In 12 days, Currie-Sawtell will be running in a different race for the first time – the 2022 General Election as a Democratic Party candidate for the constituency of Arenikau in Aitutaki.
The growing disparity “between those that have and
those that don’t” upsets and frustrates her which inspired her to put her hand
up and cross over the line into the candidacy role.
“That difference is quite unsettling, especially when
some families who are really struggling are living from one pay packet to the
next, while others appear to hog grants and business opportunities and hand out
enough crumbs to supporters to keep them loyal to them,” claimed
“Opportunities are not shared equally amongst those
willing to work hard and contribute to their family and community.
“There has to be equitability locked into every
decision made – more sharing and fairer sharing.”
Currie- Sawtell said instinctively people are always
look at improving the quality of life as individuals and as members of the
“So when things stagnate and no longer work to our
betterment then change is inevitable.
“We all have differing levels of tolerance but there
is a threshold and ultimately people are motivated to push for change.
“This is how it was for me. I see myself as an agent
acting for change, not so much a politician, however, of course standing as a
parliamentary candidate defines me as one.”
Currie-Sawtell is aligned with the Democratic Party
which has “compatible values to challenge the status quo”.
“Anyone who votes against a government that no longer
serves the people as a priority are agents of change and I believe we will see
many voters with the moral courage to do the right thing and vote the current
government out of power,” she said.
Currie-Sawtell has prioritised areas in Arenikau which
include water, health, education, business opportunities through cottage
industries and traditional concepts such as farming and fishing, and low cost
“We will ensure every household (in Arenikau) has
water harvesting capacity suitable to their family needs beginning with the
most vulnerable and ensure the education system is upgraded so children get a
good standard of learning with vocational or academic goals and pathways to
Implementation of the early detection of non-communicable-diseases
(NCDs) particularly in younger people, and palliative/geriatric care of the
highest standard is essential, she said.
“A ward or a properly resourced home is what we will
also prioritise in our community, not every project has to cost millions and
there are useful additions to the community like a mobile mortuary to assist
with funeral service planning,” she added.
“Water, water and more water” is an urgent and
particular concern Currie-Sawtell considers a priority.
She said there must be access of sufficient water to
every household with elderly and children first – “and this means tanks,
gutters and down pipes”.
“The use of ‘bore water’ has to be sustainable and
optimising water harvesting plans will be implemented.”
And with the hike in the cost of living, she says
welfare benefits to families will ease the burden in the homes.
Born in Te Awamutu, New Zealand to parents Gordon
Sawtell and Rani Purotu Ka (Daniela), Currie-Sawtell was raised in the Cook
Islands. Her siblings are Tarapi Daniela, Lorna Walker-Sawtell and
She has five children – Ratu (secondary school
teacher), Tamati (design lead digital at Deloitt), Moana (nursing), Poenui (retail)
and the youngest Heimata is a student. She also has two adored grandchildren
Hamariaa and Hunter.
Currie-Sawtell attended Avarua Primary School, Atiu
Primary, Arorangi Primary, Avatea Primary, Epsom Girls Grammar Auckland,
Tereora College and completed her tertiary education at the University of
Self-employed, she happily lives on the island of
Aitutaki keeping active in the community, sports, planting, family and friends.
“I support a government who wants to do the right thing by its people. I want to help our people and I want to see children focussed on their futures,” said Currie-Sawtell.