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‘Acting for change’

Tuesday 19 July 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


‘Acting for change’
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 Currie-Sawtell.

“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 community.

“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 housing.

“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 match.”

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 Teariki-Monga Sawtell.

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 Queensland, Australia.

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.