New Zealand’s Youngest MP Delivers First Speech with Māori Haka

News Desk3 months ago
New Zealand's Youngest MP Delivers First Speech with Māori Haka

Hana Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke, at the age of 21, became the youngest female Member of Parliament in New Zealand. On her inaugural day in New Zealand’s parliament, made a beeline for a wall adorned with photographs. Her quest was to find an image of her ancestor, the first Māori minister to the crown.

“I felt so relieved after seeing that picture,” Maipi-Clarke said. “[Parliament] house is very overwhelming for women, for Māori, and especially for young people – there is a lot on the line for us.”

“His photograph was a good sign – I said, you gotta have my back up in here,” she added.

At a mere 21 years old, Maipi-Clarke made history by becoming the youngest Member of Parliament in 170 years during New Zealand’s recent national elections. In doing so, she unseated Nanaia Mahuta, a highly respected MP, and the first Māori woman to serve as foreign affairs minister, holding the Hauraki-Waikato Māori electorate for two decades.

Despite her youth, Maipi-Clarke is no stranger to politics; it runs in her blood. Her lineage includes Wiremu Katene, her great-great-great-great-grandfather, the first Māori minister to the Crown in 1872. Additionally, her aunt, Hana Te Hemara, delivered the Māori language petition to parliament in 1972, and in 2018, her grandfather, Taitimu Maipi, gained attention for protesting against Hamilton’s colonial legacy.

Read: What is New Zealand’s Māori Haka?

Hailing from Huntly, a small town between Auckland and Hamilton, Maipi-Clarke manages a Māori community garden, educating local children about gardening aligned with the Māori lunar calendar. Beyond her role as a business owner, she has authored a book encouraging young people to connect with the stars and the moon for self-healing.

Maipi-Clarke doesn’t see herself merely as a politician but rather as a kaitiaki (guardian) for Māori language, land, and traditional knowledge. She believes it’s time for a new generation of Māori voices to be heard.

With a substantial social media following, Maipi-Clarke recognizes the importance of translating political understanding for a diverse audience. However, she emphasizes that her online campaign is only half the story, underscoring the significance of face-to-face interactions with older generations.

Her unexpected win in the Hauraki-Waikato Māori electorate reflects a changing political landscape. Approximately 75% of the Māori population is under 40, with a median age of 23 in the electorate. Maipi-Clarke, representing the first generation educated through Māori language immersion schools, symbolizes a movement that is gaining momentum.

Te Pāti Māori, the Māori party, had a strong showing in the elections, securing four of the seven Māori electorate seats, with potential for more after counting special votes. Maipi-Clarke’s victory, while surprising, aligns with a growing appetite for change and a desire for representation that reflects the voters.

Despite facing challenges and accusations during her campaign, Maipi-Clarke’s fighting spirit has earned her respect. As she steps into her role in parliament, there is hope that more seasoned MPs will protect her.

After a whirlwind week of inductions and media appearances, Maipi-Clarke is focused on building her electorate and collaborating on a plan for the government’s future, a prime opportunity for Māori voices in and out of parliament.

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