Tapu Elia is running to be Porirua’s first Pasifika mayor. Her aunt Jasmine Underhill, right in the mural, was the city’s deputy mayor between 1989 and 2001.
Cannons Creek business owner Tapu Elia is standing for the mayoralty of Porirua in the October local body elections.
If successful, Elia would become the city’s first Pasifika mayor. She is the first person to challenge incumbent Anita Baker who is running for re-election.
Elia, who runs a beauty salon and heads a collective of local business owners, moved to the area from the Cook Islands at the age of seven with her family in 1991. When she arrived she didn’t know a single word of English.
She describes herself an “actions person” who would shake up the city council to be more active on issues such as the environment, housing and youth.
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“When I moved to the shopping centre, there was just a lot of rubbish around the place and I wanted something done about it,” she said. “But there wasn’t a lot of action from the council so I took it into my own hands to get a group of volunteers together and we cleaned up over a period of four weeks.”
The mayor, she said, should be the “biggest servant” of the community and the council was too “process-focused” instead of “solutions-focused”.
“There’s a lot of work to be done but the urgency isn’t there. The list just keeps going on and on.”
She isn’t the first in her family to stand for council. Her aunt Jasmine Underhill was Porirua’s deputy mayor between 1989 and 2001 and was believed to be New Zealand’s first Pasifika deputy mayor.
Now, Elia said, it was time that Porirua had a Pasifika mayor, even though it was “great” to have some Polynesian people filling senior positions at the city council, including the deputy mayor.
“This is something that should have happened a long, long time ago,” Elia said. “If you look at the list of previous mayors, we’ve only had one Māori and the rest have been European.”
“[If] you’re not sitting at the head of the table, how can you address issues for Māori and Polynesian people? We’ve got a high density of Māori and Polynesian people, and you need to have that representation.”
Elia is also running for one of the five city councillor positions at the Onepoto General Ward, which covers Tītahi Bay and eastern Porirua, against Mike Duncan and David Turner.
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