Horomia would have been happy about new MP

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2013
Labour leader David Shearer with the party's candidate Meka Whaitiri who won Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.
Fairfax NZ
WINNING COMBO: Labour leader David Shearer with the party's candidate Meka Whaitiri who won Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.

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If the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election was held in honour of the seat's former holder, Parekura Horomia, it is little surprise that  Meka Whaitiri prevailed on Saturday.

The former public servant and iwi chief executive was given her first job by Horomia, in the Department of Labour, having apparently made her wait for eight hours before he could see her, then hiring her on the spot.

She later worked in his office when he became the Minister of Maori Affairs.

Her older sister worked in Horomia's electorate office in Hastings, and Whaitiri was publicly highlighted as his possible successor before the 2011 general election.

Born in Manutuke, west of Gisborne, the family moved to Whakatu where her father Wi Rangi, a Korean War veteran, worked at the large, but now closed, freezing works.

Whaitiri describes her family as "staunch union members" and the main thrust of her campaign was the benefit of, and need for, ‘mahi' - employment.

Her mother, who as a teenager was the model for Napier's Pania of the Reef statue, took her children with her when she worked as a rousy.

The former head girl of Karamu High School, Whaitiri (along with her four siblings) worked at the freezing works in Whakatu, which paid for her to go through university.

She then spent more than 20 years in the public service.

Four years ago she moved back to Hastings to become chief executive of Ngati Kahungunu, one of the New Zealand's largest iwi.

On the campaign trail she admitted she would have wanted more time before entering politics, but would now work on developing Labour policy.

She claimed the month on the campaign trail had exposed her Labour MP colleagues the issues facing the electorate.

"Once I get in [to Parliament] and get settled, I'm going to pick up what we saw on the road and help form the Labour policies that are going to address the inequalities."

A former national representative in softball and netball, last year she completed the Iron Maori. She has two teenage sons.

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- The Dominion Post

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