Organised by EIT Tairāwhiti, in association with Radio Ngāti Porou and The Gisborne Herald, today’s debate attracted around 250 people to the Quality Hotel Emerald.
The debate – EIT’s cornerstone event to mark Matariki – featured three political party leaders and some of New Zealand and Māoridom’s most colourful politicians – the Rt Hon Winston Peters (NZ First), Metiria Turei (Green Party), the Hon Nanaia Mahuta (Labour), Claudette Hauiti (National Party), Annette Sykes (Mana Party) and Te Ururoa Flavell (Maori Party).
Clearly, all held Tairāwhiti and the coast dear to their hearts, pledging support and policies that would help education, housing, environmental, regional development, employment and other issues.
Each politician had pockets of vocal supporters in the crowd – some armed with banners, balloons and party rosettes.
While each politician delved into how they and their party would help the region, all said key to the success of it, was that youth stand up and be counted. Vote, or let the “minority who always vote” have a say in the running of the country. One of the biggest aims of today’s debate was to get people voting.
Convenor Mayor Meng Foon said the region felt as though lot of resources had gone into Auckland, Christchurch and other bigger cities.
“We feel the regions have been left out – and not only Tairāwhiti either,” he said.
The politicians agreed.
The Gisborne-Napier rail line also attracted attention, with some pledges to have it reopened.
Winston Peters questioned why provinces like Tairāwhiti had to pay for the housing crises in Auckland.
The importance of compulsory Te Reo Māori in schools was highlighted by all.
Earlier at a press conference, much was spoken about the introduction of a sugar tax, but all felt education was the key to improving the health of the nation.
The delegation were welcomed with a powhiri from EIT’s Te Whatukura students. EIT Tairāwhiti campus director Jan Mogford also extended a welcome to the distinguished guests.
“If there is a message to share with our visiting MPS, it would be to recognised that the heart of Tairāwhiti is our community,” she said. “We are proud of our place and at EIT we support a shared vision to see more support, pathways and employment opportunities for our local people.”
People were excited to see their political heroes, and chuffed they had taken the time to travel to Tairāwhiti.