'Thrilled' Debbie Ngarewa-Packer enters Parliament on special votes

17:20 pm on 6 November 2020

The Māori Party has doubled its numbers in Parliament to two.

Special votes confirmed Rawiri Waititi in the seat of Waiariki - the only electorate seat the Labour Party lost, and with now 1.2 percent of party vote, he gets a friend in Parliament, bringing co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer over the line. 

"I don't think I've buzzed this much since I gave birth to my first child. I'm really, really thrilled," she said

Ngarewa-Packer told Checkpoint's Lisa Owen the whole year had been a wait.

"It's been holding your breath and hoping for the best," she said. 

"I think this whole journey of trying to effectively claw back a party from some pretty dark, sad times has been waiting and we've just worked our backsides off to not only reconnect with our voters, our whānau, but also bring about policy that's critical to providing solutions.

"With Waiariki our focus was completely on Rawiri. I had this little hope, but to be really honest I was just so focused on Rawiri I didn't think that my best dreams would happen to be able to bring not one but two of us in. Which is just awesome. Just humbling."

Ngarewa-Packer heard the good news from a member of the Māori media, she said.

"I thought I'd actually heard it wrong. I'd just come out of the National Iwi Chairs Forum and growled them all for needing to get in behind the Māori Party.

"There was an influx of media and I thought 'gosh, this is unusual', so by the time our party administrators had let us know I had in those first few minutes clicked.

"Honestly, I just couldn't believe it… the best hope was we knew we were going to have to claw one [seat] back at a time but to have two of us is such a buzz, such a phenomenal honour.

"We've got some really strong policy platforms - that will be how we will move. The next week is about as the two co-leaders meeting with the leaders of the various parties to say 'hey, we're here and this is what we're prepared to do'.

"We're going to put ourselves out there and see who wants to work with us, and that is what the first part of next week will be about. The rest of it will be about finding commonality and also putting ourselves out there to be a part of a cross-party movement to address those issues that are really holding people back, whānau back, from reaching their true potential - poverty, housing, getting better incomes, more kai on the table, better health, better ability to learn and better ability to earn.

"It's great to have access to power and pūtea [money] but you also have make sure … you're held to account, and everything that's happening on the ground is coming through to you.

"There is a really clear message from Māori that … we support [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern], we support the fact that we've got Māori in Labour, but actually we also have another view, and we're their 'and-and'.

"So our role is to make sure that 'and-and' messaging and passaging of where they need to be able to target and hit is communicated. And that's exactly what we intend to do - be a communicator to those transfers of power, and make sure that that's been targeted in a way that can have real impact and real impact that we as a nation can be proud about and we eradicate the things that are holding back our natural growth."