Far North District councillor Moko Tepania has announced he’s running for mayor in this year’s local body elections, although that wasn’t always the plan.
John Carter, the district’s current mayor, revealed earlier this year that his third term would be his last.
Tepania (Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Te Rarawa) was instrumental in getting the council to consider Māori Wards again in 2021, after its 2020 split vote meant a motion for the wards failed.
The first-term councillor is excited to get his mayoral campaign underway, though admits he hadn’t planned on running for council again, let alone as mayor.
Unfinished business and a huge amount of encouragement from friends, whānau and the public planted the seed.
“I wasn’t even considering running again for council, because we got Māori Wards over the line so I knew there was going to be a voice for Māori at the table guaranteed - four voices actually out of a table of 11.
“But when I looked at all the work that we had done, or had started at council, and when I thought about what the next three years could be, that was a part of the reason why I wanted to stand.
“I also had so many calls from whānau and community members to ask me to run. So to be respectful I thought if I didn’t run for mayor I have to have really good reasons not to because all of these people trust in me and believe that I can do the role.”
He says support has been overwhelming since the announcement last weekend, but isn’t letting praise distract from the job ahead.
“You can’t be whakahīhī (smug), you have to put your best foot forward, and show everyone in the Far North, Māori and Pākehā alike, what you can offer. I’m really excited for it. I just want our next mayor to be someone who unites our district.
“I’m not going to be presumptuous, I’m not going to be someone who is suddenly in a role of leadership and thinks they know it all or can do it all.”
With just a 47% voter turnout in the district for the last elections, Tepania knows he has his work set out for him. Over 50% of the Far North District population is Māori, and many are distanced from the process.
"A lot of our whānau are really disengaged. It is going to be really important to get people to understand the process, how it all works and why it’s important to vote and then how to vote as well.
“I also think a lot of people don’t realise exactly how big our district is. So geographically really huge, but also in population. Our population is just over 70,000 people.”
The Far North district stretches from Towai right to the top of the North Island at Cape Reinga.
"I just want our next mayor to be someone who unites our district."— Moko Tepania, Far North District councillor
“I never want to have all the answers. Throughout the campaign - I'm not going to make all these big promises because I’ll never make a promise I can’t keep. But, what I will say is that I don't have the solutions, our whānau and our communities have the solutions, so I want to be a mayor who is actually going to listen to those.
“We’re given two ears and two eyes so we have to listen and we have to see twice as much as we actually speak and I honestly believe in that."
Tepania is the council representative for the Kaikohe-Hokianga ward, and is the youngest councillor in the district. At age 31, he would be the district's youngest mayor if elected.
As of Friday, election nominations are open for anyone wanting to stand in the local government elections in October. The nomination period closes at midday on Friday August 12.
Voting papers are sent to anyone who lives in the Far North, and those who own property in the district from September 16. The postal vote closes on Saturday October 8.