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Q+A: Jessica Mutch Interviews Meka Whaitiri

Q+A: Jessica Mutch Interviews Meka Whaitiri
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:30pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz   
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                        Meka Whaitiri, congratulations on your win last night.
MEKA WHAITIRI - Labour, Ikaroa Rawhiti
                        Thank you very much.
JESSICA        How much pressure was on you to win this by-election?
MEKA             Look, I went into this campaign with my eyes open. I had a great team behind me under David Shearer’s leadership. He put the resources of the party behind, and I’m happy to come out with the win at the end of the day.
JESSICA        You talk about that team. You did have a lot of people pumped into this campaign, didn’t you? You had MPs travelling with you almost every day. David Shearer spent a lot of time in the electorate. The Labour machinery came out. You needed to win this, didn’t you?
MEKA             Um, absolutely. Um, but I also had very close family and an army of supporters and volunteers throughout the country who I really want to send a big thank you from the bottom of my heart. But, you know, we crafted a very strong campaign. We all worked hard, and it got the result at the end of the day.
JESSICA        As well as crafting a campaign, you were also coming off the back of Parekura Horomia who was obviously a hero in the electorate. Did you win this seat out of respect for him?
MEKA             Look, I really put my hand up because of what Parekura did for our people here in Ikaroa Rawhiti and for the country as a whole, and he set a clear pathway forward, and I’m keen to bring my style, my skill sets, my experience to the pathway that he set. And at the end of the day, like, I said, people of Ikaroa Rawhiti have put their trust in me, and I’m very humbled by it.
JESSICA        Is it going to be open slather, though, next election? Are all bets off?
MEKA             Um, I’m really happy to join David Shearer’s caucus, and we’re going to work really, really hard to become the next government in 2014.
JESSICA        That brings us to an interesting point. You’re coming in at a time when Labour isn’t doing particularly well. What’s Labour doing wrong, in your opinion?
MEKA             Um, look, I’ve put all my efforts into running a strong campaign, and I can see there’s opportunities for, first and foremost, my electorate. It’s suffering. We don’t have the jobs. Our people are being removed from homes-
JESSICA        Labour as a whole, though. What do you think it needs to work on?
MEKA             Well, clearly they’ve heard the message from the people throughout Ikaroa Rawhiti, from David, from Annette King, from Phil Twyford, who have joined me and supported me in this campaign. They’ve heard the issues from the people of Ikaroa Rawhiti, and I know they’re working on those policies so we can be an effective government when we come in in 2014.
JESSICA        You’ve been on the outside of this, though. Looking in now, what are the things that you think Labour needs to work on? You’re going to be part of this caucus now. What will you be suggesting to your fellow MPs?
MEKA             It’s making policy that’s relevant to our people. There’s an iwi-Maori economy that’s just been scratched that can really make a difference. I’m looking around this economy under this current government. I don’t see any innovation there. The result is our people are still hugely unemployed, hugely health challenges, and, you know, my experience working in an iwi for the last four years and the opportunities I can see there, which is much broader than just mining and drilling, that’s what I’m bringing to the Labour Party, and I’m looking forward to it.
JESSICA        Well, that’s interesting as well, because you have gone from being the CEO of a very large iwi. You’ve gone from being the star of this by-election. You’re then going to come in and be a backbench MP in Opposition. How are you going to cope with that?
MEKA             I’m looking forward to joining the David Shearer-led caucus, and I’m bringing my skills to task. This is a party that our people in Ikaroa Rawhiti have always been in terms of it’s red here in Ikaroa Rawhiti. We’ve held this seat, and I believe that the leadership of the Labour Party has heard with their own ears the struggles but more so the solutions, and that’s where I’m coming from. I’m coming from a solution-based process, and, like I said, the iwi-Maori economy is yet to be played out, and I’m keen to see that being a flagship for the Labour Party.
JESSICA        Well, thank you very much for your time this morning. Go and enjoy your day. You’ll have a busy few weeks coming up ahead of you.
MEKA             Thank you very much.


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