Local Elections Candidate Interviews: Korikori Hawkins - Mayor & Tai Runga Takiwaa Maaori Ward


As part of the Morning Show's coverage of the 2022 Local Elections, Aaron will be interviewing candidates standing for positions on the Raglan Community Board as well as the Waikato District and Regional Councils. Below is a transcript of Aaron's interview with Korikori Hawkins.


"I'm talking to our Māori, our hapu and iwi; get out and vote whānau. That's the first step to getting our voice at the governance table," she said.


(Listen to the full interview below:)


Aaron: You're listening to the morning show with Aaron and on the line I've got Korikori Hawkins. Good morning.

Korikori Hawkins: Mōrena Aaron and mōrena to your listeners.

Aaron: So you are running both for mayor and for the Tai Runga Takiwaa Maaori Ward. So it's a big challenge. Do you want to just introduce yourself to start with?

Korikori Hawkins: Yeah, sure. So I'm from Ngāruawāhia, I'm third generation Turangawaewae Marae and I've got a background in tertiary education and primary health. Mother of five, grandmother of four, and married to my husband Michael for 38 years.

Aaron: Awesome and why are you running for two things [mayor and councillor] at once?

Korikori Hawkins: Gosh, that's a big question. So I'm standing primarily for the second time because people supported me at the first election. It's about acknowledging the support that I got in the first election. So I'm going for that position again. 

The Takiwaa Māori role:  I've got a big background working in the mainstream industries where Māori positions were set up and I held those positions at Wintec and Waikato Hospital, so I've got a bit of experience taking on new roles that are specifically targeted to Māori.

Aaron: Tell us a little bit more about those roles, what happened with those two organisations.

Korikori Hawkins: So at Wintec I was their first counsellor for Māori that worked with both students and staff. So it was all around the retention of Māori students. So as a counsellor for Māori, I then went on to teach on the Māori counselling degree program. Then I managed the Māori-Pacifica Student Support Services and then I went on to be operational manager for Wintec Marae, Te Kōpū Mānia o Kirikiriroa. Prior to that I was actually at Waikato Hospital and I worked in a multidisciplinary team that was set up to work with teenage pregnancy and so I was the social worker Māori for their team.

Aaron: I guess we know the purpose of bringing in someone who's from the Māori community. But what do you do that's different or is it just about the connections that you've got into the community?

Korikori Hawkins: Yeah, absolutely. It's about already having that relationship because of Waikato Tainui. And so in the Waikato-Tainui area, the likelihood of me knowing the whanau was pretty up there and so that immediately took away the barriers in terms of talking to somebody in a mainstream institution. I look like them. I'm probably connected to the marae, to their hapu, so it was a good starting point for me to be able to support our whānau to navigate through a mainstream organisation.

Aaron: And do you think the new Māori seats in the district council are kind of the same thing where you've already got the connections into the Māori community and you can bring the information and the perspective immediately to the council table.

Korikori Hawkins: Yeah, absolutely. I think my priority is going to be about supporting whānau Māori to better engage with the council. And this actually started back with the old people of my marae, Tūrangawaewae, who actually agreed to meet with the mayor of Ngāruawāhia Borough back in the seventies. What the old people and what the mayor wanted was to build a relationship that would be for the benefit of all people. I want to continue with that same kind of thinking that it's actually about building relationships, that we actually have something to give to each other. We have something that we can share with each other for the betterment of the communities that we're living in.

Aaron: Do you see the seat as representing Māori people or you're representing the district as well.

Korikori Hawkins: Representing the district. I mean that's where my experience comes and so even though the positions I work with are primarily targeted to Māori, I was actually available to all people. If you look at the position of the Takiwaa Māori ward, you've got the one councillor that will be working alongside the two councillors that are given the general ward. So the two councillors in the general ward. They've got I think seven towns that they cover. The councillor in the Māori Ward has actually got 14 towns to cover as well as ten marae to cover and as well as working alongside the two councillors in the general ward - it's big mahi.

Aaron: I think I was talking to another of the candidates the other day and I just asked the question, will the petrol vouchers come in with the job? Is there any consideration at all about that? This is now a serious question. You have to cover a large area and many, many communities. No one's tried this before. How is it going to work out? 

Korikori Hawkins: Again this is my experience working in Waikato Hospital and Wintec. Even though I had a small percentage of Māori students, I also covered international students, pākehā students, as well as staff. I've come up with my own strategies to be able to manage that because I can't be everything to everyone. I was part of a team where we developed a multi-capability framework and basically that was set up to support our non-Māori colleagues to be able to work with Māori. That didn't require Māori to walk alongside them. Does that make sense?

Aaron: Yes.

Korikori Hawkins: And so I'll be taking that same kind of experience to the council table. Sure, I realise that I'm here to represent the whole constituency. But, “here's some tools that I want to be able to share with you so that we can share the mahi”. It shouldn't have to be on the one - on the Māori councillor to cover everything.

Korikori Hawkins: I've been hearing that. I've actually been hearing that when I go out to meet the candidates, general ward councillors are really looking forward to the newly appointed Māori councillors coming on board.

Aaron: So they can offload the work to you? [laughs]

Korikori Hawkins: They have their expectations. [laughs] You see that Aaron! But I've got my own strategy and plan to deal with that. I can't be everything to everyone. And I won't do that.

Aaron: The thing about being everything to everyone, I think that's a problem that all councillors and all of council itself faces anyway. On a different sort of subject, what's the feeling out there about having these two new seats? I'm sure there's a fair bit of excitement that it's happened, but is there a sense of hope that it will make a difference? Or is there a bit of, we'll wait and see?

Korikori Hawkins: I think it's a bit of both. Interestingly enough, we were at some meeting last night and the three candidates standing for the Māori ward. Obviously there was not a Māori in the room at all. But the question was asked of the general ward candidates: What are their thoughts or, do they support the Māori wards? And they actually stood up and said, "We do. We're really looking forward to it. It's time for us to change. The situation we change is upon us." So perhaps it's timely. I get the general sense that people are supportive, but we all don't really know - it's a new thing. 

Aaron: And I guess the other thing too is that we're all used to national elections where there's constant polling and you get predictions about how the results are going to turn out. It's much harder at council level. And then this is a completely new seat. Do you have any sort of perspective or any idea of how things are going with the three of you in the running?

Korikori Hawkins: Oh, God. There's a lot of angst out there with all of these reviews and reforms. So the question you're asking me is, do I have any idea of?

Aaron: Just who or who's going to win the seat basically?

Korikori Hawkins: In terms of the Māori wards?

Aaron: Yeah.

Korikori Hawkins: Well, that's up to the people to make that decision.

Aaron: That's the right answer, I guess.

Korikori Hawkins: That's up to the people. The thing with us as Māori candidates, we're tight with each other. Whoever the people vote for, we're still going to support that person, irrespective of what the outcome is. Because we’re all whānau and so we talk about that when we go out to meet the candidates.

Korikori Hawkins: And I think people in the community are taken aback with that concept. Kotahitanga. Working together, we're not actually competing with each other because we all have different styles of leadership and experience that we can bring to the governance table. So whoever gets in, the governance team is going to be really lucky to have that person.

Aaron: Now, you were just saying before that there's a lot of angst out there. What was that a reference to?

Korikori Hawkins: About the reviews, specifically the reforms, specifically three waters.

Aaron: Yeah, there is. I mean, we're hearing a lot of stuff that I don't really understand. Just tell us from your perspective, what you're seeing.

Korikori Hawkins: The biggest angst is around ownership of assets. Whereas I've got a thought that's completely not that. Mine is actually about people who died - people died because they drank contaminated water. And that comes back to the council. We were responsible for our drinking, our stormwater and wastewater. And so that's the thing that I'm focused on. I guess that comes from my background in counselling and social work. A reform to me is like an intervention. We only had to put in an intervention if somebody's life was at risk. But when I talk about that people kind of park it and say, "Well, it's actually about ownership," and they talk about Waikato-Tainui and the division that they're going to cause because Waikato-Tainui are in the mix now and it's undemocratic and that's all way above my ears. They're talking about ownership. No, we don't own the water.

Aaron: No, I don't understand where that's come from. I think these people have figured out they can stir up some voting support for their particular side of the fence - by promoting these ideas - they don't actually make a lot of logical sense. But you're right, it's distracting from the real issue. And there's good examples of what you're talking about because over in Havelock North, they had a lot of people get sick a couple of years ago from the water supply. 

Korikori Hawkins: Four people died. I think up to 800 people were hospitalised. And yet “you want to focus on ownership of assets?” I don't get that. So I'll be taking a really different perspective to the council, to the governnance table.

Aaron: Hey, let's talk about the mayoral side of things. How would you be different as a mayor?

Korikori Hawkins: Different leadership style, different conceptual thinking, like this is the same around the reform. I see things differently, and so we look at our council vision to build liveable, thriving and connected communities. So connectivity for our current council, obviously led by our mayor, is around connectivity, around highways, footpaths, cycleways, connecting with other towns. Whereas my perspective is more around connecting with people, connecting communities with other communities. The people connection - that's high on my agenda. I realised that's part of the responsibility of councils with what I spoke about earlier. My focus is going to be more around people connections. People connection at the governance table, people connection at the executive and council space as well as the frontline staff.

Aaron: Do you think that in our wider culture at the moment that people are less connected? Just at a personal level?

Korikori Hawkins: Yeah. I've seen that and I'm hearing that more from the community. We talked about angst out there. That's another angst that people are expressing out there - that theres too much staff in the council. They're concerned about too many people at council and none of that is beneficial to them out in the community. They're not getting the results. All of these resources that are in the council space, we've been asking for the same thing out here in the community and we're not getting any results. So it says something about a connection between the governance, the executive and the operational side of it. Something's not right there.

Aaron: Something that we've noticed out here is that - and I talk about this constantly now - is that if we've got staff who live in Raglan and Whāingaroa, they automatically do a better job of serving the community just because when you live here, you know things better.

Korikori Hawkins: Yeah, yeah, and that's what every community that I've gone out to are saying - the same thing. So we landed with that? Well there's a review on local government, isn't there?

Aaron: One of the things that the other mayoral candidates have said is about giving more powers to community boards. Would you agree with that?

Korikori Hawkins: Giving more power to community boards?

Aaron: Because the community boards, all they can do is advise the council. They can't make a decision.

Korikori Hawkins: My sister's on the community board in Ngāruawāhia, I do understand what the role of community board is. 

Yes, because they're at the coalface with the people, but - I don't know,  I need to learn more about that, but in the first instance, yes, because they're at the coalface with the people. People are more likely to talk to them. 

Aaron: Another issue that seems to be coming up constantly is the housing issue. Do you think that's something that can be worked on very well at the council level?

Korikori Hawkins: I think so. I think there's potential for a bit of collaboration with the iwi, council and central government, it's that people stuff again and working together. I think that people are working in their own little silos and I think that we need to work more collaboratively with each other.

Aaron: Now, in terms of the new seats - we have a treaty for Aotearoa and that's like a founding document and it does talk about a partnership. So, do you think in the long term, the really long term, they might end up being more than two Māori seats on district councils? How do you see that? What would you like to see? What's your vision for that?

Korikori Hawkins: Oh, look, I'd just like to get started with these first two and see what comes out of that really. My priority really is about, first of all, working with my people. Because the first election, it was just no engagement whatsoever. But there was interest there because somebody stood for the first time.

Aaron: So you're talking about three years ago at that election when you first started?

Korikori Hawkins: Yeah. So the level of interest has increased from 2019. And I think there's a number of other issues there too. I mean it's like how people are rising up anyway. So in answer to your question, I think let's just see what comes out of this election in terms of the two new councillors and then. Yes,  strategise from there moving forward.

Aaron: Okay. What would you say is the number one thing that you'd want to achieve on the council in the next three years?

Korikori Hawkins: It is to have more engagement with Māori and the local council. It goes back to what my kaumatua started with the mayor way back in the seventies. They wanted a relationship. They wanted each other to work together for the betterment of each other, for this council and the old people  for our marae. So I'm going to be focused on going around to all the marae in my rohe in my takiwaa. And get a sense of what our people want in terms of a relationship with the council.

Aaron: Since that first meeting in the seventies. How do people feel that that relationship has been over 50 years now?

Korikori Hawkins: Yes, that's interesting. Now, my father served two terms actually, six years. And then he moved us to Hamilton City. I think there's only been two others after we left, two other councillors. There hasn't been one from our pā for, I'd say three elections now. So what started out as a really exciting relationship and a genuine commitment to each other - it's fallen down. I think it's fallen down. So my sister and I returned home six years ago and we're just picking up where our father left off. So my sister served a couple of terms, she served two terms on the community board. She went for councillor the last time. But I'm doing it this time for both of us because my sister's not in the position health-wise. So that's why I'm standing for both the councillor and the mayor.

Korikori Hawkins: So we just want to be able to pick up what our father started and what our kaumatua started, like you say, almost 50 years ago. Because when we came back home six years ago, it's very different from the place we grew up. And we're asking ourselves what happened? What's happened to our town? And specifically where's the relationship that was started with our council and our power. And so that's our driver. It's my driver. I'll have to pick that up again.

Aaron: Hey, folks, we're talking to Korikori Hawkins, who is running for mayor and for the Tai Runga Takiwaa Māori ward and Korikori, do you have a last message or a statement about why people should vote for you?

Korikori Hawkins: Oh, look, it's actually about voting in the first instance. I'm talking to our Māori, our hapu and iwi, get out and vote whānau. That's the first step to getting our voice at the governance table. Why should they vote for me? Because I've been working at the coalface amongst the people for over 30 years, and I have the ability to work with all people, not just Māori. So you're going to get someone that has the ability to go into places like Tamihere and as well as go into places like Tūrangawaewae. And I don't think that there's many people at the governance table that can do that confidently, like what I can do - vote.


If you're an enrolled voter in the Waikato district, you'll get a voting information pack in the mail from Friday 16 September 2022.You will have until 12 noon on Saturday 8 October 2022 to vote. If you are sending your vote via post, please ensure that you have allowed enough time for your vote to be received by the due date. You. can also drop off your vote to:

Raglan office and library 7 Bow Street, Raglan 3225 Phone: 07 825 8929 Opening hours: Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm, Saturday 9.30am - 12.30pm