Local Elections Candidate Interviews: Tilly Turner - 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 Tilly Turner.


"If you're on the Māori roll, just vote wherever you are, whatever you're doing, vote for your Maori candidates. It's the very first time we've been given this opportunity and I want us to make the best of it," she said.


(Listen to the full interview below:)

Aaron: On the line, I've got Tilly Tuner. Good morning, Tilly.

Tilly Turner: Mōrena Aaron.

Aaron: So you are one of the candidates for the new Tai Runga Takiwaa Maaori Ward. Do you want to just introduce yourself first up?

Tilly Turner: Mōrena e te whānau e rongo ana ki te irirangi papaho whāingaroa, tena koutou katoa.  Ko Tilly Turner taku ingoa. No Waikato tainui ahau. Tena tatou katoa.

Aaron: You're actually on the way to a meeting at the moment, aren't you - in a car?

Tilly Turner: Yes, I am sorry.

Aaron: Look, we're more than happy to talk to you where we can. Actually, I wanted to catch up with you yesterday, but I didn't get the chance when the Meet the Candidates were here. How was the Meet the Candidates event from your perspective? You might have been to a few - was it a good turnout?

Tilly Turner: I have. I thought it was a great turnout. Congratulations to you, Raglan and Whāingaroa for having such a great audience yesterday. And thank you for giving us your time. You are giving up your free Sunday time that you usually would do everything else. But it was a fabulous meeting. Lots of people turned up in your audience from your local community. Kia ora.

Aaron: Also I should say from the other side, it was great to see every single candidate that we could vote for in our area had turned up as well. That was brilliant.

Tilly Turner: Yes, that was a great audience. Two minutes is hard to get your spiel into but we did it.

Aaron: Yeah, it's a challenge. Well, we've got a bit more than 2 minutes today. Was there a burning issue you wanted to talk about but couldn't do in the time available yesterday?

Tilly Turner: I've done a few meetings so far so I'll get the main points out. I've focused on three areas as you would have heard and that's whenua, which is land and environment; and then whānau, which is families, everything to do with families and my third one was whai rawa, which is business and economic development for our Waikato communities. So no, I think I've got enough for them to get a taste of. But I have got passion in each of those three areas. It's something that I'm quite experienced in and it's things that I've done in those three areas that I have chosen to talk about.

Aaron: Tell us a bit about yourself in terms of your family life and your work life - the sort of things that you think are relevant to serving on council.

Tilly Turner: I was born in Tuakau, Pukekohe and was brought up in the Tuakau, Port Waikato district for the majority of my life. Educated in Maramarua as a primary school student, went through to Hauraki College and worked in the psychiatric hospital as a trained nurse and then got married and ended up living 47 years in Ngāruawāhia. Hone and I have had eight children, we've got a big family, seven girls, and my son is my baby. I'm at the stage now where when the Māori seats came up, I thought, "I think I'd like to have a go at this," I'm community driven, and have done lots of things in my community and especially the Māori community.

Aaron: Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Tilly Turner: Well, Ngāruawāhia is my marae, noho as I say my marae whānau is Te Awamārahi in the Port Waikato but living 47 years here in the Waikato and Ngāruawāhia. I've connected myself very easily because we're Kiingitanga people to Ngāruawāhia. I've been the secretary some years ago, and secretary to the Te Awamārahi Marae. I got involved with the high schools. All the schools in Ngāruawāhia actually I've had a connection with all of them - in my background in kapa haka and done all sorts of things. Worked for the tribe Waikato-Tainui in the latter part of my employment because I brought all my kids up at home and then once they were all off to school, then I went back into the workforce again. 

That's my story really. I worked with Waikato-Tainui in the environment space where I worked at their nursery and produced plants, propagating from a seed source that was local. All of that seed source we grew into a native nursery and our native nursery was put back into the riparian planting of especially the Waikato awa. But we've had other little projects too outside of the awa projects for restoration work in the environment.

Aaron: Something I'm quite interested to ask you about; housing comes up a lot when we have discussions about issues in the community, all around this country. But you have an interesting living situation that I'd love to hear about.

Tilly Turner: We do. Hone and I got really sick - we brought all our children up in a three bedroom home that was dormitory style. One room was kind of huge, like dormitory style. So all our kids were brought up in this three bedroom place in Ngāruawāhia into their adulthood and then we got sick in 2010, 2012. Hone, with these heart problems, and myself with cancer. 

So we pulled all our kids together, (who by that time had kind of moved all over the place - a couple in Australia) so we pulled them back and actually set them down and said, "Look, one of you needs to take the house on. We're not sure how long our life is going to carry on," but whichever one of you decides, (and we wanted them to wananga) must leave the front door open with the way things are going socially. So they sat down and my eldest daughter was living in Gisborne so of course the responsibility for the coordinator became my second daughter who was actually doing her degree in social services at the time, with women in Auckland.

She lived in Pukekohe with her family and that's what she was going through. So she used some of her theorems as part of her study to get us through the space of just talking about what they want. Hone and I didn't have too much to do with the discussions. We sat in support, but what they came up with was out of all of the eight, only the two youngest had homes. And so the other six, their income that they spent on rentals came to just under $1,000 a week. That was in 2014 I think when these discussions started. So she said, "Well, look, this is what's going out of our hand. How can we change that picture so we can bring it back?" 

So long story short, they decided that they wanted to have a big house, an inter-generational house, where they could come back. Whoever was renting could come back home, live, save up, buy their own home for their children, and then move back in retirement. So it's really a retirement village for my children.

So we ended up buying. We did the plan. Everybody had input into it of course. In one of her theorems they used - I can't remember what the theory was - it was about norming, storming, performing, transforming. One of those milestones, things that happen amongst the family where you actually get to the point of transformation - that's where we got to. So the nine bedroom home became  our goal. We're actually living in that. We opened that up and we started the build in 2017 and we moved into it in 2018. This is where we are right now, we have five of my adult children who own homes. But the most amazing thing to me is that we've got two grandchildren who actually have bought homes as well. 

So that transformation and intergenerational living works. So that's what I've been talking about. I've used that as an example that we have to shift our paradigms in the way we think about housing. We used to do this pre-colonial times but then the individual home became the thing, in our colonial past and in our history within this recent time. A lot of families have lost that thing of inter-generational living. So we think that we actually are proof, not just because of the home ownership, but everything else that we're doing in our intergenerational nine bedroom home is working. And absolutely during COVID times, we didn't suffer the isolation that some of my family did. Just being isolated through COVID was quite a bad time for lots of families, we got to hear about afterwards. But what we did in that time was we knitted the families that were living outside of the papakainga space. And when they got sick, we always had a post up time where everybody came online and we spoke during the time of COVID when people were down. "How are you? What's going on?" It was a really great link. It actually helps that space hugely. Speaking from experience - this is the way for us, for the future.

Aaron: Yeah, it does sound good. I've got to admit, I'm envious. My girls are at the point where they are sort of leaving-home age and I love the idea of multiple generations as well,  as a grandparent,  I imagine you've really enjoyed that.

Tilly Turner: We've got four generations living at the house full time. My eldest daughter has got her mokopuna tuarua. She's the eldest of all the mokopuna tuarua, she lives with us as well. So that's part of that, intergenerational living is great.

Aaron: It's almost a relief to hear someone who has some kind of solution around housing, because everyone's talking about it. It's kind of being created by decisions that are probably made at central government level but here we are - a local body election - everyone wants to know what the candidates are going to do about the housing crisis.

Tilly Turner: And developers aren't into that space, are they Aaron? Developers are where it happens. I think that's why this is part of my big, you know… have they thought about that intergenerational living? Because it's usually for - I know that they've got a family who've got a five bedroom house. But it wasn't built as an intergenerational space. It was built for the purposes of their family. But we have to start to talk the spiel about intergenerational living.

Aaron: I think it's best to talk about it first rather than kind of after it starts happening, because I think it's just going to happen for some families anyway. I think they're going to find they haven't got much choice.

Tilly Turner: That's right, but it's a good way of living. It's great. We share everything. All our utilities are paid collectively - everything. We have a little saving that helps us with the mortgage and we're not rushing to pay that off in any big, big hurry. So there's less pressure so that anybody who wants to buy their own home can go off and it still can be afforded by those living in their house to do the mortgage on a smaller scale.

Aaron: That's brilliant. On other issues we've got the two new Māori seats for the Waikato district. How much of a difference do you think that's going to make for Māori people and for the council itself?

Tilly Turner: I think it's going to be great. I'm really confident in this space because I think that's one of the reasons I do hear the voices of rangatahi which is absolutely thrilling for me. I didn't realise the potential that we have in this rangatahi leadership group, but I think my space in this time is really to settle that space for our councillors to be able to educate why we think the way we think. How it's legacy stuff. Legacy decisions are the things to make because it's long term. You can't make short decisions and just hope that it's going to work. What's going to happen down the line? What's going to happen in your books during this time? Have they got a burden or have they got an asset? And so that's one of the reasons that I think maybe this first term early in the space is something for somebody a little bit older with experience. I know I hear the voices out saying they believe that they've got the experience and I'm telling them I'm absolutely enthused. I'm sure that they'll step up to the challenge.

Tilly Turner: This new rangatahi group, young Sharnay [another Tai Runga candidate], I absolutely love her. I absolutely love this young lady and I know if she does get in, I'm 100% behind her and if she doesn't get in, I'm going to support her to say that she will get in - in our future. So I think the seats are good. I think that Māori voice; we're going to be forced to actually stand up and say what it is we want. We haven't had much participation at that level to come and hear us talk. 

We don't have very many Māori sitting in that space but I'm confident we're going to get there eventually. We've had lots of leadership over the years and we've had our own times where we've come up against the harder stuff, which is really right now. Princess Te Puea went through a time when that was absolutely the same thing that we're experiencing with homelessness right now. So I know that the answers are there, it's in our background and we've got the experience and I think that's what we bring to the table.

Aaron: You talked about setting the scene for the new council and legacy things. Are there any specific things that you want to see happen really quickly or more quickly?

Tilly Turner: It's about how we use the land, the whenua, because we're actually building lots and lots of houses really quickly. And I wonder, I actually was in tears because I saw on the news this morning that they're talking about leaving arable land for food supply. Absolutely important because it seems like this big rush to get homes built everywhere and anywhere. And I understand what that means but I think if you were to do it a little bit more purposefully, we get a few of these inter-generational homes and intersect them into communities. I think that will be a good thing. But using land just for the purpose and building so many homes and then you see them standing empty for ages because people can't afford to buy them. That's probably one of the concerns that I have immediately.

Aaron: There are questions being asked by people; how many homes are empty because they're an investment and they are not even being tenanted - and no one really knows the answer to that question. But they suspect there's quite a few.

Tilly Turner: Yes, I'm of the same opinion. I see quite a few brand new homes and lots of them come up very quickly and then they stand empty. So we're building not for purpose. We're building for, like you say, probably for investment, which is sometimes may not be a good thing.

Aaron: Yeah, well, the investment usually works for the investor, but not necessarily everyone else.

Tilly Turner: Yes, that's exactly my point. Yeah, very little money around. So where does that investment come from? It probably ends up coming from offshore. I don't know. I haven't got any answers. I know what it took for us to build what we built, but I do know that we need homes. We do need homes.

Aaron: What other issues in your community are you picking up that need addressing urgently? We always talk about housing, but there are probably others.

Tilly Turner: In my community and my community is so wide, I've got six wards that I have to be accountable for. Really for me, I do know what we need in Ngāruawāhia, we're a low decile area, lots of innovative things in our community. It's not that it's a low decile and it's not that we aren't trying and doing stuff in Ngāruawāhia. The things that we're doing in that way are quite innovative. But what about for the wider community? I need to learn that space and that's why if I do get in, that's my first thing, is to build relationships with those nominated candidates and to understand what each of their communities are going through in the Māori space - and honestly, I don't really know - but it probably will be very similar to the stuff that's going on in Ngāruawāhia. You know, Māori generally are feeling the same effects of low incomes, poverty, homelessness in a lot of cases. I'm guessing that that's going to be the space that it's going to be effective for me to work in.

Aaron: So you would be a member of our community board out here? You'd come to our community board meetings. Do you know how many other community boards and council committees you'd be part of as well?

Tilly Turner: All six, I think there might be? I think in the Western districts there might be a few, quite a few. So Tuakau has one, I'm not sure just how many we have, we've got one in Ngāruawāhia here. We've got a Taupiri community board. I was here yesterday with the Whāingaroa one and I'm sure Tamahere and my other constituent spaces too will have community boards as well. And I'm interested to get involved with all, but I'm mindful that it's a space that we have to go in and listen to what the community wants and not overtake with agendas that we take to those meetings. You know what I mean? So just to go in and listen, what is this community talking about? What are the issues on their table and how can I best serve that? So it's a huge area for me and I'm about the wards that I don't live in.

Aaron: I'm kind of hoping there's some petrol vouchers for you guys because it feels like you might have to do a lot of driving.

Tilly Turner: I think that goes across the board with everybody in the space at the moment.

Aaron: Although for the two new Maori wards I think, you're covering half the district.

Tilly Turner: Absolutely. Yes. I'm not sure how we're going to address that in the future. My husband and I share a car and he's off to work and he's just dropped me off at work.

Aaron: Right. Do you need to go into your work now?

Tilly Turner: No, I'm fine, we'll talk.

Aaron: Okay. So I did want to ask you a question; everyone's saying it's great that we've got these two new Māori wards and it just kind of happened really quickly and there didn't seem to be a lot of opposition like there had been in the past. But we have a founding document for this nation, which talks about a partnership, which kind of implies 50/50. So what do you see down the road? Further down the road, do you see it staying at two seats? Would you like to see full co-governance? What do you think for the long term?

Tilly Turner: That's a hard one. I think it'll be judged on how successful everybody works in the space.

Tilly Turner: So communities councils will figure how much value they get out of us in the first triennium. And if that happens to be really good, then I'm expecting that they will just automatically assign more people in. I think there's going to be some challenges - I'm not naive to think there won't be - but the challenge is in how we get around and how we service all six communities and whether we do that well or not. And how,  physically, like you say, petrol vouchers, vehicles. How we actually navigate that space so that we give the best for the people of these communities - as we heard yesterday, it's people, people, people. How we are able as Māori delegates to get representatives to serve those whole six wards. It's going to be quite a challenge and I'd be the first to ask for that growth if I think it's too hard. But we'll see how we go. And I know what you're talking about but I think it's good to step into something slowly, figure out how the relationships go and then add to. Because it's of value, and only because it's of value.

Aaron: And do you think you would be trying to visit as many marae as possible?

Tilly Turner: I do that ordinarily, like we have poukai, which is the kiingitanga space, annually we do an annual visit to most poukai. So I'm accessible to marae. But there's still a big part of our Māori community that we don't get to talk to on a regular basis. Marae is great because it's the figure of how to get there. We actually have a platform where we could get there and I don't think it'd be hard to open that space up at all for us all.

Aaron: How much excitement has there been in the Māori community with these two new seats popping up in actual fact? I did ask around, some people are not aware of it because not everyone is aware of local government issues, so they didn't even know this had happened. But what are you picking up? Are people pretty excited about this?

Tilly Turner: I'm kind of like everybody else because the show of faces at our Meet the Candidates is a good reflection of just how much excitement there is. And I haven't seen many of my Māori constituents turn up to the different speaking engagements that we do have. We did have one in Kirikiriroa at the Wintec but that was solely for all the Māori delegates. So that was enthusiastic because we had a few more Māori people turn up. All educated, all know what's going on, and a lot of rangatahi turned up to that one.

Tilly Turner: So it might be a new focus. That's what I was talking about. The voice is strong and I'm really enthused with that space that we're going to fill that gap for the future really, really quickly. There are very confident young people coming forward. As for where that sits right now? I don't know that we've got full support. I'm having a meeting with my own tribal communications, hopefully sometime this week to ask about that support. Thanks to Kawena and Kirsty with their little social enterprise that they run: Taurikura. It's fabulous because I learnt so much from that space, so much. know it wouldn't have happened any other way because there's not that commitment so maybe that's the space that I need to start with to figure out how we get that buy-in I guess, from even our tribal space. I know they offer the Tainui live as one of the platforms, but I think we need maybe even more.

Aaron: This interview is not just going out on the radio. We're gonna put the recording online, the podcast onlin, and make a transcript and then we're going to share it on the Raglan community Facebook page. There's a lot of people on that. So we hope to get out to the rest of the community that way because it's a lot harder these days, too. There's so many people on different platforms and doing different things. So there's more of a challenge.

Tilly Turner: Yes, you're so right. People are busy.

Aaron: Yeah, people are busy - we're all busy.

Tilly Turner: That's why I commented about how many people turned up to your Raglan meeting. It was absolutely brilliant. So what you guys are doing - and it's funny because it's a reflection of your community, isn't it?

Aaron: Yeah, I think so.

Tilly Turner: How many people turn up and are interested and want to know - that's the biggest thing. Something that you've done in Raglan that has been great and look, you can see it, you can feel.

Aaron: It started a long time ago, I think.

Tilly Turner: Well, yes, I'm expecting that, that would have to be the case.

Aaron: I think we're just about out of time and you've probably got to get to work. So I just want to let people know. We've been talking to Tilly Turner, who is a candidate for the Tai Runga Takiwaa Maaori Ward, the new Southern Māori ward in our district. And do you have any last things you want to say, or maybe why people should vote for you?

Tilly Turner: I'm a committed person who would like to do for the community; people are my passion. My ancestors have done a lot of work in the space of connectivity with people in different communities throughout our entire history. So I know that it's bred in me, it just comes natural from where I'm sitting and just vote please, everybody, if you're on the Māori roll, just vote wherever you are, whatever you're doing, vote for your Maori candidates. It's the very first time we've been given this opportunity, and I want us to make the best of it. Kia ora.

Aaron: All right, Tilly, thank you for your time this morning. I did enjoy the housing discussion with you.

Tilly Turner: Thank you, Aaron. Thank you for getting me on to the radio station as well.