Let’s Hand Over the Keys to Forward Thinkers


Tommy Kapai Wilson likens spring to new beginnings, new hope and changes – and encourages voters to keep this word in mind as election season draws close.

The late and laughingly great Robyn Williams once said “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”

For many of us especially those with the south side of sixty on the clock, getting to another Spring is like a lifeline. “Haere mai Summer” we say “Warm us up and breath fire into those cold hangi stones deep inside, who have been lying dormant since the first feijoas of Autumn hit the ground and we hit the heat pumps.”

So, here’s the thing with Spring. Is it the fare welling of the old and cold or the heralding in of new beginnings and long hot summers?

September and Spring for me brings out the inner optimist who seems to have been in slumber mode for far too long. Just when Winter has done its best to turn us into flu filled tissue soaked sad asses, along comes an iti of hope Maori call Koanga (Spring). Ko is to dig and Spring is a time to prepare the land for the growing season, and like my old Coromandel hippy mates used to say “life is a garden – if we dig it”.

Driving in to work this morning there was a bit of both saying hi and goodbye all along the sidewalks and council approved launching pads, for signs to sell promises by councillors and Mayoral wannabees. It was the line-up that got me laughing a la Robyn Williams.

Information Overload

In between each photo shopped well-manicured-vote for me billboard were mixed messages of Dog Training, Blossom Festivals and Rug Sales. Imagine the confusion on the faces of our foreign visitors with limited knowledge of what goes on here in the Springtime, especially in Election Year.

But then again, the sign further on up the road that says “Road Works” must be equally confusing.

There’s fun to be had by spinning these signs, not physically but verbally. Coming over the Kaimai there was a sign “Vote Jan Barnes for Mayor of Matamata” to which I made a mental as anything, working class man kind of note to self – change Jan to Jimmy.

Further up the motorway heading to Auckland, the council candidate with the last name Cox had a myriad or mental as anything notes to be made to lighten up an early spring morning, and the more I look at election signs the funnier they become. Take Pick Rick for example, you don’t have to be a creative marketing guru to spin that into something far more sensible.

One candidate claims to have the tautoko (blessing) of tangata whenua. This has raised the eyebrows and the ire of many local Maori who have never seen her on any local Marae so perhaps the Murray in her middle name could be changed to Maori if this is the vote she is hoping to capture.

Vote for Mana

So, what will this election be about? What will be the kicker that gets the new fresh faces across the line and into the corridors of power in local body politics? Money and Mana – Whare and Forward Thinking, are the fire starters to get my hangi stones warm when it comes to voting.

No longer will it be enough to promise every lolly in the party pack scramble and like many of my mates we are looking to leadership that really does understand Mana not money is the currency of success our Rangatira running for council should be aspiring toward.

A very wise and respected Kaumatua once told me Mana was all about the ability to do good deeds for the benefit of others and not yourself, and that is what we need now more than ever if we are to consider the crisis we have in housing and homelessness. Of all the candidates standing, Councillor Terry Malloy must be mentioned alongside Mayor Garry Webber as both these community kingpins have been at our sides since the day we opened our first whare for the homeless here in Tauranga Moana.

Water could well be another key issue more so in the national elections next year. If only I could have foreseen water costing more than petrol at a petrol station 20 short years ago. Then I could have built a thousand new homes for the homeless and still had enough left over for a couple of stadiums, museums and half a dozen iconic attractions, such as the Warrior Statue equal in size to the Liberty one in New York to welcome overseas visitors to our shores.

We get a chance once every three years to make a difference in our communities by voting in who will serve us with Mana and not just for money. We get a chance to hand over the keys to our cities to forward thinkers who can drive us into the future, and see over the horizon to what our kids will inherit by the decisions they make today.

Looking Past the Promises – Vote for Change

The challenge is for us all to look past the promises made on flash billboards with mixed messages and photoshopped faces and vote for change, because what is happening in housing and the ‘soul’ of our city is unacceptable.

If spring is the time for change, a time to prepare the lands for a fruitful summer and beyond, then let’s start with voting in fresh faces as our leaders.

Fresh, forward-thinking faces who can come down off their high horses and flash billboards and be there for mana and not money.

By Tommy Kapai Wilson, Chief Imagination Officer