Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke, a 21-year-old politician, became New Zealand’s youngest MP after winning the national elections in October 2023.
She is a member of the Māori party and is the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Wiremu Katene, the first Māori minister to the Crown in 1872. Maipi-Clarke is also related to Hana Te Hemara (former Māori activist and leader), who delivered the Māori language petition to parliament in 1972, and Taitimu Maipi(Maipi-Clarke’s grandfather), who vandalised a statue of Capt John Hamilton in protest against Hamilton’s colonial legacy and brutality towards Māori.
Maipi-Clarke’s political career is rooted in her passion for Māori language, land, and traditional knowledge. She sees herself as a kaitiaki (guardian) and believes it is time for a new generation of Māori voices to be heard. Her resume belies her years, as she is also a business owner and has written a book that encourages rangatahi (young people) to take an interest in the stars and the moon to heal themselves.
On her first day in parliament Wednesday evening, Maipi-Clarke began her speech performing the Haka, which is a traditional dance genre in Māori culture that is performed by both men and women. It is a ceremonial dance that is often performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet, accompanied by rhythmic shouting. Haka has been traditionally performed for various social functions within the Māori culture.
Maipi-Clarke sought out an image of her ancestor, Wiremu Katene, on a wall of photographs.
“I felt so relieved after seeing that picture,” she said in her maiden speech. “His photograph was a good sign – I said, you gotta have my back up in here,”.
Maipi-Clarke’s victory was significant, as she unseated one of the country’s most senior and respected MPs, Nanaia Mahuta, who had held the Hauraki-Waikato Māori electorate for 20 years.
Maipi-Clarke’s win is a testament to the growing influence of Māori voices in New Zealand’s political landscape.
“Parliament house is very overwhelming for women, for Māori and especially for young people – there is a lot on the line for us,” she maintains.
Her focus is also on the Māori language, land, and traditional knowledge which is a refreshing change from the status quo, and her victory is a sign of hope for the future of Māori representation in New Zealand’s parliament.
New Zealand: 21-year-old new MP looks to Māori ancestors to forge a new future for community