|Co-leader of Te Pāti Māori|
|Assumed office |
28 October 2020
Co-leader with Debbie Ngarewa-Packer
|Preceded by||John Tamihere|
|Member of the New Zealand Parliament|
|Assumed office |
17 October 2020
|Preceded by||Tāmati Coffey|
|Born||1980 or 1981 (age 41–43)|
Ōpōtiki, New Zealand
|Political party||Te Pāti Māori (2016–present) |
Labour (until 2016)
|Relatives||Hoani Waititi (grand-uncle)|
Dame June Mariu (aunt)
Kahurangi Waititi (relation)
Taika Waititi (relation)
Tweedie Waititi (relation)
Rob Ruha (relation)
John Tamihere (father-in-law)
|Profession||Politician and Ringatū Minister|
|Website||Māori Party profile|
Rawiri Wikuki Waititi (born 1980 or 1981) is a New Zealand politician and co-leader of Te Pāti Māori alongside Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. He has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Waiariki since 2020, when his election returned Te Pāti Māori to the New Zealand Parliament following their defeat at the 2017 general election.
Waititi was born in Ōpōtiki, the eldest of four children. He spent his first 12 years living in Whangaparāoa, in the eastern Bay of Plenty near Cape Runaway, and was schooled under the guidance of his kaumātua (elders) and his hapū, Te Whānau a Kauaetangohia. There he went to kōhanga reo and Te Kura Mana Māori o Whangaparāoa, before he moved to West Auckland when he was 13 to live with his paternal aunt, June Mariu, in Te Atatū North (now Te Atatū Peninsula). He did his secondary schooling at Rutherford High School (now Rutherford College) alongside another politician, Simon Bridges.
Waititi is of the Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāi Tai, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui iwi. He is a father of five and husband to Kiri Tamihere-Waititi, the daughter of John Tamihere. He is the grandnephew of Hoani Waititi.
|2020–2023||53rd||Waiariki||2||Te Pāti Māori|
|2023–present||54th||Waiariki||2||Te Pāti Māori|
Labour Party, 2014–2016
In the 2014 election, Waititi ran for the Labour Party in Waiariki. As he was not placed on the Labour Party list, his only way to Parliament was to win Waiariki, however, he lost the seat of Waiariki to Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.
Defection to the Māori Party
2020 general election
On 23 February 2020, Waititi was announced as the Māori Party candidate for Waiariki for the 2020 election. Following his nomination, Waititi said that there was "an imminent need, now more than ever that Māori have a voice who solely prioritises their aspirations and their needs and that is unapologetic about doing so. The Māori Party is the only party who can do that." At the 2020 election, Waititi successfully unseated the Labour MP Tāmati Coffey, winning by 836 votes, and became the MP for Waiariki.
The final election results showed that the Māori Party had won 1.2% of the party vote, entitling them to two seats, so Waititi's electorate win meant not only his entry to Parliament, but also that of female co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Of the forty-two new MPs elected to the 53rd Parliament, two are from the Māori Party.
Under the Māori Party's constitution, its co-leaders must be drawn from its MPs first, with one male and one female co-leader. At a special general meeting of the party on 28 October 2020, Waititi was confirmed as the male co-leader, replacing his father-in-law, John Tamihere.
Before being sworn in to the 53rd parliament, Waititi performed a waerea to protest being required to pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II without reference to the Treaty of Waitangi. On 26 November, Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer walked out of Parliament after the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard declined his motion that the Māori Party be allowed to speak for 15 minutes during the opening on Parliament on the grounds that MPs from smaller parties were not scheduled to deliver their maiden speeches until the following week. Waititi described Mallard's decision and the parliamentary system as unfair.
In late December 2020 and early January, Waititi participated in negotiations with 16 prisoners who were involved in unrest at Waikeria Prison stemming from allegations of inhumane and unhygienic conditions at the prison. Several of the prisoners had requested the presence of a Māori leader such as Waititi as a prerequisite to ending the unrest. He stated, "these men belong to whanau... that they deserve the right to be treated humanely, with fresh water, food and clean clothing and they deserve to have someone advocating for them." Following five days of unrest, the prisoners surrendered to the authorities following negotiations involving Waititi.
On 9 February, Waititi was ejected from Parliamentary proceedings by Speaker Mallard for refusing to wear a necktie in line with Parliament's business attire dress core. Waititi instead wore a hei tiki necktie, which he described as Māori business attire. Waititi had earlier criticised wearing neckties, describing them as "colonial noose[s]" during his maiden speech last year. When Waititi attempted to ask Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis a supplementary question, Mallard denied him permission to speak since he was not wearing a tie. When Waititi sought a point of order, Mallard ordered him to leave. Waititi was supported by fellow Māori Party MP Ngarewa-Packer, who wore a tie in mockery of the rules. The following day, a Standing Orders meeting accepted a Māori Party submission proposing the elimination of neckties from Parliament's business attire. As a result, Mallard announced that it would no longer be compulsory to wear ties in Parliament.
On 12 May, Waititi was ejected from parliamentary proceedings following a heated argument with the opposition National Party leader Judith Collins about the proposed creation of a Māori Health Authority. In the past two weeks, National had alleged the Labour Government was promoting a "separatist agenda" through the Māori Health Authority and other policies seeking to fulfil partnership responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi. Waititi accused Collins of racism and sought to raise a point of order about indigenous rights. When his point of order was denied by the Speaker Mallard, Waititi performed a haka in protest, prompting the Speaker to order him to leave Parliament. Waititi left with Māori Party co-leader Ngarewa-Packer and Green MP Teanau Tuiono, who expressed solidarity with him.
In October 2021, Waititi criticised the Government's abandonment of its previous COVID-19 elimination strategy and expressed concerns that the new COVID-19 Protection Framework was insufficient in protecting Māori and boosting the Māori vaccination rate.
In September 2022, Waititi and fellow Māori Party MP Ngarewa-Packer voted against the Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Day Act 2022, which created a once-off public holiday on 26 September to commemorate the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Waititi objected to the holiday on the grounds that Māori leaders had not been accorded the same level of respect and criticised the British royal family for not apologising for British imperialism and genocide. Waititi's remarks were criticised as insensitive and disrespectful by National Party MPs Michael Woodhouse and Judith Collins.
In May 2023, Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer were ordered to leave Parliament by Speaker Adrian Rurawhe after they staged a haka (dance) to welcome former Labour MP Meka Whaitiri. The Māori Party caucus had not sought permission from the Speaker or other parties to hold the haka.
In mid July 2023, Waititi joked about poisoning ACT Party leader David Seymour during Te Pati Māori's annual conference. While referring to the karaka seedpod necklace around his neck, Waititi said: "These are karaka berries and they've still got the poison in them. So next time I go into Parliament this is what I'm going to do. When David Seymour's not looking, I'm going to go like this into his water... There you are, re-indigenise yourself with some native seeds." Waititi's remarks were condemned by Seymour, who demanded an apology.
On 29 August 2023, Waititi was suspended from Parliament for 24 hours after referring to suppressed court proceedings while asking a question during parliamentary proceedings. Though Waititi asked the question under parliamentary privilege, his reference to the court proceedings breached two parliamentary Standing Orders. In addition, Speaker Rurawhe referred a "general question" of breaching court suppressions to Parliament's Privileges Committee.
In the 2023 general election, Waititi again contested the Waiariki electorate. He received 21,500 votes out of 28,958 for an outright majority. Waititi performed a haka in the chamber prior to swearing his oath of allegiance to King Charles III.
Views and positions
Waititi voted in favour of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Act 2022, which established safe zones around abortion providers.
Waititi has supported the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Act 2022, which banned conversion therapy. During the Bill's first reading in August 2022, he claimed that conversion therapy was based on European colonial ideas about gender and sexuality that were alien to Māori people.
Russian invasion of Ukraine
In March 2022, Waititi supported the Russia Sanctions Act 2022, which created an autonomous sanctions regime in response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. While condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he also questioned New Zealand's failure to condemn the United States' invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
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