Time for reset, new opportunities: MP

Rino Tirikatene
Rino Tirikatene
Former Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene has called time on his political career.

Mr Tirikatene, until recently a Dunedin resident, yesterday announced his resignation as a member of Parliament effective from tomorrow.

"It’s time to reset and pursue new opportunities.

"I’m looking forward to the next chapter," Mr Tirikatene, 52, said in a statement.

His decision to retire from politics was not unexpected, after losing the Te Tai Tonga seat he had held for 12 years to Te Pāti Māori challenger Tākuta Ferris in last year’s election.

Although Mr Tirikatene had a high enough list position to return to Parliament, he was ranked down Labour’s batting order when leader Chris Hipkins allocated portfolios following the election.

A lawyer, Mr Tirikatene was the third member of his family to represent Te Tai Tonga — formerly Southern Māori.

His grandfather Sir Eruera Tirikatene and aunt Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan were the only MPs the seat had from 1932-96, and Mr Tirikatene was particularly proud of his family history in the seat.

He was first elected in 2011, and when Labour took power in 2017 he became chairman of the Māori affairs select committee.

Re-elected in 2020, Mr Tirikatene was appointed parliamentary under-secretary to the minister for oceans and fisheries and minister for trade and export growth, with responsibility for Māori trade.

In the latter role, Mr Tirikatene played an important back-room role in ensuring a chapter guaranteeing protection of Māori intellectual property and promoting access for Māori-run businesses were added to the free trade agreements New Zealand was negotiating.

When Mr Hipkins became prime minister in January last year, Mr Tirikatene was appointed minister for courts and minister of state for trade and export growth, but had little time to make a mark in those areas before the election.

"I reserve my defining legislative achievement for my own people," he said.

"In 2022, I sponsored the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Act 2022, shepherding it through the House. That Act, drafted and enacted according to the wishes of the Canterbury Regional Council and Ngāi Tahu, reserves two seats on the regional council for tribal representatives.

"It was and remains a ground-breaking model, but the legislation and the model are under threat from the coalition government."

He said Māori would not "roll over" on progress they had made.

"We are not going back in the box. If the coalition unwinds the progress of the last six years, they risk a backlash that will make sure they are a one-term wonder."

Mr Tirikatene is the second Labour Māori MP to resign in recent weeks: former deputy leader Kelvin Davis announced his resignation late last year.

The two departing MPs will be replaced by the subsequent two candidates on Labour’s 2023 list, Shannan Halbert and Tracey McClennan.

Meanwhile, Taieri New Zealand First list MP Mark Patterson was yesterday named as associate minister for regional development.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced the move as one of several new portfolio allocations. Notably, those included Act New Zealand leader David Seymour becoming associate justice minister to allow him to work on the controversial Treaty principles Bill.

Other moves were NZ First’s Jenny Marcroft being appointed as a parliamentary under-secretary to the minister for oceans and fisheries, and education minister Erica Stanford taking responsibility for the Crown’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

The changes did not alter the number of MPs in the Cabinet or the size of the executive.