This article was written in collaboration with Te Hiku Media.

 

Māori woman Nanaia Mahuta has become New Zealand’s first Indigenous female Foreign Minister.

Aotearoa/New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Mahuta as the nation’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on Monday.

With almost 25 years of political experience, Mahuta was the first woman appointed as the nation’s Minister for Māori Development and is the first serving Minister to wear moko kauae, the traditional facial tattoo worn by Māori women.

In her new role she joins a cabinet with five other Māori ministers and New Zealand’s first African MP, Ibrahim Omer and Sri Lankan MP, Vanushi Walters.

“We renewed our line-up of ministers yesterday so there is much work on the horizon,” Minister Mahuta told Te Hiku on Tuesday.

“What’s new for us is that this is the first government where six Māori ministers have been appointed to our team.”

Prime Minister Ardern said it was a “natural decision” for her to appoint Minister Mahuta.

“In the last course of the last term [Mahuta] held an associate trade role which has given her experience in that area. I have seen first-hand the relationships she formed through that role,” she said in announcing the appointment.

“She is someone who builds fantastic relationships very very quickly and that is one of the key jobs in a foreign affairs role.”

Minister Mahuta comes into the role during COVID-19 and is working to ensure the nation’s community remain safe while travelling.

“The biggest difference about the role as Minister of Foreign Affairs at the moment is the restrictions on travelling. I won’t be able to go abroad to liaise with our foreign partners, other Indigenous people and nations around the world so we will rely on Zoom to begin our engagements abroad,” Minister Mahuta said.

“In future we may see a time where we can meet with other countries in person as a way to strengthen our international links for the benefit of New Zealand.

“So, despite that, there is much work to be done and no doubt I will follow in some of the footsteps of [former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters] and his work on the international front.”

Minister Mahuta intends to continue her role in a regional council whilst also taking on her portfolio.

“I will continue with my work in the regional council space, I’ll take care of that as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Associate Minister of Māori Development,” she said.

“The role of Minister of Māori Development and Te Puni Kōkiri has been handed to Willie Jackson, he will take care of that portfolio.”

Aotearoa/New Zealand’s October election saw the Ardern Government to a comfortable victory, becoming the country’s sixth Labour Government.

By Rachael Knowles