Meet Ōtautahi Christchurch's new slam-dunking city councillor, Tyla Harrison-Hunt

One of the newest elected members of the Christchurch City Council is Tyla Harrison-Hunt, a man on a mission to change the status quo. 

At 31 years old, he's one of the youngest faces in the debating chamber with the personal ambition of bringing fresh ideas and new perspectives.

As it stands, he'll also be the only Māori face around the table this term.

"It takes people like myself and other recent councillors to hold our colleagues accountable for certain things. In my world, it's social equity and making sure that everybody has a voice, including young people," he said.

Prior to being a city councillor, Harrison-Hunt bounced his way through seven career changes, including life as a tradie, running small businesses and working in the field of cultural consultancy.

However, a career as a high-performance basketball coach at Lincoln University allowed him to mix his two passions - basketball itself and youth in the community.

'Midnight Basketball' is an initiative Harrison-Hunt created, using sport as a way to engage with at-risk teens and keep them off the streets.

"It's my favourite program that I've ever run. Now more than ever, young people need places and spaces to be." 

The kaupapa is now into its fifth year, with sessions taking place on Friday nights at multiple locations across the city.

Tyla Harrison-Hunt.
Tyla Harrison-Hunt. Photo credit: The Hui

Local organisations have also seen benefits in the programme and the life-changing impact it has the potential to make. Whanau Ora's Te Putahitanga o te Waipounamu make financial contributions towards the scheme.

"The rangatahi talk not just about growing their physical strength, but their mental strength and Tyla has had a role in that," pouārahi/chief executive Ivy Harper said. 

"We're really pleased he's able to continue his work in the community and of course his new role as councillor." 

Ōtautahi is home for Harrison-Hunt - growing up, attending school, working and now raising his whānau all in Christchurch.

In 2019, he married his Pakistani wife Saba after meeting through high school. The pair now have a baby, two-year-old Anaya Noor.

At 22 years old, Harrison-Hunt converted to Islam and continues to practise the Muslim faith.

He hopes his Te Ao Māori and Islamic lens will be beneficial for minorities.

"They work alongside each other, they don't actually clash. Everything that I do as a Māori still stays as a Māori. Everything that I do as a Muslim still stays as a Muslim.

"Praying five times a day is really beneficial for me. It brings me peace, particularly in a really tough day."

With a focus on the future - and wanting to create the best life possible for his daughter and generations to come - Harrison-Hunt is aware of the challenges ahead.

"I look at holes in every single bit of briefing and every bit of policy, seeing, is this equitable? Does this work? And how can we make this better for everyone?"

"I want to be known as somebody who was authentic, who was Te Ao Māori-focused, who was compassionate, and who listened."

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.