Marama Davidson's journey from activist to politician

Since the controversial departure of former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, Marama Davidson is now Parliament's highest ranked wahine Māori political leader.

The 46-year-old now has her sights set on Tāmaki Makaurau, launching a two-tick electorate campaign today.

"I'm very clear that this is a very important stand for the Greens and for me to make as a Māori woman in politics. This is the first year that I will standing for Tāmaki Makaurau as co-leader of the Green Party, and I'm really proud of the advocacy I have been able to give for Māori political issues and particularly those that relate to Tāmaki Makaurau."

Addressing issues like inequality are clearly seen on a visit to The Waka of Caring, a drop-in centre in Manurewa, south Auckland, providing the basics to whānau in-need.

Davidson is a regular there, getting an up-close understanding of the challenges facing many whānau in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate.

"I have purposefully kept my connections to these grassroots, these flaxroots communities. That's exactly what my job is, is to stay connected to what's happening on the ground, and the people who are struggling," says Davidson.

Marama Davidson.
Marama Davidson. Photo credit: The Hui

Addressing inequality is a platform which Davidson, a former youth worker who transformed from activist to politician when she entered Parliament in 2015.

Davidson's also been outspoken on protecting Ihumātao from becoming a housing development and was one of the first politicians to be seen on the frontline.

"I supported Ihumātao right from the beginning many years ago because what they're essentially saying is we want true Tiriti justice, that we're not going to accept crumbs any more," Davision says.

She has also been at the forefront of reforming our welfare system.

"We were able to get benefits tagged to wage increases, that is quite historical as well. We should have done that decades ago. Many Māori acknowledge that we've had nine years of a National Government that harmed our people, that destroyed our waterways, that continued to leave people out in the cold, and many of those were Māori.

"I know many Māori understand that legacy, and still expect more from this Government."

The cost of being in politics

Tāmaki Makaurau is where Marama Davidson calls home, but it's Pōneke where the mother-of-six spends the majority of her working life. Her calendar is filled with party policy hui and Parliament sittings - and also taken up with her role as deputy chair of the Māori Affairs Select Committee. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to Davidson's workload. She's now a member of the Epidemic Response Committee - a cross-party group set-up to monitor the Government's handling of the virus.

But Davidson's Parliamentary career comes at a cost for her whanau, in particular for her six tamariki. Domestic jobs like picking up her kids from school are a rare treat.

"It's a bit of a buzz actually when I get to stand outside the school gates like everyone else and see my babies coming out of school. We are privileged, we are resourced, we are able to take care of ourselves to contribute to our community, so many people don't have that".

And its strong whānau support that enables her to maintain her hectic schedule. Her eldest daughter, 25-year-old Hiria is now known as the 'main mum' and runs the household in her absence.

"I have the privilege of being able to focus on my job and focus on what I need to do in my role, because I know they're sussed, I know that they're sorted. It never gets easier there's always a bit of grief, a momentary grief that I have to contend with every time I leave this house, because I know I'm not coming back for quite a few days and then I know that when I do come back it's still not for very long," she says.

Davidson with her 11-month-old moko Raeya.
Davidson with her 11-month-old moko Raeya. Photo credit: The Hui

But the precious moments she spends with her 11-month-old moko Raeya only strengthens Davidson's resolve to give tamariki in Aotearoa the best possible start in life. 

"How well cared for and supported my children are drives me to want to do well for everybody's children, because my heart breaks at the thought of tamariki not getting what my tamariki get.

"We cannot have a healthy planet without healthy people; we cannot have healthy people, without a healthy planet. We've got a plan for seven generations ahead if we have any hope of giving our mokopuna an earth that they can take care of. I want to see us do a lot more, and a lot sooner, and that's the story I'm going to be able to tell."

The Hui