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Flaxmere council team raring to go

“Kia-lofa has entered the building,” says re-elected Hastings District councillor Henare O’Keefe.

At his side around the Hastings District Council table will be new councillor Peleti Oli, who took the second Flaxmere seat in this month’s elections.

Hence the combo-greeting – from kia ora, and tālofa – representing the men’s two cultures, Māori and Samoan.

Mr O’Keefe, who is also Hastings Ambassador, says the Flaxmere’s residents continued support for him has given him his “second wind . . . I’m very excited about this next three years. I want to amp everything up times four.

“We have achieved a huge amount in the past few years, particularly around improvements on the park, encouraging more events, and responding to our people’s concerns.”

Two critical achievements were working with former Flaxmere councillor Jacoby Poulain to retain Flaxmere’s ward status, which meant it had dedicated representation at the Council table, and on the Council-Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga deal which has allowed the building of the Waingakau housing development.

For this next term, employment and parenting are high on his priority list.

He says strong links have been forged across the community which means a framework is in place. “We have a really good network of people doing great things and I want to be right there doing everything I can to support them. These are not issues that one or two people can sort out; it’s going to take all of us.

“It is very important that we raise our people’s expectations and fortunes. I had very little education and that is one of my big regrets; not making the most of my education.”

He says the people need good full-time jobs that mean they can support their families. “That’s what gives you pride. There is nothing more heart-breaking or likely to lead to trouble than being a parent who cannot put food on the table or a roof over their children’s heads.”

He says love for his people and Flaxmere are at the heart of everything he does. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Flaxmere is not a liability, it is an awesome opportunity.

“When I see our young people coming through, helping with projects like planting in the park or cooking up a feed for our kaumatua, it gives me a great feeling; great optimism for the future.”


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