I’m fascinated by the business card Wetex Kang hands me. It’s heavy and embossed, a respectable card for the Maori Party’s first Asian candidate (he’s standing in the Botany seat).
The flipside is more intriguing and features a dragon, one of the most symbolic of Chinese emblems, and the taniwha, also a supernatural creature, this one from Maori mythology. It is not unlike a serpent or dragon.
The similarities provide another little clue to the thinking, and there would have been much, behind the Maori’s Party’s move to have this pharmacist beekeeper front them in an electorate that has been ruled by National’s Jami-Lee Ross since 2011.
Kang, of Malay and Chinese descent, points to the genealogical ties to Maori spanning several millennia. It’s all in the DNA.
The clincher for the Maori Party though would have been the Census stats. Says Kang: “Botany is an ethnically diverse electorate where 39 per cent of the electorate are Asians.” (More than 45 per cent are European and Pacific peoples around 12 per cent).
Why stand? “I have been friends with (Tuhoe Maori activist) Tama Iti for 15 years. He was my client. We recently reconnected,” says Kang. 44.
It’s important to know Kang is multi-talented, and is not geographically confined. “I’m a beekeeper. I have three businesses. I have a factory that makes health products like protein powder, capsules.
“I also work for Gloriavale – I would be down there to work with them.”
Wait, what? Gloriavale, the controversial, isolated religious community on South Island’s West Coast?
Yup. They need consultants too, one of Kang’s other skills. He will offer advice on anything from regulatory affairs to, er, beekeeping.
Which is how he comes to be back with Tame Iti.
“He’s a beekeeper. I’ve been training him for about three months – four guys including his son in the Urewera National Park. Hopefully they can turn it into something more tangible for the community.”
Half his 600 hives are in Ruawai (30km south of Dargaville in Northland)
“There is a teaching apiary at the college and we’ve offered apprenticeships there. There’s one at the moment. We want to take three more apprentices.”
Yes but how did he come to join the Maori Party?
“Initially it started as a joke then I went to the candidates’ workshop (which is) when I realised this was quite massive. Around 5000 years ago we had the same whakapapa (genealogy),” Kang explains.
“Tame Iti joked, ‘I guess we left you fullas behind in the waka’.”
Tang’s campaign will focus on immigration, cultural integration, law and order, green energy and health.
Re NZ First’s Winston Peters: “He’s a bully and a racist against Maori. He wants to demolish the Maori seats.”
Re incumbent Jami-Lee Ross: “Jami is number 27 on the National list so he’s going to get in regardless.”
His wrap-up: He want an Asia-Pacific cultural village and Maori Wardens to assist with law and order. A cultural village has been discussed with the One Pacific Party (in June the Maori Party ratified a deal with One Pacific that it hopes will broaden its support base). This village could be set up either on council land or Manurewa marae. “It will showcase the Asian and Pacific cultures. It will be a place for the whole community, for groups to practice tai chi, (anything) – it’s almost like China Town,” he says.
“It’s about sharing with younger and older people that New Zealand is inclusive.”
Kang, who lives in Avondale with his wife and two children (boy and girl aged 7 and 9) lived in Kilimanjaro Drive, Botany when his family moved up into the area. They are looking at moving to Whitford. It will be good for his bees and his family.
And it comes back to family, he says.
“They’re (Maori Party) not trying to turn you into Maori – you have to retain your own identity. My billboard says to celebrate diversity. It features four Chinese characters – four oceans, one family.”
Re chances in the General Election next month: “You can only try. If you can bring something different to the community in east Auckland I have got a pretty good chance.
“Look at the state of Asian representation in Parliament. You have puppets. They (Labour) don’t come out and speak for us. All we need is someone who will actually stand up for us. New Zealand needs to be more inclusive.
“I’ve spent 21 years in business so I intend to be an MP who runs this country. From a business point of view I’ll be looking to reduce our national debt.”