Six months into the job, Henare O’Keefe is loving his role as Hastings Ambassador.
On top of his duties as a Hastings District councillor, he is charged with helping to build pride in our district; a position bestowed upon him by the Hastings mayor after the last council elections.
“Henare has the ability to lead the way in showing us all of the good things we have in our beautiful city. His love of our district is unparalleled and infectious so he is the perfect person to encourage us to have pride in Hastings and get out and enjoy it; and show our visitors the truly amazing parts of our city,” said then mayor Lawrence Yule.
“It is pretty easy to feel good about living here,” said Mr O’Keefe. “Of course we have our issues, but no more than any other place in New Zealand and we are certainly a lot better off than a lot of people in other parts of the world.
“We have great schools, incredible artists; wonderful mokopuna doing great things both here and across the wider country and the world; fantastic parks that offer something for everyone for free; beaches; cycle and walk ways; successful industry; the list is endless.”
In his role, Mr O’Keefe represents and promotes Hastings at both Council and externally run events, spreading the message: ‘Be loud and proud; you live in Hastings!’
Having pride in your home town is important, he says. “It gives us the ability to enjoy what we have; it gives us space to look around, look out for each other; notice if something is not right that we can do something about. It gives us the will to do something about it.”
He said his greatest wish is for the region’s children to grow up “loving their turangawaewae – regardless of race, creed or religion”.
There is no questioning the suitability of Mr O’Keefe for the role. Long before becoming a councillor, he and wife Pam embarked on a career of caring for kids who needed lots of love, going on to foster more than 200 youngsters. In 2008 he took up the fight against violence, organising the 4000-strong Enough is Enough Hikoi, from which developed a number of anti-violence projects. He is well-known for his tunu tunu – his roaming street barbecue designed to unite neighbourhoods.
“I think my new role is an extension of everything else I have done. It’s all about connecting people, joining us all together, caring for each other. It’s about putting us all on the same road toward making our Hastings an even better place to live for our people,” said Mr O’Keefe.
4 October 2017
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