Who is new Coalition NZ party leader Hannah Tamaki?

Author
NZ Herald ,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Friday, 24 May 2019, 6:40AM
Hannah Tamaki.

She's best known as the wife of New Zealand's most controversial religious leader, Destiny Church Bishop Brian Tamaki, recognisable for her carefully coiffed peroxide blonde hair and taste for the finer things in life.

But Hannah Tamaki stepped out from Brian's shadow to become the sole leader of a new political party, Coalition New Zealand.

It would not be a Christian party but would be strong on "family values", Tamaki told media at the party's launch this afternoon. But she was light on policy, with no mention of candidate names or which electorates would be fought. Even Brian Tamaki said he wasn't sure if he would stand.

Hannah said those decisions would come later. This year would be focused on listening to Kiwis' views and letting them get to know her better.

According to religious studies expert Dr Peter Lineham, she's a razor sharp thinker and an efficient behind-the-scenes operator. She's been the driving force behind much of the Destiny movement and is fiercely protective of her husband, but she has not limited herself to a supporter's role.

She is also a "forceful preacher", Lineham said, while her social media accounts make it clear she has strong political opinions.

The Tamakis said at the launch they believe there is a silent majority of New Zealanders who are concerned about the current Government's "leftist agenda". Euthanasia, abortion and marijuana legalisation were issues of concern, Tamaki said.

She told NZME if she had the power she would further restrict abortion rights - though she was realistic that was unlikely to happen.

But when asked at the launch about her most pressing concern, she chose to talk about child poverty and children being taken away from their families.

At the launch, Tamaki told media she would not look to repeal the Marriage Equality Act, and when asked her stance on homosexuality, pointed to close friend Jevan Goulter, who is openly gay and will play a key role in the campaign.

Hannah Tamaki's close friend Jevan Goulter is openly gay and will be a key figure in the party's administration.
Hannah Tamaki's close friend Jevan Goulter is openly gay and will be a key figure in the party's administration.

Brian Tamaki raised hackles in 2016 when he blamed the Christchurch quakes on the city's tolerance of gay marriage.

The new party leader told Heather du Plessis-Allan her thoughts on that saga.

"I don't think gay people are that powerful. I always read that [earthquakes are] an act of God."

Tamaki said she had put her hand up for the role of party leader, to her colleagues' surprise.

Hannah and Brian Tamaki at the launch of their new political party. Hannah says she is more interested in politics than her husband, whose focus is on Destiny Church. Photo / Mike Scott
Hannah and Brian Tamaki at the launch of their new political party. Hannah says she is more interested in politics than her husband, whose focus is on Destiny Church. Photo / Mike Scott

"When they started talking about it I thought 'Is it okay if I have a passion for the politics and I become the leader?'

"They said 'Wow, I never thought you would ever, ever offer'."

Tamaki had a rougher start to life than her husband, according to Lineham, who has written a book on Destiny.

Her Māori mum Polly walked out when Hannah was young, leaving her to act as a mother figure to her siblings - though they did not want for money. Father Basil, a Pakeha, showered the children with gifts and Hannah developed a love for fashion at a young age. Still, it was a struggle growing up without a mother.

"She's a really hardworking person with a strong personality," Lineham said.

"There's a strong sense that her sense of determination, created from childhood out of struggling to overcome difficulties, has given her that toughness and purposefulness that has been a striking feature of the Destiny movement," he said.

"She's a fascinating person to talk to because she is very smart, she's sizing things up in her head, which are the marks of a good leader."

But where Brian Tamaki's pig-hunting, Harley-riding image makes him seem one of the
boys, Hannah appears more materialistic which could detract from her public appeal, Lineham said.

"Hannah has had a close circle of friends and supporters who've been around her. But in party politics you deal with a wide range of people. To pull together a coalition could be hard for her."

Hannah also called for National MP Alfred Ngaro to meet with her to discuss the potential to work together. Ngaro has expressed strong anti-abortion sentiments in the past fortnight and is reportedly considering setting up his own Christian values party.

But Lineham believed the two groups are unlikely to form a coalition - even though speaking with one Christian voice would make sense in Parliament.

"I suspect the major effect it will have is to dash Alfred Ngaro's hopes ... In the long run, if two people are claiming to be the values party, with family-based moral concerns, you're going to have at least some vote split and they can't afford to have any splitting."

National list MP Alfred Ngaro is reportedly considering forming a new conservative party; Destiny's Hannah Tamaki is calling for him to work with the Coalition New Zealand party. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National list MP Alfred Ngaro is reportedly considering forming a new conservative party; Destiny's Hannah Tamaki is calling for him to work with the Coalition New Zealand party. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In 2011 she campaigned for president of the Māori Women's Welfare League, but the league took exception to her setting up new branches of the organisation within her church, claiming she was using Destiny to get votes.

She was disqualified from standing but won a High Court order against the ban. After another member won the presidency, Tamaki was stood down from holding office for three years.

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