Career

Hannah Tamaki's Beehive dream: It's my destiny

Hannah knows politics isn't for the faint-hearted. But she says her strong bond with husband Brian will help her weather the storm.

By Aroha Awarau
New political party leader Hannah Tamaki has a tough year ahead of her. Not only will she be juggling running a busy household with four generations under one roof while co-leading Destiny Church with her husband Brian, but she now has the added pressure of heading a political campaign for next year's general election.
Hannah, 58, knows politics isn't for the faint-hearted. But she says her strong bond with Brian, who often dominates media with his controversial views, will help her weather the storm.
"We first met when we were teenagers," she tells. "He was very shy and I was the real outspoken one. It was opposites attract. We make a good team and that's what will see me through."
The whanau-focused couple with their loved ones, including Hannah's daughter Jasmine (back, third from right) and Brian's parents Margaret and Duke (seated, far right).
Brian, 61, says he didn't want the responsibility of leading their new party, Coalition New Zealand, because his calling is behind the pulpit and not in the Beehive. Besides, he likes the fact the attention will be directed at his wife and not him for a change.
"I'm looking forward to being in a support role as opposed to being the leader and in the front," asserts Brian, who founded Destiny Church 21 years ago. "The main support I can offer Hannah is making sure that when she comes home after a long day that this is her place of refuge."
Home for the Tamaki whanau is a lifestyle block on the outskirts of South Auckland, overlooking beautiful farmlands. It's home to Brian's parents Duke and Margaret, their granddaughter Eden, her husband Ford and their one-year-old great-granddaughter Viannah, as well as their pet pigs Hamlet and Hazel, and Brian's hunting dogs.
Hannah with great-granddaughter Viannah.
Hannah, who gets up at 5am each day to do the washing, runs the household. It's being in charge of this busy home, with the different generations and their own unique sets of problems, that made Hannah realise she had the stamina and skills for politics.
"Everyone in the home will be on this journey with me and, of course, I'd need to pass on some responsibilities and chores, just so they can pitch in," she says.
But distributing household tasks is different from running a political party. The couple decided that Hannah would lead Coalition New Zealand only a week before their highly publicised launch. It was an easy decision, says Brian. "I don't know what's more challenging – running a church at the same time as raising a family, or running for politics."
Destiny's first foray into politics was in 2005, with former member Richard Lewis as its leader, resulting in an unsuccessful campaign.
The motivation to run again came after their programme Man Up – which helps men in prison with violent offending and addiction – was denied any chance of receiving government funding after Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis spoke out against them. They marched to the steps of Parliament in December to protest the government's stance, but Hannah admits they're tired of marching.
"You get to the steps and the politicians come out, have a look and say, 'Oh yeah, they've got thousands of people here', then they go back inside and shut the door. What I'm doing now is to keep knocking at the door and not giving up."
It's a fitting analogy because Destiny Church first came into the public consciousness after its "Enough is Enough" march to Parliament in 2004, which strongly opposed homosexuality and the Civil Union Bill. Brian has recently apologised for past comments he's made against the rainbow community, and Hannah insists she would not repeal the right for gay men and women to marry if she made it into government.
"That was 15 years ago – we're way past that," she says. "I just hope that people let it go and move on. I'm not going to spend my whole year in politics trying to change people's perceptions. It's my job to show people who I am and that my word is my word."
Despite her beliefs, Hannah says her new party is not a Christian party. She hasn't released any policies, but she's already showing that her personal experience and strong faith will influence some of her decisions. The experience of having two of her three children born prematurely has made Hannah oppose abortion, even if a woman becomes pregnant through rape or incest.
"There will always be people who will love a child born in that situation," she says. "There are already so many people in this world that come from that and they are productive, beautiful people. Who are we to take away from them their right to live?"
Hannah will be leaving their beloved animals in the care of Brian while she's on the campaign trail.
She's also against euthanasia after nursing her father and two brothers, who lost their lives to cancer.
"As much as cancer is really ugly, we were able to talk to them, cry with them, laugh with them and love them," she enthuses. "I couldn't bear making that decision for somebody and turning off the switch."
The most current issue facing Hannah is dealing with eldest daughter Jasmine's breast cancer diagnosis just two months ago. Hannah is vulnerable when talking about seeing her girl fighting for her life. Holding back tears, she says the experience has made her determined to advocate for women's health.
"This was another motivation for me to go into politics," she explains. "To say to women, especially Maori and Pacific women, don't be shy and have your mammograms."
Hannah says she inherited her strong will through her dad Basil, who was a solo parent to Hannah and her three siblings after their mother Pare abandoned the family.
"Being raised by a man made me ballsy and very strong," she tells. "I was taught that I could do anything that a boy could do. So I learned to fire a gun, skin a rabbit, stack wood and start a fire."
That attitude will help her during her political race. She'll also be seeking advice from seasoned politicians. National MP Judith Collins was once her neighbour and she's mates with former Maori Party MP Hone Harawira. Although New Zealand has had its fair share of strong women prime ministers, Hannah says her biggest political inspiration is Robert Muldoon.
"He was direct and you knew where you stood with him," she enthuses. "I like that style. I've never had any aspirations before to be in politics, but I've always had a desire to help people. With the right people around me, and the right encouragement, what have I got to lose?"
Hannah has also sought inspiration from US President Donald Trump, citing his anti-government corruption analogy.
"I loved it when he said, 'Let's drain the swamp.' Maybe we need to drain the swamp in New Zealand and start again. What's wrong with a strong Maori women helping to drain that swamp?"
Hannah's number-one supporter will always be Brian. He says he's prepared to lend an ear whenever his wife needs to unwind, but the one place where talking shop is off limits will be in the couple's bedroom.
"We can talk politics in the kitchen, in the hallways but when we're in our bedroom, that talk is out of bounds," he stresses. "That's where you leave it, and just be husband and wife."