Meet Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell’s beautiful baby girl

The blissful new mum is excitedly cracking on with her two amazing jobs
Michelle Cutelli

With her newborn daughter resting on her chest straight after the birth, time stood still for Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell. Staring in wonder at baby Kahumoa Caroline Clancy, Tania and her husband Kanin were overcome with joy.

Just hours earlier, there’d been a moment of panic when, mid-labour, a fire alarm was accidentally activated at the hospital and Tania feared her private birth may have ended up being a very public one instead.

“All of the hospital staff were incredibly respectful and understood how important it was to keep the fact the mayor was giving birth confidential,” recalls Tania. “I was trying my best to be all relaxed and focused, then there was this sudden moment of shock-horror when the fire alarm went off! Thankfully, it was a false alarm, but here I was trying to comprehend that my supposed-to-be-confidential birth was potentially going to occur in the carpark in front of everyone.”

Laughing, Tania says she can see the funny side now, but at the time, it took her full focus to ignore the chaos around her.

Turning to Kanin, she drew strength from his unwavering calm.

“I’m a high-energy, go-go- go person and he is always the serenity in the room, so I made sure he stayed really close to me throughout the delivery,” says Tania.

Twice during labour, an emergency Caesarean section was discussed, but Tania persevered, giving birth naturally with Kanin reassuring her when fear crept in.

“We had our challenges and it was a bit more difficult than we thought it would be,” admits Tania. “When she was almost about to arrive, we looked at each other with the understanding our lives were about to change forever. My husband could tell even though I was trying my best, I was a bit scared. He said to me, ‘Be brave, darling. Put your brave face on now – she’s ready.’

Tania’s thrilled that “amazing father” Kanin is staying home with baby for the first year.

“People always talk about how life-changing that moment is, but I can’t quite put into words how special it was when this beautiful little human you’ve been growing is finally in your life,” adds Tania.

Explaining the significance of her daughter’s name, Tania says they wanted to honour family members and their culture. “Kahu represents kākahu, or a cloak, and moa is the most distinguished bird in New Zealand, so the translation means the most distinguished cloak, which signals her importance to us and the cloak of love that now surrounds our family.”

It also pays homage to Tania’s younger sister Kahu and ancestors on both sides of the whānau who carry the same name.

“Her middle name is Caroline after my grandmother, an incredibly intelligent woman who has been a university chancellor, and received a medal from the Queen for her services to Māori and education, despite not having Māori heritage herself,” says Tania. “We wanted to acknowledge her contribution to our family and community through naming my daughter after her, and we hope Kahumoa continues to take on the values of helping others to live and lead better lives themselves.”

With Kahumoa’s safe arrival, Tania became just the second mayor in Aotearoa to give birth during an elected term.

It’s been a whirlwind journey for the 31-year-old ever since, who in October 2022 was elected Mayor of Rotorua, making her the city’s first Māori mayor.

If making history weren’t enough, Tania privately celebrated her first week on the job by finding out she was pregnant.

Tania admits pregnancy and motherhood has forced her to shift gears slightly from her usual hyper-organised, meticulously planned-out approach to life. “It has been one heck of a learning curve that you can’t control everything,” she laughs.

“It’s been quite different going from someone who said yes to everything to saying, ‘Yes, but I need to make sure my baby and myself are looked after first.'”

Tania’s tickled pink with her wee cutie. “Milestones are happening all the time.”

Luckily, her colleagues and community have been incredibly supportive. In fact, she says, during pregnancy it was a welcome change of pace to let others take care of her as well.

“My usual mindset is to just push through, but it was really nice to have others in the community make sure I was taking care of myself. I would be very pregnant and speaking at an event, and people always brought me a chair or a glass of water. It was just fantastic to get that love and care from others who admired that I was still out there in my final weeks.

“The community has become very invested in my baby and it was so heart-warming to be doing my mayoral duties at different events, where I’ve received these beautiful handmade gifts of quilted and knitted blankets and garments so lovingly made by others.”

Rotorua born and bred, Tania initially planned to work up until her due date, but the collective wisdom of women around her convinced her to stop a week early, with the intention of having a little time to rest.

However, baby Kahumoa, efficient like her mother, had another plan.

“My husband kept warning me that, knowing my mind and body, as soon as I knew work was done and I could kick the heels off, then my body would be like, ‘Okay, I am ready now.'”

Kanin’s intuition proved to be exceptionally accurate, with Tania going into labour the day after she chaired her final council meeting. “It was a very quick transition into motherhood,” she laughs.

Kahumoa’s handmade blanket was gifted by a member of the public.

For the first two weeks, there were no visitors as Tania prioritised bonding with her baby and recovery, knowing that she was scheduled to return to work after four weeks.

“I wanted to recover well and get back into work as soon as possible, so taking time to rest together made a big difference,” says Tania.

But it wasn’t easy to completely switch off mayor mode and after the first two weeks, staff gently reminded her they could see the emails she was sending and to prioritise rest instead.

Tania will never forget delighting in those early days cuddling Kahumoa and watching her precious girl sleep. But she knew there was another important role waiting for her at the office too.

“What I remember most about my first day back at work was for the first time being able to come home to my husband and our baby girl,” she says. “No matter what kind of day I have and the challenges I face, I love coming home to my husband, kicking off my heels and melting into him. Now I’m so fortunate to not only have him, but this beautiful girl to come home to too.”

Kanin is taking a break from his job in biosecurity at the Port of Tauranga to take up the role of full-time parent. He’s also dad to 12-year-old son Kaiarahi from a previous relationship.

“My husband has been the most amazing father,” enthuses Tania. “He’s really taking it in his stride, and I certainly appreciate that he’s put his career on hold to make sure our baby has all of the care she requires and I’m able to continue doing my important role well.”

Kahumoa is now seven months old and, with Kanin, regularly accompanies Tania to community events and into council.

“She’s in that really exciting stage where milestones are happening all the time,” says Tania. “When she first started laughing, I felt like my heart was going to explode, and the way she looks at me with those big beautiful eyes and that magical little smile… Whether she’s in my arms or watching me in a room full of people, it makes my heart melt.”

The proud family joins former mayor Grahame Hall in the office for tea.

For Tania, nothing compares to those morning cuddles each day. “Being there when she first wakes up to feed and love her before I head off on my busy day is my favourite part.”

Initially, the couple, who met at a music festival in 2018 and tied the knot in 2020, planned for Kanin to take six months off work. But they’ve now decided he’ll stay home with Kahumoa until she’s a one-year-old, when they plan to enrol her in kōhanga reo (Māori immersion childcare).

Tania went through kōhanga herself as a child, and hopes to provide Kahumoa with the same opportunity to maintain a strong connection to her roots and language.

“Kanin and I started te reo Māori lessons in 2020 and we’re really grateful we took time to do that, even in the evenings after busy work, because now we feel we can confidently pass the language on to our daughter as well.”

They both hope she’ll prioritise community service as they have, and while Tania feels she’s won the lottery as mayor and mother, she says there’s no pressure for Kahumoa to follow in her footsteps.

“A lot of people ask if I want her to also be in politics, but I don’t mind what she chooses to do, as long as she’s happy, and is able to express her talents and fulfil whatever her own independent dreams are.”

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