Pregnancy & Birth

Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell's baby bliss 'I can do it all!'

Rotorua’s Tania Tapsell is overjoyed motherhood is also on the agenda

By Kasia Jillings
At 14, Tania Tapsell was chosen for the Rotorua Youth Council, at 21, she was the then-youngest councillor ever elected and in October 2022, at the age of 30, she convincingly won the local body elections to become the first Māori mayor of Rotorua – the same week she also discovered she was pregnant.
"It was a hugely significant time for me and my family," shares Tania, smiling. "Not only did I become the mayor, but it's also the same week my husband and I were left a bit speechless when we looked at the two lines pop up on the pregnancy test.
"We were so overwhelmed with joy when I placed it in front of him. When you look at the photos on election week, people understand now my extra-big smile was not only because I was the new mayor but because I was also about to become a mother too."
The young trailblazer has always had her sights set on leadership and politics runs in the blood. Her great-uncle Sir Peter Tapsell was the first Māori Speaker of the House and her great-grandfather Frederick Bennett was the first Māori Bishop of New Zealand.
"As a little girl, my aspirations were to be the first Māori Prime Minister," tells Tania, who's incredibly grateful to her whānau for their unwavering support since she first ran for council 10 years ago.
Tania with proud parents Terry and Roana.
"I remember at the time sharing my concerns with my mum that I wasn't sure if people would vote for me because I'm young, a woman and Māori. She looked me dead in the eye and told me that's exactly why I need to be there."
Since then, Tania has thrived and never once considered becoming a mum would hinder her career.
"I take great strength and reassurance in the fact that women have been doing this – working hard while raising beautiful children since forever. I can't wait to experience all of the highs and lows that come with motherhood."
Due in June and now 34 weeks pregnant, Tania will be only the second-ever mayor in Aotearoa known to give birth during a leadership term. She's soaking up every moment of pregnancy, although concedes there were definitely challenging moments during the first trimester.
"I had just been appointed mayor and I was working incredibly hard, but behind the scenes I was not immune to the pregnancy symptoms," laughs Tania, who shared the news publicly when she was six months pregnant. "There were times I would sit in meetings and hope I would get through it while holding down my lunch.
Tania's been overwhelmed with her community's support. "A bus driver jumped out of the bus to ask if she could give me a hug."
"When I did announce my pregnancy, my staff and colleagues at council were so happy for me, but it was funny them realising the number of times that it was probably quite obvious I was pregnant and they presumed I looked a bit off because I was working so hard.
"I'm very driven, so I just got up, put on the nicest clothes possible that also hid my baby bump, whacked on my lippy and went out to the world with the biggest smile on my face, doing the best job I could. I love being able to prove like many other women before me that we can and will do it all."
And by her side every step of the way is devoted husband Kanin Clancy.
"I enjoy getting home, kicking off the heels and just melting into my husband," she says. "Debriefing with him is always such a grounding moment for me, where no matter what happens in the day, he's always there to support me, to listen and when he's brave enough, provide some advice as well."
Marrying Kanin in 2021.
The couple first met at a musical festival in 2018. "We met amongst a crowd of about 20,000 concert goers," she recalls. "We caught each other's eye and I remember this loud voice in my head shouting,
'Say something or you'll never see him again.' The rest is history. We've been inseparable since."
Tania affectionately jokes Kanin, who she married in a mountain-top ceremony in 2021, is a baby whisperer at settling crying children.
"Kids just gravitate towards him," says Tania, who is planning to take four weeks off work before returning to council while Kanin stays home with their daughter.
"I'm ambitiously only taking one month off because of the demands as mayor, but we're really lucky with Kanin working from home, he will be able to bring baby in to me to feed her. We're going to take each day as it comes, but we do have a good plan."
Kanin, 41, who works in bio-security for the Port of Tauranga, but who will be taking paternity leave, adds, "It's a decision we made together and I'm feeling nervous but really excited about stepping into full-time parenting. It's a big responsibility, but naturally I'm up for the challenge."
The close-knit couple know they're part of a small percentage of whānau where dads are the primary caregiver.
After a busy day, Tania is glad of Kanin's support. "I enjoy getting home, kicking off the heels and just melting into my husband."
"I'm really happy my husband is able to spend those first moments with baby," says Tania of Kanin, who is also dad to 11-year-old Kaiarahi. "It's about time the stereotypes were broken because fathers play an important role in the raising of kids. The most important thing is you have a happy and healthy baby that's looked after in the best way possible.
"I've had the great pleasure of being a stepmum and we're really lucky that Kanin has experience and knows what we're getting into."
Kanin adds, "I'm looking forward to supporting my wife to return to work and being there for our daughter – providing her with the aroha, care and support she needs to thrive."
Next up is preparing for the birth, but as the eldest child of six, Tania explains she's had some first-hand experience.
"I grew up helping raise my younger siblings," tells Tania, who's planning on giving birth at Rotorua Hospital. "My mother had her last two children so quickly, I had to help her catch and deliver my brother and sister at home. Many years on, it has prepared me for when I give birth to my baby.
With her mum and younger siblings (from left) Miles, Merenia and Temuera.
"There's still the real human element of being nervous about the unknown and uncertainties, but as long as I have a healthy baby and a happy husband, I know I can continue to take on the world and do my best to make it a better place."
Kanin has always been impressed by Tania's dedication and drive, and among many other values, hopes to pass on their shared work ethic.
"My wife is an incredibly talented and successful woman," he enthuses. "I hope our daughter inherits her determination, passion and leadership skills. I also hope our daughter inherits my wife's strong connection to her culture and whenua [land], and her commitment to serving her community."
Tania shares the same dream, but also plans to continue to inspire other young people too.
"My favourite part of being the mayor and a politician in general has been the opportunity to show the next generation of young leaders that it is and always has been a place for us regardless of our age, gender or ethnicity."
Working for positive community outcomes with the police.
It's a message many resonate with, as Tania shares she's been inundated with well-wishes and positive feedback as she prepares for motherhood.
"I've had to develop through necessity a very tough skin while being a young politician," she reflects. "One of the greatest learnings I've had over this time is to ensure I'm putting all of my focus on the things that matter and people's opinions who would have criticised a beautiful blessing of a child do not matter to me. But it's actually been incredible and really heart-warming the amount of joy that has come from this special announcement.
"It's very hard for me to go to the grocery store, the gas station or a meeting without someone stopping to congratulate and hug me. I had a bus driver jump out of the bus and come over to politely ask if she could give me a hug and tell me, 'We're so proud of you and so happy for you to be having a baby.'"
Reflecting on other inspiring women, Tania is grateful to the Right Honourable Jacinda Adern for "breaking the ice on political leaders having children while fulfilling leadership duties", to the suffragettes who fought for women's rights and all those who believe in her.
"I'm getting emotional," admits Tania. "Maybe it's the pregnancy, but everything they fought hard for was worth it.
"This has been the most incredible time, where I feel so lucky to do it all. I'm truly grateful to my colleagues and community of Rotorua for their support and confidence in me to manage what will be two challenging, rewarding roles."
  • undefined: Kasia Jillings

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