Teanau has over 20 years experience as an activist, an advocate, and organiser at local, national, and international levels.
He attributes his interest in political change to his mum (Ngāpuhi) and his grandfather (Atiu). After going to the Anti-Springbok tour protests with his mum in 1981, the idea of making things better stuck with him. After high school, he went to Auckland University and found himself learning about politics in Dr Ranginui Walkers class. The next year he enrolled in an environmental science paper taught by Jeanette Fitzsimons. He credits this for opening his eyes on issues around biodiversity and climate change, which has driven much of his work since.
In Pasifika communities, Teanau is known for his work in the education sector and climate change advocacy, while in Māori communities he is known for his indigenous rights activism. He has a particular interest in working at the crossroads of indigenous rights and environmental issues, and has worked the United Nations, working to ensure the voices of remote indigenous communities on the frontlines of climate change and biodiversity loss were heard.
Teanau was inspired to run for parliament to push for more urgent action on climate change and to help build fairer communities. He’s passionate about the need for our climate response to include a strong and just transition – one that ensures workers’ rights are protected and puts what’s best for the community at the heart of that transition. He believes that to do this, Parliament is just one tool in the toolbox, and sees opportunity in Parliament working with the community to help find and create opportunities to move faster.
Teanau is the Green Party’s first MP with Cook Islands and Māori heritage, being Cook Islands Māori (Atiu – Ngati Ingatu, Ngati Toki, Ngati Paerangi) and New Zealand Māori (Te Uriroroi, Ngāpuhi and Ngāi Takoto), and is a List MP based in Palmerston North.