If the Labour Party candidates in the Māori electorates run true to form in the election on Saturday, they’ll be back in Wellington as MPs. All seven. That’s Kelvin Davis, Peeni Henare, Nanaia Mahuta, Tamati Coffey, Meka Whaitiri, Adrian Rurawhe, and Rino Tirikatene.
There are no threats from National, ACT, or New Zealand First, who aren’t competing for any of these seats. Partly, you’d suspect, because, whatever their public explanations, they also know they’d be wasting their time.
But the Greens and the Māori Party both have candidates who are threatening to prevent a repeat of Labour’s 2017 clean sweep.
Marama Davidson, her party’s co-leader, is carrying the Greens’ flag in Tāmaki Makaurau. And, seeing that she’s had three years as a prominent performer in parliament (after making it there on the Green Party list), the chances are that Peeni Henare isn’t counting on easily disposing of her this time.
John Tamihere (JT) and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, as co-leaders of the Māori Party, have pulled together a formidable team, with Debbie, in Te Tai Hauāuru, seen as a genuine chance of dislodging Adrian Rurawhe from that seat.
The same goes for JT in Tāmaki Makaurau where he’s competing with Peeni Henare and Marama Davidson. He has the advantage of a high profile, thanks to his role as the head of the Waipareira Trust and also to his two terms as a Labour MP (1999–2005). But the Māori Party may be more than satisfied if they were to gain a foothold in parliament through Debbie in Te Tai Hauāuru, or through Rawiri Waititi in Waiariki.
Let’s look now at the seven Māori electorates — and the front runners there.
Te Tai Tokerau
Since the first MMP election in 1996, there have been four winners starting with Tau Henare (NZ First), then Dover Samuels (Labour) for two terms, Hone Harawira (first with the Māori Party and then two terms with MANA) and now Kelvin Davis (Labour) who took over in 2014. The polls suggest that Kelvin will win again and that Mariameno Kapa-Kingi (Māori Party) will be the only one to offer any competition.
There are five other candidates: Billy Te Kahika (Advance New Zealand), Maki Herbert (Legalise Cannabis), Janice Epiha (One Party), Clinton Dearlove (Independent), Moemoea Mohoawhenua (Independent), and Daniel Shortland (New Conservative).
John Tamihere, one of the three contenders for the seat in this election, won for Labour in 1999 (in the Hauraki seat) and in 2002 (when Tāmaki Makaurau was then newly established) with 73 percent of the vote. But then, in 2005, Pita Sharples (Labour) began his three-term reign.
Next, it’s been Peeni Henare in 2014 and 2017 — and, leading up to this election, he’s been polling better than his two opponents, Marama Davidson (Greens) and JT (Māori Party). Also running is Erina Anderson (New Conservative).
Back in the 2002 and 2005 elections, Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) won the Tainui electorate which has been Hauraki-Waikato in the four subsequent elections, all of them providing wins for Nanaia. In 2017, that amounted to a 9,000 majority over Rahui Papa who’d been endorsed by the Kīngitanga.
Her main rival this time is Donna Pokere-Philips (Māori Party). There are two other candidates: Phillip Lambert (Advance NZ) and Richard Hill (New Conservative).
The choice of Labour’s Tamati Coffey as the Waiariki MP three years ago had significant repercussions because that meant Te Ururoa Flavell was out and the Māori Party lost its place in parliament. Te Ururoa had held that seat for four terms.
Tamati surfaces this time as the sitting MP and he’s leading Rawiri Waititi (Māori Party) in the polls, which may be a little wonky because there’ve been so many “undecideds” so far.
The others in the Waiariki race are: Hannah Tamaki (Vision NZ), Rawiri Te Kowhai (Outdoors), and Ema Williams (Advance NZ).
Te Tai Hauāuru
The Māori Party’s main hopes in this election lie with the party’s co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who has to topple the sitting MP Adrian Rurawhe (Labour). The percentage of (so far) undecided voters makes for a certain amount of uncertainty in the predictions but Adrian is the front-runner even though he had only slim winning margins in 2014 and 2017.
It was Tuku Morgan who won this seat for New Zealand First in 1996. Then, after Nanaia Mahuta had a turn there in 1999, Tariana Turia became the MP from 2002 through to 2014 when Adrian took over.
The other candidates in Te Tai Hauāuru are Kiri McKee (Outdoors), Korrallie Bailey-Taurua (One Party), Noeline Apiata (Advance NZ), and Joshua Morgan (New Conservative).
This used to belong to Labour’s Parekura Horomia, who won the seat four times, and died in 2013. The first time was in 1999 when he had little to spare over the high-profile Māori journalist Derek Fox. It was Meka Whaitiri who won the by-election prompted by Parekura’s death, and she has held on to the seat in 2014 and 2017.
Meka’s opponents this time are all wāhine. The strongest contenders are Elizabeth Kerekere (Greens), and Heather Te Au-Skipworth (Māori Party).
Then there’s Kelly Thurston (Outdoors), Melissa Hill (New Conservative), and Waitangi Kupenga (Advance New Zealand).
Te Tai Tonga
The MP here is Rino Tirikatene who won the last three elections for Labour. It’s a massive seat geographically — the biggest of the Māori electorates — because it includes all of the South Island, Rakiura, the Chathams, Wellington, and a few chunks of the Hutt Valley.
So it presents a challenge for candidates on the campaign trail. For the past 70 years, a member of the Tirikatene whānau has held the seat. Apart from Rino, the most prominent is Takuta Ferris (Māori Party), who is well known in tertiary education but a newcomer to politics.
The other contenders are Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati (Greens), Anituhia McDonald (Legalise Cannabis), Matiu Toms (Advance NZ) and Raymond Tuhaka (New Conservatives).
Thank you for reading E-Tangata. If you like our focus on Māori and Pasifika stories, interviews, and commentary, we need your help. Our content takes skill, long hours and hard work. But we're a small team and not-for-profit, so we need the support of our readers to keep going.
If you support our kaupapa and want to see us continue, please consider making a one-off donation or contributing $5 or $10 a month.