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Dr Rawiri Taonui Election 2020 | The Battle for the Māori Electorates 14 October
Photo images supplied / Dr Rawiri Taonui

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Dr Rawiri Taonui Election 2020 | The Battle for the Māori Electorates 14 October

Kia ora tātou. With the last Māori Television - Curia Research poll in and campaigns racing toward their zenith, the Māori Party may be on course to win one of the Māori electorates.

Election 2020 is shaping as a landslide to Labour. The polls have Labour hovering between 47% and 50%. The margin of victory may be wider. Voters are seeking security in an uncertain time. Having led the country through the first and second waves of Covid-19, Jacinda Ardern, the most trusted and admired Prime Minister in New Zealand history provides assurance.

National Party Leader Judith Collins has reverted to type. Her attack on a ‘wealth tax’ via a Labour coalition is without foundation, Ardern has already ruled this out. Accusing the Prime Minister of lying is outdated ad hominem in an election where voters are more informed than at any other time in our political history. Together, they echo the scare tactics and slandering of ‘Reds under the Beds’ and Don Brash’s 2004 Orewa speech. Saying obesity is a matter of personal choice was foolish in an election because it offends 20 per cent of the electorate.

With ructions over ‘policy on the hoof’ and Simon Bridges saying he has not received updates from the leader for some months, all is not well in National.

Why the Māori Party will win One Electorate

The benefits of a giant swing to the left driven by concerns over Covid-19, a mediocre National campaign, and two referendums on the table, this year’s election will see the highest voter turnout since 1999 when 84.8% of registered voters cast their preference. There will be more younger voters. In that scenario, the Greens and the Māori Party will also benefit.

The MāoriTV-Curia Research Polls that accompany each Whakatau 2020 Debate have Labour ahead by an average of 24% in the Māori electorates. However, taken over two weeks immediately before each debate the results show a narrowing gap between Labour and the Māori Party. The poll taken for the first three debates had Labour ahead by an average of 31%, in the last four debates, Labour’s lead dropped to a much lower average of 16%.

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The momentum is to the Māori Party and the three earlier polls of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, Te Tai Hauāuru and Hauraki-Waikato are narrower now than when the polls were taken.

This writer has previously dispelled the Māori Party push for the candidate vote because all of Labour’s Māori electorate MPs will enter parliament via the list. From feedback on recent debates, there is new traction for this.

Alongside this, it is also clear that the Māori Party has risen above other rivals. In 2017, the Māori Party was third in te Tai Tokerau and Te Tai Tonga and second equal with New Zealand First in Hauraki-Waikato. In this election, the Māori Party candidates are second in all seven Māori electorates. The only candidate remotely close is Greens co-Leader Marama Davidson in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Te Tai Tokerau

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Labour Party Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis has an 18% lead over Mariameno Kapa-Kingi from the Māori Party. A lead -16 points lower than undecided voters on 32%, the electorate is poised for a closer result.

Davis is not a natural people-person politician and does not appear comfortable in debates. Davis is also diligent and hardworking and better at walking the walk rather than talking the talk. In a world when posers abound, assiduousness is the cornerstone of progress.

The highest-ranking Māori MP in the Labour caucus, Davis faces multiple challenges negotiating Kaupapa Māori Advancement with Pākehā biculturalism. His Whānau Ora based Te Muka Paiheretia policy and Hōkai Rangi programme in Corrections are the best any government has mounted.

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Political newcomer, Kapa-Kingi has made an impression beyond her experience. Like all the female Māori Party candidates walking in the footsteps of Dame Tariana Turia, she is especially dignified. He insights on the ground working with Māori communities reflected a deep-seated understanding of the day-to-day challenges they face.

Kapa-Kingi will not topple Davis, but she has delivered several seminal reminders about life in the bottom quarter.

Billy Te Kahika is contesting Te Tai Tokerau. He will not figure in the result, no doubt because of a plot no one will comprehend.

Tāmaki Makaurau

Contested by the best Māori political performers in this election, Tāmaki Makaurau is the Battle Royale of the Māori electorates.

Labour incumbent Peeni Henare holds a slim 6% lead over co-Leader of the Māori Party John Tamihere. With just 12% undecided, on paper, it would be statistically difficult for Tamihere to overtake Henare.

However, Tamihere’s campaign has been nothing short of mercurial. He comes into the election having secured 85,000 votes in the Auckland mayoral vote, started his campaign earlier than others and has been everywhere on social media and in meetings on the ground and in marae all over the electorate. He is an organic leader whose biggest strength is being effective on the street.

Tamihere also knows more facts about Māori poverty and marginalisation than any Māori or Pākehā across all political parties. Sometimes there are too many facts and too much policy and in all directions. Nevertheless, Tamihere has been formidable in all debates. His strongest, the NewsHub Powerbrokers Debate saying that ‘in some cases, babies have to be taken away, but you don’t arrive with the Police, cut the umbilical cord and then walk out with the baby, you come in with the whānau and say, we have a situation we need to sort out’. He has adequately and regularly dealt to Act’s proposed economic policy as nothing more than ‘hereditary colonial privilege and advantage’.

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Tamihere has more humility than others credit. Sometimes his working-class background shows too much, and he is an undiplomatic bastard. Consequently, he has endured accusations of sexism, fascism, and homophobia. Much of it is overstated because it holds brown men to a higher level of scrutiny than others.

Peeni Henare has been the best of the Labour’s MPs during the election. Other Labour candidates have buckled in the face of the Māori Party mantra of ‘by Māori for Māori’. Henare has not. Rather he has agreed with many of the concerns that opponents Tamihere and Greens Party co-Leader Marama Davidson have expressed and then laid out how he believes these matters should be approached.

Less experienced than his contemporaries, Henare bungled his first distribution of Whānau Ora funding. He has however been the best of Labour’s MPs on Covid-19 and was the only Labour Māori MP to speak out in support of the iwi-led checkpoints. His latest securing of funding for Whānau Ora is the highest since the Māori Party launched the programme in 2011.

Henare is naturally diplomatic and has strong te reo. His choice to speak te reo on the TVOne Marae Debate was astute. He is destined for higher office sometime over the next decade.

In three-way split, Marama Davidson is key to the result in Tāmaki Makaurau. In the first Tāmaki Makaurau debate, Davidson spoke to a Mana Wahine platform. There is a strong Mana Wahine presence in this election, the most significant since Tariana Turia left Labour, and Davidson has a Mana Wahine following across the country. However, it came across as narrow, not of itself but because she did not speak to other matters.

Davidson’s early career can be also be criticised as activist placard-waving. Not in this election. Davidson has emerged as a high-level mature and exceptionally capable politician. Davidson and Tamihere are the standout Māori candidates of Māori Election 2020.

Davidson as the top performer on the NewsHub Powerbrokers Debate among some powerful male politicians. She put Act Leader David Seymour in his place when it came to the reality of the impact of imposing his proposal to reduce and monitor benefits of those ‘doing their best on the lowest incomes’.

Davidson followed that up with a superb showing on in the Radio New Zealand Kōwhiringa Debate, among many moments saying ‘We are seeing that it is women, particularly Māori and Pacific and brown women, bearing the majority of the Covid-19 job losses’. A seminal reminder of her core values and the grievous reality of Covid-19.

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The impact of Davidson was immediate with the next three MāoriTV-Curia Research Polls showing a switch from the Māori Party to the Greens as the preferred partner for Labour.

With a survey error margin of 4% each way and a three-way split that might divide further, Henare is favourite but do not count out JT. There is momentum to the Māori Party.

Hauraki-Waikato

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Hauraki-Waikato is Labour’s safest Māori seat. Labour’s longest-serving Māori MP Nanaia Māhuta has a commanding 47% lead over the Māori Party’s courteous Donna Pōkere-Phillips. With the lead 30 points higher than the 17% of undecided voters, Māhuta has an unassailable advantage.

Māhuta is not Labour’s best performer. Her review of Māori media suggesting an amalgamation into one delivery vehicle met universal criticism. Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry of Māori Development she leads has fallen behind on several fronts. This has led to the formation of the Te Ara Whiti - the Ministry of Māori Crown Relations.

However, after fighting off the ambush at the last election by then Māori Party President Tuku Morgan, who compelled the Kingitanga to reject labour, and support the Māori Party, the daughter of the lead negotiator for the ground-breaking Tainui-Waikato Settlement will hold this seat for as long as she chooses.

Te Tai Hauāuru

Labour’s Adrian Rurawhe has an 18% lead over Māori Party candidate Deb Ngārewa-Packer in Te Tai Hauāuru. However, with 40% undecided and the poll two weeks past, this is a contestable seat for the Māori Party.

Ngārewa-Packer is an impressive figure. One of a handful of female iwi leaders, CEO of the second-largest general medical practice in Taranaki and the leader of the iwi checkpoint strategy in the Southern Taranaki, she is a phenomenal and principled leader.

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Ngārewa-Packer has conducted herself very impeccable decorum and respect for opponents from other parties. With the gap between her and Rurawhe narrower than the numbers, she might ramp up the rhetoric.

The press on Rurawhe has not rated him very highly. In this election, he has been a revelation against one of the Māori Party’s best. His composure and command of facts under pressure has been outstanding. On that point, he has been the best of Labour’s Māori electorate MPs. Whatever the outcome in this election, Rurawhe must be considered for higher duties.

Waiāriki

In Waiāriki, Labour’s Tamati Coffey holds a 12% lead over Māori Party candidate Rawiri Waititi. With 26% undecided voters, Waiāriki presents the best chance alongside Tāmaki Makaurau for the Māori Party to take an electorate.

Waititi is impressive. The leader of the first iwi checkpoints during the first wave of Covid-19, Waititi does not take a back step. As in other Māori electorates, he had Coffey on the backfoot with ‘by Māori for Māori’. His best moment came in NewsHub-The Hui Debate. When asked if he took responsibility for the Māori Party working with National, he retorted that ‘I do not because I was not there and because we are talking about generations of marginalisation by multiple successive governments’. Thereafter, the debate was his.

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With a background in broadcasting, Coffey is good in front of the cameras. He is perhaps less comfortable in the crucible of politics. He does not hold any associate portfolios and appears under pressure in Waiāriki.

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Labour’s Māori caucus has come out in support of him with a large show of strength although this has uncovered pockets of dissatisfaction about consultation in the electorate since 2017.

Coffey is an important ambassador for the LGBTQ+ community and accordingly, this week was given the task of announcing Labour’s Rainbow policy which would ban conversion therapy.

Coffey is in the drivers’ seat. One senses a groundswell to Waititi. However, Coffey cannot be underestimated. In 2017, two weeks before the election, a MāoriTV-Reid Research Poll had the then co-Leader of the Māori Party Te Ururoa Flavell on 60% and Coffey on 40%. Coffey turned that around to win the seat 54% to 46% thereby expunging the Māori Party from parliament.

Vision New Zealand leader Hannah Tāmaki will not figure in the election. A front for far-right fundamentalist Destiny Church, this is a good outcome.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti

In Ikaroa Rāwhiti, incumbent Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has a 27% lead over Māori Party challenger Heather Te Au-Skipworth on 19%. Even with a narrow 1-point lead over undecideds (27% to 26%) the lead is such that this is  Labour’s second safest Māori electorate.

An Iron Woman of Te Ao Māori, Te Au-Skipworth has acquitted herself genuinely and competently. She outpointed Whaitiri for much of their kōrero in their NewsHub-The Hui Debate. From the moment she drew the difference between ‘co-design policy working with Pākehā’ and ‘by Māori for Māori’ Whaitiri was flustered.

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Whaitiri is one of several of the Labour candidates who have been forced onto the back foot by the ‘by Māori for Māori’ mantra as they defended Labour’s record in government rather than speak to what she and her colleagues in the Māori Caucus are intending to achieve. The Pākehā leadership of Labour needs to release the reins so their capable complement of Māori MPs can give greater expression to their experience, talent, and skills on Kaupapa Māori affairs. Whaitiri is skilled. She has previously been stood down from more senior portfolios. This should be reconsidered.

Elizabeth Kerekere from the Greens is well back in the polls. However, if the Greens do well on Saturday, there is an outside chance Kerekere makes parliament as their third Māori list MP.

Te Tai Tonga

Taller than a Kahikatea, Ngāi Tahu stalwart Rino Tirikātene has a 26% lead over Māori Party dynamo Tākuta Ferris. With the lead just 2 points over undecideds (26% to 24%), the result will be closer than most anticipate.

Ferris is part of a new generation of composed straight-talking, well-informed candidates able to weave facts and policy into digestible sound-bytes for knowledgeable audiences. He was brilliant in the first The Hui debate and beat Tirikātene by a wide margin. A shade boastful of his credentials in the MāoriTV Whakatau 2020 Debate, Ferris allowed Tirikātene to come back.

Not the top performer in the Labour’s Māori Caucus, but more than adequate tribal if not electorate representative, Tirikātene will win Te Tai Tonga.

A Post-Election Aotearoa New Zealand

The Māori Party has completed a constructive rebuild after the debacle of 2017 when they were jettisoned from parliament. Their campaign of ‘by Māori for Māori’ and comprehensive funding for Māori-led projects is strong and has placed many Labour MPs on the backfoot.

The party is hampered by the Covid-19 response which favours Labour and hindered by a racist Māori Electoral Option. Many voters left the Māori roll after 2017 assuming the party would not come back. The party has returned; however, current electoral rules prevent former supporters from returning to the Māori roll until the next option in 2024. If this is not their election, they will nevertheless run remarkably close in some seats thereby laying a platform for campaigns in 2023 and 2026.

Labour’s Māori caucus has achieved some good things. Whānau Ora has record funding. The Māori caucus was integral to developing the Māori Covid-19 financial package.

Historically, they are impeded by being taken for granted by their Pākehā Labour colleagues. Indeed, one dimension of their choice to stand down from the list in 2017 and fight it out with the Māori Party for the Māori electorates, was that their Pākehā dominated caucus tended to rank the Māori MPs lower on the list. This has changed in this election. For the first time, all seven Māori electorate MPs are in the top 40.

The Māori caucus remains a minority but many more are in Cabinet although mostly through associate ministerial positions. The challenge for Labour is to deliver more senior full ministerial portfolios to their Māori MPs, including leading some of the major ministries.

Predictions

A massive win to Labour perhaps higher than the polls predict. A record number of Māori MPs in the Labour Caucus. The Greens to return with up to three Māori MPs. Act also returning up to three Māori MPs. National Party to drop from eight to four Māori MPs. With the franchise seeking security and assurance over Covid-19 and two referenda on the table, the highest voter turnout since 1999. More young voters.

Having conducted the best statistical analysis possible, the Māori Party to take one Māori electorate. Ask which one? Buggered if I know. Senior statesperson Winston Peters to retire, be knighted and open a research company conducting polls for future elections. As he says, accuracy is everything.

                                                                    
                                                                                        rawiri t

 

 

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