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(Image: Archi Banal)
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PoliticsOctober 13, 2023

Tāmaki Makaurau: The Māori electorate desired by many

(Image: Archi Banal)
(Image: Archi Banal)

Labour MP Peeni Henare has held the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate for nine years. But with three new candidates vying for the seat, will he be able to retain it?

Though the name Tāmaki Makaurau might translate to the land of many lovers, it could just as accurately be described as the land of many volcanoes (there are 50), people (there are around 1.657 million), iwi affiliations, motorways, cafes or late buses.

Flanked by two coastlines, the Tāmaki Makaurau Māori seat, which was established in 2002, straddles the condensed yet densely populated area of greater Auckland, south of the Harbour Bridge. In its current form, the electorate contains the entire Auckland isthmus, parts of West Auckland, Waiheke Island, East Auckland and South Auckland, as far as Takanini. It’s the most populous urban area in the country, and the most urban and most compact of all seven Māori electorates. But it’s also a seat that contains multitudes: bustling cosmopolitan alcoves to expansive lush ngahere – and everything in between.

The (many) Māori (lovers) living in Tāmaki Makaurau

Māori living in Tāmaki Makaurau reside all over the place, but we’re concentrated in the south and western areas of the boundaries. And for a relatively compact space, there’s striking diversity when it comes to mana whenua iwi, which includes (but is not limited to) Ngāti Whātua, Kawerau a Maki, Tainui, Ngāti Pāoa, Wai-O-Hua and Ngāti Rehua, though because of urban drift, many Māori living in the electorate whakapapa to iwi from other parts of the country or have no knowledge of their iwi at all – all of which adds to the complexities of representing the seat.

Tāmaki Makaurau recorded 4.7% annual average population growth between Census 2013 and Census 2018, the lowest rate of growth among the Māori electorates. Over half (57.9%) of the Māori descent population was 30 years or younger at the 2018 census, compared to 40.2% of the general population in New Zealand. 

Among the seven Māori electorates in 2018, Tāmaki Makaurau had the highest proportion of: those who have tertiary education, are professionals, identify as Christian, do not own their own home and do not have children. It also has the lowest share of labourers of the Māori electorates and a population that’s less likely to speak te reo Māori than the general population. And across the Māori electorates, Tāmaki Makaurau had the highest share of those earning over $70,000 (13.8%) – although rents in parts of the electorate are also some of the highest in the country, so that extra cash probably doesn’t stick around for long. Another idiosyncrasy is that one quarter of the Māori population in Tāmaki Makaurau also identify as Pacific Peoples – more than double the average across the other Māori electorates, which is 9.4%.

A well-established incumbent facing a whole new set of competitors

Labour MP and cabinet minister Peeni Henare currently holds the seat, and has since 2014. But it’s not exactly a safe seat. It was first won in 2002 by John Tamihere, who was at the time a Labour MP. But before Henare’s tenure in the seat, it was held by Te Pāti Māori leader Pita Sharples from 2005 to 2014.

In Henare’s successful 2020 bid for the seat, he secured 41% of the vote share. Just 927 votes behind him was John Tamihere, the inaugural Tāmaki Makaurau MP who was this time running for Te Pāti Māori. He had a reasonably big profile at the time off the back of a long stint in radio and running an unsuccessful – and somewhat controversial – campaign for the Auckland mayoralty a year earlier. In third place was the Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, who had run for the seat twice previously, with 20% of the vote.

Peeni Henare has been the Tāmaki Makaurau MP for nine years. (Image: Getty)

This year, Henare, who has held numerous portfolios including defence, Whānau Ora and Māori health, is hoping to maintain his seat in the face of a whole new set of competitors.  His closest competition is first-time candidate Takutai Kemp from Te Pāti Māori, who is Manurewa Marae chief executive and the former director of dance organisation Hip Hop International. “I’m an underdog, and I’m up against a minister,” Kemp told The Spinoff this week.

The Green Party’s Marama Davidson isn’t running this time, so scientist Darleen Tana, who is number 13 on the list and stood in the Northland seat in 2020, is standing for the Greens in Tāmaki Makaurau. Vision New Zealand candidate Hannah Tamaki is also expected to gain a small share of votes.

Perhaps the most interesting candidate, though, is Hinurewa Te Hau, who is contesting the electorate for National, marking the first time in 22 years that the party has put up a candidate for this seat. Alongside Harete Hipango, who is running in Te Tai Hauāuru, she’s one of two National candidates running across the Māori seats. Before her candidacy, Te Hau was on Te Pāti Māori’s list in 2014 and 2017 and was its chair in Te Tai Tokerau for three years, but her father Matiu te Hau served three terms as National’s Māori vice president, and she stood for National in Māngere in the 1990s.

In the past, National has actively campaigned to abolish the seats and the party’s leader Christopher Luxon said at the start of this year that the existence of the seats “doesn’t make a lot of sense”. Te Hau, who at number 38 on the list will not likely make it into parliament based on current polling, told the Herald earlier this year that she accepted she was very unlikely to win the seat, and instead was standing to serve a strategic purpose, and to create a presence for the party which has traditionally struggled to gain a significant share of votes within Māori electorates – with just 7.6% in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate voting for the National Party in 2020.

Te Pāti Māori candidate Takutai Tarsh Kemp. (Image: Supplied)

So far, polling is looking positive for Henare. A Whakaata Māori poll completed just five days out from election day has Henare as the preferred candidate on 37%, followed by Takutai Tarsh Kemp of Te Pāti Māori on 27%, National’s Hinurewa te Hau on 9% and the Greens’ Darleen Tana on 6% – who quipped after the results that “a party vote Green is enough for Darleen”. The poll also canvassed voters on the most pressing issues to them this election. Cost of living was the most important issue, followed by the economy, law and order (making Tāmaki Makaurau the only Māori electorate where this was one of the top issues), and poverty.

Almost 90,000 people voted in Tāmaki Makaurau last election, but with a turnout of just 65.1%of those enrolled, Tāmaki Makaurau had the lowest turnout among all Māori electorates. In the final days before the election, as the hoardings are taken down and campaigns come to an end, each of the candidates will be hoping they’ve done enough to inspire voters to get out and vote.

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