Māori electorates

PoliticsSeptember 22, 2017

Seat watch: the Māori electorates

Māori electorates

The campaign for the Māori seats has been defined by drama and intrigue, with noble families protecting ancient fiefdoms and usurpers lurking around every corner like some kind of popular fantasy series.

As of 19 September, 241,602 people were enrolled on the Māori electoral roll with the 18 – 24 group by far the largest demographic and 70+ the smallest – the inverse of the general electoral roll. It’s almost like Māori have a worldview and values distinct from the default western mindset!

The contest for the Māori seats has felt George RR Martin-esque at times (minus the incest… presumably), with candidates changing allegiance at the last minute and family members trying to kill usurp each other.

Currently Labour holds six of the seven seats and has made clear their intention to sit on the throne in all seven kingdoms after Saturday. Will they do it?

Below, a whistlestop tour of the seats. Note that the poll numbers, while often a useful guide, are even less reliable than most, given the size of the electorates, the time span over which they were surveyed, and the youth-skewed demographics. They’ve proved wrong in the past.

Te Tai Tokerau

Having won three elections and one by-election in Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira seemed like an immutable Northland Kauri. But then disastrously he joined forces with German millionaire Kim Dotcom in 2014 and lost his seat to Labour’s Kelvin Davis. While Davis isn’t keen on all the driving he has to do around the electorate he is way out ahead in the poll.

This time around Harawira has struck a different deal, agreeing not to stand a Mana candidate in any of the other six seats in exchange for the Māori Party putting up no one against him in Te Tai Tokerau. At this stage, it looks like he got the worse end of the bargain.

I’m sure Godfrey Rudolph is very nice, but this is a two-horse race.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Kelvin Davis, Labour 67.4%
Hone Harawira, Mana 30.3%
Godfrey Rudolph, Greens ­2.3%

Preferred party:

Labour 49.7%
Green 10.3%
Mana 6.1%

Polling data for other parties not made available.

Tāmaki Makaurau

Peeni Henare is the great-grandson of Tau Henare (MP for Northern Māori, 1914-1938), grandson of Sir James Henare and son of former Māori language commissioner Erima Henare. His whānau has held a Māori seat for 43 of the 150 years since they were introduced. Henare’s niece, Willow-Jean Prime is also running in Northland.

Both former broadcaster Shane Taurima from the Māori Party (a post that many thought might go to another broadcaster, Willie Jackson, now with Labour) and the Greens’ Marama Davidson have given Henare a run for his money. While Taurima is ahead of her in the poll and Davidson lost in the electorate in 2014, she has impressed the socks off just about everyone in 2017 and is tipped to be named Greens deputy after the election. This one could be close.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Peeni Henare, Labour 46%
Shane Taurima, Māori Party 32.6%
Marama Davidson, Greens 21.4%

Preferred party:

Labour 47%
Māori Party 14.5%
New Zealand First 12.6%
National 12.6%
Green 11.3%


During Kīngi Tuheitia’s annual coronation celebrations last year – the only time the Māori monarch speaks publicly – many thought he’d gone off script when he began to publicly criticise then Labour leader Andrew Little. Little had been sitting front and centre at the celebrations until minutes before, thanks to a heads up from his press secretary. Awkward. Kīngi Tuheitia then announced his support for the Māori Party. Until this election, the Kīngitanga has been politically neutral. The King’s advisor, Tukoroirangi Morgan, had been announced as the new Māori Party president so perhaps it wasn’t too big a surprise. The real shock was that they were now actively campaigning against incumbent Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta, who is the King’s cousin, announcing she was destined for the backbenches where there is “no mana”.

When the Māori Party announced their candidate to stand against her – chief orator and historian of Waikato-Tainui and the Kingitanga, Rahui Papa – the question was asked not if Mahuta would stand down, but when. Not to be bullied, Mahuta stood her ground and according to the polls, her constituents have fallen in behind her. So there.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Nanaia Mahuta, Labour 78%
Rahui Papa, Māori Party 22%

Preferred party:

Labour 52%
New Zealand First 15.1%
Māori Party 14.5%

Polling data for other parties not made available.


Māori Party co-leader and Minister for Māori Development, Te Ururoa Flavell is a popular, well-liked man. He’s been the MP in Waiariki for 12 years. It’s hard to imagine anyone could unseat such a community stalwart.

Enter television’s nicest man, Tamati Coffey. It’s like watching two otters wrestle, they’re both so lovely you don’t want either to lose. And you want to stroke their bellies a bit. While polls show Flavell ahead, it’s close enough that the outcome isn’t assured, an astonishing achievement for Coffey’s first time contesting the seat.

It’s a crucial seat for the Māori Party. If Flavell, who is second on the party’s list, fails to secure it, his time in parliament could be over.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Te Ururoa Flavell, Māori Party  60.1%
Tamati Coffey, Labour  39.9%

Preferred party:

Labour 49.6%
Māori Party 26.5%
New Zealand First 10.2%
National 5.6%
Greens 4.8%


Labour incumbent Meka Whaitiri won the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti seat in a 2013 by-election after the passing of Parekura Horomia, and then again comfortably at the 2014 election. If she holds this time, and Howie Tamati and Te Ururoa Flavell win their respective seats, then the Māori Party need to get about 2% of the party vote for Marama Fox to return to parliament. It’s a cruel irony that Fox, who has done most of the Māori Party’s heavy lifting on the campaign trail, will have a greater chance at entering parliament as a list MP if only one of her party mates is successful.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Meka Whaitiri, Labour 55%
Marama Fox, Māori Party 39%
Elizabeth Kerekere, Greens 6%

Preferred party:

Labour – 50.4%
Māori Party – 21.1%
New Zealand First – 12.0%
Greens – 7.5%
National – 5.9%

Te Tai Hauāuru

The seat vacated by Māori Party co-founder Tariana Turia in 2014 and snapped up by Labour’s Adrian Rurawhe could well return to the fold, with first time candidate, former league star Howie Tamati, proving incredibly popular. You know what they say about rugby league. It’s very popular.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Howie Tamati, Māori Party 52%
Adrian Rurawhe, Labour 39%
Jack McDonald, Greens 9.1%

Preferred party:

Labour 41.8%
Māori Party 24%
National 11.2%
NZ First 11%
Greens 9.1%

Te Tai Tonga

Another legacy family, incumbent Rino Tirikatene is the grandson of Sir Eruera Tirikatene (Southern Māori MP 1932 – 1967) and nephew of Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (Southern Māori MP from 1967 to 1996). In total a Tirikatene has had the seat for 71 years. Fun fact: Sir Eruera would have won in 1928 but he and his family couldn’t make it from Ratana to a polling booth due to the wheat harvest… He lost by one vote.

The Greens’ Metiria Turei, who has had nothing of note happen to her this election, is standing in the electorate for the first time since 2005. Having vacated the party list, she’d need a huge upset to get back into parliament. The Māori Party chose well-respected former journalist and Ngāti Porou leader Mei Reedy-Taare as their candidate – daughter of education pioneers Emeritus Professor Sir Tamati Reedy and Lady Tilly.

Both are a long shot in this Ngāi Tahu-Tirikatene stronghold.

Reid Research poll for Māori Television:

Rino Tirikatene, Labour 57.1%
Mei Reedy-Taare, Māori Party 22.1%
Metiria Turei, Greens 20.7%

Preferred Party:

Labour 47.6%.
New Zealand First 14.4%
National 14.1%
Māori Party 11.7%
Greens 9.3%

Keep going!