NZ Election 2020: Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi arrives at Parliament but electorate win still on knife-edge

His place in Parliament is not guaranteed with special votes still to be counted.
His place in Parliament is not guaranteed with special votes still to be counted. Photo credit: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

By Te Aniwa Hurihanganui of RNZ

The Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi - donning a white cowboy hat - touched down at Parliament on Tuesday for the first time since winning the Waiariki electorate.

He narrowly beat Labour's Tamati Coffey for the seat in a nail-biting finish, winning by just over 400 votes, though his place in Parliament is not guaranteed with special votes still to be counted.

He said arriving there on Tuesday was both humbling and daunting.

"I've walked in here before in other capacities, but in a capacity where you have the privilege and the honour of representing your people, there's a sense of pride and excitement, but there's also anxiousness ... now I know how a Pākehā feels walking onto a marae," he said.

"It's a bit daunting because they've got different tikanga, but we've just got to ensure that we stay true to ourselves, we stay true to our kaupapa and we stay true to our people, that's the most important thing."

If Waititi is elected, he will be only the second MP to wear a mataora or full-face moko.

He said that gave him an immense sense of pride, and meant he would never be alone in Parliament.

"There's a kōrero at home... we stand in on the shoulders of our tīpuna, of giants, but we carry the dreams and aspirations of our tamariki and mokopuna," he said.

Whatever happens after the special votes are counted, Māori clearly want to see a change, he said.

"The rejuvenation of our Māori movement is well and truly in play. We're lucky enough to have one in here now, but come 2023 there's going to be a huge challenge on and it's game on and we will have more Māori with an unapologetic Māori voice in the chamber.

"The impacts I would like to make here are systemic impacts and push back against what I believe are tikanga that are foreign to our people. So watch this space, and our job is to hold the Māori caucus in the Labour Party to account."

Waititi also wore his cowboy hat with pride on Tuesday, saying there was a reason he took it with him wherever he went.

"The reason why I wear the hat is because in our part of the country, our men in C Company from the East Coast were known as Ngā Kaupoi (cowboys), so this is an acknowledgement of my koroua who went to war and also an acknowledgement of our kuia who stayed home and looked after the farms and the whānau.

"So there's a reason why I wear the hat, it's not just because it makes me good looking," he said, laughing.

The final count, including the special votes, will be out on November 6.