The race is heating up in Te Tai Hauāuru with a strong contender to the Labour-held seat in the Māori Party's Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Labour's Adrian Rurawhe has held the seat for six years. In our final debate in the series we see a struggle for the seat that's been tagged as the Māori Party's best chance at getting back into parliament.
Te Tai Hauāuru covers the west of Te Ika a Māui. The northern tip reaches the edge of the Kawhia Harbour and the Kaimai ranges in the east moving down along Taupo-nui-a-tia, including the Ruahine and Tararua ranges all the way to Porirua in the south. It includes the cities of New Plymouth, Whanganui and Palmerston North and smaller centres like Tokoroa and Taihape. A range of iwi are included in the electorate, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Maru (Taranaki), Te Āti Awa, Taranaki, Ngā Ruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngāti Kauwhata, Rangitāne, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Huia. The largest congregations though are Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou followed by Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
The total number of Māori in the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate is 124,662 according to the 2018 Census, but of those that are over the voting age, there were only 72,730 in 2017. 90 percent of those are enrolled to vote - around half of whom are enrolled on the Māori roll. Last election, only 69 percent of those on the Māori roll voted. As of mid-September 2020, there are 34,312 people enrolled to vote in the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate, the largest of that group are the 18-29 year olds. The electorate has the highest number across all Māori electorates of those working in the mining industry.
Adrian Rurawhe contested the Te Tai Hauāuru seat in 2014 following Tariana Turia's retirement. The next two elections saw the respective Māori Party candidate hot on Rurawhe's heels, so will this year be the year they take it back?
Adrian Rurawhe has held Te Tai Hauāuru since 2014. Prior to coming into parliament, Rurawhe was the chair of Te Runanga o Ngāti Apa. In that time he represented his iwi on issues concerning health, social services, education and their Treaty Settlement. He found that to make policy changes that would address the issues facing his community he would need to be in parliament. Rurawhe actually worked alongside former Te Tai Hauāuru MP Tariana Turia while she was with the Labour Party, and he himself was a member of the Māori Party when it first started. His key messages this election are to create employment and training opportunities that lead to jobs for Māori in the electorate, build the Māori economy by creating opportunities in trade, business development, tourism and joint ventures, and remove all health inequities for Māori. Whanganui has seen a number of positive changes from this government, including the Work Ready Passport and funding for schools in the area. Other work he's been involved in included gambling and harm reduction, internal affairs and civil defence. Rurawhe's time in parliament also oversaw the Parihaka Reconciliation Act and the controversial Waitara Lands Act.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is Co-leader of the Māori and top of the party list. She has strong support in Taranaki and has been named as a strong contender to Rurawhe for the seat. Ngarewa-Packer has said she wants to continue the work Turia has done for the people of the electorate, she believes a champion is needed to fight for whānau, whenua and wai. She has twenty years of experience in governance, executive management and iwi leadership and is well known more recently for mobilising her iwi and local community in the campaign against seabed mining off the South Taranaki Coast. Her focus this election is to raise income and create apprenticeships and jobs, restore waterways and uphold rangatira and kaitiaki rights, and ban oil and gas and seabed mining as well as invest in clean technology. The bottom line for the party is the flagship Whānau First policy which would see 25 percent of government procurement through the Covid-19 recovery period going to Māori.
With issues around health, housing and the environment on the table in the west we are sure to see some sparks flying in this debate, tune into The Hui online tonight to find out who will be the strongest candidate to lead Te Tai Hauāuru through the next three years.
Watch The Hui's live debate from 8pm on Newshub.co.nz on Tuesday night