NZ Election 2020: Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai take things into their own hands bringing politics to the paepae

There's no question Māori are less likely to vote than Pakeha, especially the younger generation. 

But Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai are taking things into their own hands. A Te Tai Hauāuru candidates debate is being held at Whakarongotai Marae to bring politics to the paepae. 

Jack McDonald has previously stood in the Te Tai Hauauru seat - he believes more politicians need to be in these spaces.

"I think it's really important that we have as many of these kinds of events as possible because, so often in the political world we are forced into Pākehā forums to actually discuss our ideas - it shouldn't be about attacking each other or a slinging match it should be about a kōrero and a wānanga about the kaupapa that are most important to us and that's why events like these are so good - it's the format that enables that," he told The Hui.

Event organiser Ruben Kearney-Parata says this is why he wanted to hold the debate at his marae. 

"It was not politics in a traditional politics way, it was very peaceful and very respectful and we want to bring these conversations to us and do them in a way we want to have these conversations."

But a week out from the election, some of the community are still not sure. Nikau Wi Neera will vote -  but still feels disillusioned by politics. 

"And it all boils down to the simple fact that democracy by definition does not work for minorities because we are what, 15-17 percent? But we're a divided 15-17 percent."

Tiffany Manihera Richards says many of her whānau have never voted because they never thought their vote would count. This year, she's determined to change that. 

"Now I'm trying to round up people from my generation, and just telling them we literally need to vote."

But for Māori, even if they do decide to vote, there can still be barriers at the voting booth. At the last election there were 40 complaints. 

Those complaints included staff lacking cultural awareness and not knowing there was a Māori electoral roll.

Alicia Wright says the Electoral Commission is learning from this by ensuring their staff reflects Māori communities. She says staff have been trained in te reo pronunciation and the differences between the Māori and general electoral rolls. 

And, for the first time, there will be a voting booth in Huntly where the primary language is Te Reo Māori. However, despite calls for Māori roll experts at every voting booth the Electoral Commission has not been able to guarantee this. 

"We're not going to always get this right and I think that's really important," Wright says. "We've got thousands of voting places around the country, we're hiring 25,000 people and we're not gonna get everything right, if we don't - let us know, we want to fix it."

And yet, in the week since advanced voting began, some complaints have already been made by Māori. They said the Māori roll was not available at their chosen voting booth.

The Hui