Newshub Nation Battlegrounds: Te Tai Hauāuru electorate a key target for Te Pāti Māori ahead of general election

Minor parties will be key players this election and Te Pāti Māori are hoping to secure some of their own influence in the Māori electorate seat Te Tai Hauāuru.  

Te Pāti Māori won their way back into Parliament in 2017 with one seat, Waiariki; in the 2023 election they are looking to pick up at least one more.   

Te Tai Hauāuru stretches from Kawhia to Porirua, including urban centres like Whanganui, Palmerston North and Horowhenua, and it could be the perfect opportunity for Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer to secure her party's place in the halls of Parliament.  

Two other Wāhine Toa are battling for the electorate alongside Ngarewa-Packer, Labour's Soraya Peke-Mason and National's Harete Hipango.  

In a region where history and whakapapa reach across political divides, nothing is certain, so Newshub Nation co-host Simon Shepherd went to talk to the three frontrunner candidates.  

Faced with the prospect of potentially choosing the next Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ngarewa-Packer said that Te Pāti Māori "Will make sure that we have everything that has made us who we are today involved in those discussions".  

Ngarewa-Packer lost the seat by only 1050 votes in the 2020 election and said that campaigning this time around is going much better.  

"My family are really relieved because I no longer have to take them along with me to fill empty seats."  

A successful term in Parliament has given Ngarewa-Packer name recognition, but importantly, she is also no longer facing off against Labour's Adrian Rurawhe, who has strong ties to the Rātana Church which exudes much influence in the area.  

Rurawhe's move onto Labour's list after becoming Speaker of the House has created an opportunity for Ngarewa-Packer but also a surprise opportunity for Labour hopeful Soraya Peke-Mason, who's only been in Parliament for ten months.   

Peke-Mason said that she is "Absolutely committed" to the electoral race.  

"I have a responsibility to run and do my absolute best."  

Peke-Mason also has ties to Rātana and when Jacinda Ardern attended for her last time as Prime Minister, Peke-mason was there to welcome her.  

She describes herself as a "forth generation follower of the faith and movement".  

Her husband is also a similar generational follower of the faith and movement.   

Originally from Whanganui, Peke-Mason said she comes from "a very humble beginning".  

She had a struggling mother who was widowed very young with six children to look after.   

"I've experienced what it's like to be a solo mum and to be struggling, so I know what struggle Street looks like," she said.  

The third candidate standing also whakapapas to Whanganui.   

National list MP Harete Hipango hails from Putiki, with heritage stretching back to Rere-ō-maki.  

Hipango said that Rere-ō-maki "Signed the Treaty of Waitangi on the 23rd of May 1848 at Ōpōtiki and she was one of the few Māori women to do that".  

"There was the recognition in terms of the leadership that comes from our women as well, not just our men."  

Hipango is well known, spending time as an MP for Whanganui.  

As a young lawyer she represented protesters involved in the Moutua Gardens occupation.  

"No other lawyer in the town was prepared to advocate and represent those persons who were charged and arrested," she said.  

"That was me, that was my professional job to do that."  

It's the first time in 20 years national has stood candidates in the Māori electorates and Hipango has some high-profile support from Dame Tariana Turia.  

Turia, a former Labour MP, crossed the floor and set up The Māori Party after the foreshore and seabed hīkoi.   

The foreshore and seabed hīkoi was also a formative moment for Ngarewa-Packer, but when it comes to this election, one issue dominates the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate; the cost of living.  

Ngarewa-Packer said that the poverty and displacement that has come as a consequence of the cost of living increasing is a key focus for her party.  

Peke-Mason said "Cost of living is top of the agenda".  

Hipango is focused on how constituents "can afford healthy, nourishing kai when the cost of it has escalated".  

Te Tai Hauāuru has been held by Labour since 2014, but the party is positioning itself as the underdog.  

Does that mean it's Te Pāti Māori's for the taking?  

"We're a force to be reckoned with these elections," Ngarewa-Packer said.

Watch the full video for more.  

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