I am glad that Annette Sykes is still considering running against Te Ururoa in Waiariki. From Waatea News:
Former Maori Party adviser Annette Sykes says her local MP Te Ururoa Flavell has betrayed Te Arawa people with his support of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.
The Rotorua lawyer says Mr Flavell was sent to parliament by the Waiariki electorate to roll back the confiscation and discrimination of Labour's Foreshore and Seabed Act.
But she says the work he did on the new Act failed on that count.
“None of those compromises justify in any way the confiscation of the lands of the people of Te Arawa from Matata to Maketu and for me it’s a betrayal of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is established but also the foundations on which the Maori party established,” Ms Sykes says.
She is considering standing against Mr Flavell in Waiariki if former Maori Party MP Hone Harawira creates a new Maori political party.
As a Kawerau boy, I like to think I have a deep understanding of the Waiariki electorate. The seat is winnable, but winning will require a huge effort. At the last election Te Ururoa enjoyed near unanimous support with 68% of the vote. This is an almost 10% increase on his 2005 result. However, the circumstances this time around are vastly different. The political landscape is about to change with the formation of Hone’s new party and the relationship between Maori and the Maori Party is strained.
Say what you will about the Maori Party, but bear in mind that they are not amateurs. The party maintains campaign infrastructure in all of the Maori electorates, for example a ready pool of volunteers, key Marae/Runanga contacts, mailing lists, enrolment statistics, street by street voter analysis etc… Te Ururoa is also, in my opinion at least, a commendable electorate MP. Although he has performed disgracefully with regard to the MCA act – he remains committed to Waiariki.
The challenge for Annette is to bring together an experienced and knowledgeable team and replicate the campaign infrastructure the Maori Party has in place. The next step would be to define the message e.g. A vote for te Ururoa is a vote for National and then focus on soft areas where support for the Maori Party is thin and where tribal links to Te Ururoa do not exist. I am thinking of Kawerau, Tuhoe (Ruatoki, Taneatua), Opotiki, Te Whanau a Apanui (Te Kaha, Omaio), Whakatane and Taupo.
Kawerau is a strong Labour town, in 2005 Steve Chadwick just managed to retain Rotorua thanks to Kawerau voters. Among Maori voters the same is true i.e. support for Labour is strong. I am not sure how the candidate vote went, however I think it is safe to assume that Annette, like me a former Kawerau resident, will have no trouble in winning support. As a staunch tino rangatiratanga advocate she will cruise to victory in the Tuhoe rohe as well. People from Whakatohea (roughly the Opotiki area) and Te Whanau a Apanui (from about Torere to the East Cape) are also furious with the Maori Party. The party has refused to back the people over mining off the East Coast. Te Whanau a Apanui has had to rely on the Greens for political support and groups like Greenpeace for protest/public relations support. A vote against the Maori Party will be almost a reflex action up the coast. I am unsure what way Whakatane and Taupo will swing. But I will say, and this is speculation on my part, that these two centres are marginal. Rotorua will almost certainly back Te Ururoa based on his good record as an electorate MP there. Tauranga is probably anyones game. However, I think neither Annette nor Te Ururoa will win there. At this point I am putting my money on Louis Te Kani, the Labour candidate. Louis is a well respected local barrister and a genuine nice guy. By the looks of it he is held in high regard in the local Labour region as well. Given the MCA act betrayal I am not sure any coastal iwi, like the iwi of Tauranga Moana, will vote for the Maori Party or any Maori Party candidate. While on the other hand the harsh rhetoric of Annette Sykes may turn off many of the working class Maori voters in Tauranga.
It is conceivable that a three way race will benefit the Labour candidate. I do not think this is the case though. As Te Ururoa has drifted right he has vacated the left. Annette needs to focus her efforts towards left leaning voters and tino rangatiratanga voters. Te Ururoa and Loius Te Kani will be left to fight over the limited number of right wing voters in the electorate.
The Maori Party is under pressure following the MCA act and the continuing decline in Maori living standards. Many Maori are looking for a new political vehicle. One would think that Maori would, almost naturally, return to Labour. However, Labour still lacks credibility on Maori issues following the foreshore and seabed raupatu. Labour has yet to repent and Maori will not return until they do. This means the time is ripe for a third way. A new political vehicle. Annette Sykes and Hone Harawira could be that third way. They must keep in mind though that Labour will not remain idle forever and time will soon ensure that the sins of the Maori Party are forgotten. Timing is crucial. Annette and Hone must make a decision soon or risk losing the window of opportunity. Labour will soon reclaim the left and crowd out any competitor. Annette and Hone must act while both parties are in disarray.
So Waiariki is there for the taking. So long as Annette musters a professional team and executes a professional campaign. The Maori electorates are huge, therefore reach is essential. Annette cannot rely on the 6 o’clock news or Maori TV. She must get into every corner of the electorate and push her message hard. This is a terrible generalisation, but most Maori are not informed voters. Voting is often an intuitive exercise. Annette must give them no reason not to vote for her.
For the sake of Maori, the Maori Party must be stopped. The Maori Party is the key to a second term National Government – so the weaker the Maori Party, the less likely we will have a second term National Government. Your people need you, Annette.