There are three marginal Maori seats – Te Tai Tonga, Tamaki Makaurau and Waiariki. Of the three, Waiariki is the hardest to call. Te Ururoa Flavell is facing a strong challenge from Mana’s Annette Sykes while Labour’s Louis Te Kani could gallop up the middle if Annette falls short.
Today’s post is the second in a series analysing the Maori electorates. I’ll look at the electorate profile, the candidates and then I’ll offer my thoughts on how and to whom the electorate will fall.
(Here is the link to the electorate profile from the Parliamentary Library)
Waiariki wraps around the Bay of Plenty coast from Cape Runaway in the east to Waihi Beach. The boundary then extends inwards to Turangi. The main centres in Waiariki are Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and Whakatane. Smaller centres include Kawerau, Opotiki and Te Puke. The tangata whenua in Waiariki whakapapa to either the Mataatua Waka or the Te Arawa Waka. However, some hapu derive from peoples who predate the arrival of both Waka.
The most populous Iwi in Waiariki is Tuhoe (Mataatua) followed by Nga Puhi (Mataatua), Ngati Tuwharetoa (Te Arawa), Te Arawa (Te Arawa), Ngati Porou (Nukutaimemeha and others) and Ngati Awa (Mataatua).
There are over 82,000 Maori in Waiariki. 41.7% are under 30 while only 12% are over 65. Waiariki has the highest rate of Maori language speakers with 26.9% speaking fluent Te Reo. Little over 5% of Maori in Waiariki hold a bachelors degree or higher. In terms of educational achievement Waiariki ranks in the bottom half of Maori electorates. Waiariki isn’t an overly religious electorate, again, ranking in the bottom half of Maori electorates when examining religious affiliation. The median household income in Waiariki is $45,200 while the New Zealand median is $59,000. 36.8% of households in Waiariki earn $50,000 or over. Again, this ranks in the bottom half of Maori electorates. Almost 25% of households do not have access to a landline while over 50% do not have access to the internet (this presents significant difficulty when it comes to polling the electorate). 26.7% of Maori in Waiariki are on some sort of government benefit.
At the 2005 election Te Ururoa polled at almost 55%. Labour’s Mita Ririnui managed to pull in 39% of the vote. The late Hawea Vercoe sponged 6% of the vote. Labour did well in the party vote coming in at 53%. The Maori Party followed with 31% and New Zealand First with 7%.
Te Ururoa Flavell increased his majority in 2008 and utterly smashed Mita Ririnui securing almost 70% of the vote. However, the Labour Party captured a plurality in the party vote stakes with 45.5%. The Maori Party secured 35.5%. New Zealand First polled well gaining almost 8% of the vote while National and the Greens did very poorly with only 5% and 2% respectively.
Three candidates will contest Waiariki. The Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell (incumbent), Labour’s Louis Te Kani and Mana Movement’s Annette Sykes.
- Te Ururoa Flavell:
Te Ururoa affiliates to Ngati Rangiwewehi (Te Arawa) and Nga Puhi (Mataatua) and was born in Tokoroa (Te Tai Hauauru), but was raised in Waiariki attending Sunset Primary School in Rotorua. Te Ururoa trained as a teacher and has worked in education most of his life. Entering Parliament in 2005 Te Ururoa became an active Select Committee member and in 2010 his Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot and will probably have its first reading next term.
- Annette Sykes:
Annette has extensive affiliations across Te Arawa including Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Makino. Annette also affiliates to Taiwhakaea (Ngati Awa) and Hamua (Tuhoe). Annette was schooled in Kawerau attending Kawerau North School, Kawerau Intermediate and then Kawerau College. Annette studied law and politics at Victoria and Auckland Universities and also studied in Singapore. Over the past thirty years Annette has been one the most prominent tino rangatiratanga activists and a tireless supporter of human rights. Prior to full time full time campaigner Annette was a partner at Aurere Law in Rotorua.
- Louis Te Kani:
Unfortunately, I can’t find any reference to Louis tribal affiliations, but I assume that he connects to Te Arawa and the tribes of Tauranga Moana. Te Kani was born and bred in Tauranga and works in Rotorua (Louis is a very prominent lawyer in the city). Louis comes from a Labour background (he’s also Ratana) and was shoulder tapped to stand in the seat.
Waiariki is one the harder electorates to call. The Maori electorates aren’t homogenous – there are separate and often disparate communities of interest, there are different issues at play for different iwi, there is sometimes an urban/rural dichotomy and inter-tribal dynamics can favour/discriminate against some candidates.
I tend to think Annette will win, but this isn’t guaranteed.
One cannot underestimate the importance of a strong campaign. At this point in the game Annette is running the stronger campaign due, in part, to superior campaign infrastructure and a reflex swing against the Maori Party. Annette is also driving the narrative.
Annette can tap a deeper well of campaign support than Te Ururoa and Louis. Mana can rely on numerous branches across the electorate whereas Te Ururoa can’t (the Maori Party branches are weak to non-existent in Waiariki) and Louis can not tap the same numbers that Mana can. Annette even has a big campaign bus like John Key and National’s bus in the 2008 election. In terms of hoardings, however, I would (anecdotally speaking) say Louis Te Kani has the most.
A well defined message can go a long way. Annette has, I think, the perfect throwaway line: a vote for Te Ururoa is a vote for National. The Nat’s poll horrendously among Maori in Waiariki (see above) and much of the reflex swing against the Maori Party is due to their support for the Nat’s on, for example, tax and the MCA Act. Annette needs to cement the narrative that the Maori Party, and by extension Te Ururoa, have sold out Maori interests.
Te Ururoa enjoys only soft support outside of Rotorua. Tauranga is anyones game, Whakatane and Taupo are marginal and Kawerau, Te Teko, Ruatoki (and the Tuhoe rohe generally), Opotiki, Turangi and Te Kaha (as well as the rest of the East Coast) will probably fall Annette’s way.
Booth by booth the party vote is fairly consistent across the electorate. In case you wondered I’m examining the party vote because the candidate vote is misleading given that only two candidates stood and the losing candidate was weak (to the point of not even trying).
The distance between Labour and the Maori Party is fairly even across all the polling places. In the Eastern Bay the tino rangatiratanga vote (TR) - i.e. Maori Party vote - was strongest in Te Kaha (as well as Cape Runaway and Torere), Te Teko, Waimana (as well as Kutarere), Ruatoki and, surprisingly, Ohope. In Rotorua the tino rangatiratanga vote was strong in Mamaku, Koutu and Glenholme/Springfield (the polling place was on Devon St which is part of Springfield and Glenholme). In Tauranga the TR vote was strong in Bethlehem and Waitangi only. The TR vote was strong in the southern end of the Taupo region, in particular Turangi, Tokaanu and Wairakei.
Annette’s, for want of a better term, tino rangatiratanga credentials are far stronger than Te Ururoas. She can stand on her record as an advocate for Maori. Maori know who Annette Sykes is and Maori know what she stands for. Annette can easily eat into Te Ururoa’s vote in the above areas because of this. However, to win the electorate she needs to siphon sufficient votes in Opotiki, Rotorua, Tauranga, or Taupo. Or she needs to win one of those areas in large numbers. Opotiki is Whakatohea territory. Whakatohea is a rural Iwi and, in my experience, staunch tino rangatiratanga. Annette's rhetoric and record will appeal. Rotorua is a hard sell for Annette. I have mentioned one of the disputed attitudes of Te Arawa that may count against her. However, I think Annette will do well in Ngati Pikiao and in Rotoiti. I think she will not do too well in Ngati Whakaue though. I tend to think Tauranga will fall Louis Te Kani’s way – at least in Tauranga proper. On the outskirts I think Te Ururoa will hold his vote. I think Tauranga Maori are quite unionised (e.g. port workers). Annette could do well in Taupo, but it depends on how well she campaigns. Mana infrastructure in Taupo is fairly strong. The Party is standing a general seat candidate so Annette could tap the general seat candidate’s networks.
Te Ururoa will almost certainly lose the East Coast from Opotiki to Cape Runaway. He’s played the invisible man over the past three years. Initially, the Maori Party, morespecially Te Ururoa, did not back Te Whanau a Apanui in their opposition to oil prospecting. The job was left to Hone Harawira (who of course isn’t even the local MP), Greenpeace and, but to a lesser extent, the Greens. Te Ururoa will also lose Tuhoe and Kawerau as well. In the aftermath of the Terror raids Te Ururoa did a brilliant job attacking the then Labour Government and he also provided outstanding support to his constituents. However, Annette has played a major role as well representing many of the Tuhoe accused/former accused. She has been their since the beginning and stuck at it. Annette also whakapapas to Tuhoe and her politics appeals to them too (think Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe – Tuhoe independence). Te Ururoa will probably lose Kawerau too. Annette is a local girl who knows the town and the issues. Te Ururoa hasn’t been very active in Kawerau so the town does not really have much of a connection with him.
Te Ururoa will probably lose significant support along the coastline from Whakatane to Waihi Beach. Iwi along the coast were, or are, unhappy with the MCA Act. However, it is a moot point whether this alone will be enough to swing the vote in the Coast. If it is that vote will fall to Annette. Maori still have not forgiven Labour for the foreshore and seabed debacle in 2004.
(Here is the link to the booth by booth summary)
I doubt Louis will gallop up the middle. I think Annette can steal enough of Te Ururoa’s vote outside of Rotorua to steal the seat from him. Louis will do well in Tauranga, but to win you need to win more than one of the main centres. Annette’s victory is not guaranteed. If Te Ururoa can execute a strong campaign he will retain the seat. But this is unlikely. There are few functional Maori Party branches, few resources and few functioning networks. The momentum is in Annette’s favour.