Oct 18, 2011

Mana Mag

I forgot to mention earlier that my guide to voting is featured in the latest issue of Mana Magazine. Go and buy a copy if you're interested.

Invoking the relativity clause

The Treaty settlement process is moving along nicely under Chris Finlayson (and was moving well under Michael Cullen too). The total value of all Treaty settlements to date exceeds $1 billion – or by my estimation at least. This is hardly a revelation, but consider this:

As part of their settlement agreements Ngai Tahu and Tainui have a relativity clause. A relativity clause is a “special top up mechanism” designed to ensure Ngai Tahu and Tainui maintain their high position relative to other Iwi. The relativity clause comes into effect when the sum total of treaty settlements exceeds $1 billion in 1994 dollars (the clause has effect from 1994 to 2044).

Unfortunately, I can’t find the text for the full Ngai Tahu and Tainui settlement agreements, but it is my understanding that Ngai Tahu and Tainui can invoke the relativity clause and that gives them the right to return to the negotiating table. I believe they can only negotiate a top up cash payment as opposed to the return of more land, management agreements or anything else.

An extra payout will have interesting political consequences. Many New Zealanders will be baffled that the already rich, and that is a subjective term, Ngai Tahu and Tainui can double dip. Non-Maori New Zealanders will ask aren’t settlements meant to be full and final. What I’m getting at is that a redneck backlash will occur. Maoris this Maoris that sort of stuff. The sort of stuff that will give the Tories, and the Labour Party too, the shivers.

No government wants to be perceived to be pandering to Maori. As a result the government has engaged in some creative accounting in an effort to avoid exceeding $1 billion and, consequently, avoid reopening a political can of worms. However, the government, no matter how they twist it, cannot avoid exceeding the very low threshold that is $1 billion – especially with the looming and large Nga Puhi and Tuhoe settlements.

I hope the Ngai Tahu and Tainui return to the negotiating table soon. Both Iwi accepted paltry sums ($170m), then again they couldn’t be expected to squeeze out much more in the circumstances. Hopefully a top up payment gives the two Iwi the financial power they need to form the buying consortium that Tuku Morgan is pushing. Tuku is looking to form a sort of Maori conglomerate in response to assets sales. The plan is that Iwi will combine their purchasing power in an effort to acquire sizable chunks of New Zealand’s strategic resources. I must admit, this is one of Tuku’s better ideas (not saying I agree with asset sales because I don’t). Ngai Tahu will also need a cash injection if they want to play a lead role as a private investor in the Christchurch rebuild.

The rise and rise of Iwi is inevitable. Tainui and Ngai Tahu are already the economic powerhouses of their regions (Waikato and the South Island respectively) it is only a matter of time before Iwi like Nga Puhi, Tuhoe and Ngati Porou become the driving forces behind their regional economies. Makes you wonder when all Maori will benefit from the strength of Iwi. 

Oct 17, 2011

Mana: a discussion

John Moore has done some great work analysing the Mana Movement. His latest post at Liberation is a must read. This from the post itself:

Guest blogger John Moore argues that the selection of Kereama Pene represents the marginalisation of the left within the Mana Party. For although the party appears radical on paper, in reality a number of Mana’s leaders aim to cut deals and form alliances with parties that would have little interest in Mana’s ‘socialist’ policies. Therefore, the selection of Karema Pene sends a signal that Mana is both ideologically flexible and that the party’s socialists are being kept on a tight leach. All of this amounts to the attempt by a section of Mana’s leadership to present the party as respectable and non-threatening. So, is the game up for Mana’s left?

What needs to be understood is that the left in Mana is a minority, albeit an influential minority. The party’s rank and file, or the flaxroot if you will, consists almost exclusively of ex-Maori Party members and young Maori with a tino rangatiratanga bent. There is a scattering of socialists and political newbies (mainly Maori). The left do not have the strength of numbers at the base of the party to exercise any influence on decisions like candidate selection, policy remits etc.

As Matt McCarten takes a step back Gerard Hehir is taking a step forward. Gerard’s presence and prominence in the party ensures that the left punch above their weight in the party. Hone has a great deal of respect for Gerard and the work he does for Mana.

The marriage between Hone and Matt, read Maori nationalism and socialism, is one of convenience. Mana Movement satisfies both men’s ambitions. Matt serves to extend Hone’s electoral base while Hone provides the genesis for Matt’s dream of building a working class movement. However, both men share a similar political outlook. Hone is the product of a Maori nationalist upbringing, but he is intuitively left-wing (as are most Maori nationalists). Matt is the product of an underclass upbringing, but he maintains an intuitive Maori nationalist streak.  

Hone knows that he will not build the movement he dreams of without extending his base beyond hardcore Maori nationalists. Therefore, he will not allow the left to be marginalised. I think the decision was made not to veto Pene’s selection because Hone, and his advisers like Hehir and McCarten, felt that it did not pose a serious threat to the role of the left in the party.

An examination of Mana’s policy reveals a leftist bent. As I’ve said before the party’s policy platform is almost devoid of any tino rangatiratanga type policy.

I can almost guarantee that Hone will not enter a coalition government in the medium term. I say this because Hone has told me as much. Of course, circumstances change and so do a person’s intentions, but at this stage Hone appears unlikely to even consider lending support on a coalition or confidence and supply basis to any government. Mana is aiming in the short term to renter Parliament with, hopefully, two extra MPs - Annette Sykes and John Minto (and if things go better than expected Sue Bradford). In the medium term the party hopes to build a sustainable movement. Building a sustainable movement includes extending the party membership and implementing a succession plan. As an aside Maori politics specialist Veronica Tawhai is leading the party’s succession plan. In the long term the party will, inevitably, enter government. Forcing change from the streets is a nice concept, but a far fetched one in my opinion and Hone and co. know this. There are so many variables and the opposition (capitalism) is so overwhelming. Furthermore, Mana does not have the intellectual grunt at the moment to put forward a viable alternative to the current system.

Mana has a long way to go yet. The contradictions, nuances and ultimate direction of the party are yet to be settled. This is the nature of a new movement. In the mean time we can analyse and predict where the party is and will head, but, ultimately, we just don’t know enough yet.

Oct 14, 2011

Marae Digipoll

I've no time for polls that attempt to gauge the Maori electorate. Why? Well, because they tend to miss the mark. Think the Native Affairs/Baseline poll. That poll held that only one percentage point separated Hone and Kelvin in Tai Tokerau. In reality over nine percentage points separated the two. Shannon Taurua points out that the last two election year Marae Digipolls were predicting that the Maori Party would sweep all of the Maori seats. In reality the Maori Party won four seats in 05 and five in 08 – not all seven.

My instincts tell me the Marae Digipoll is wrong. The results are absolutely and utterly out of whack with what I have gauged over the past year. The Maori vote is fragmented and fluid at the moment, for sure, but I cannot accept, for example, that Kelvin is ahead of Hone in Tai Tokerau. That finding runs contrary to all I, and other Maori commentators, have observed.

As you can probably tell, I’m going to attack the poll in this post. Firstly, the poll was conducted via landline. 14.6% of workers in the primary sector do not have access to landlines. By my reckoning that figure will rise for Maori primary sector workers. Also 19.6% of 18 to 24 year olds do not have access to a landline phone. As you can imagine, this group will include a disproportionate number of Maori voters. For low income homes 12.5% do not own a landline and, again, I expect that figure to rise when considering poor Maori households only. With this in mind, a landline only poll is going to bypass a significant bloc of the Maori population. Maori, especially low-income Maori, are transient too. Often moving from rented home to rented home. As such, these Maori have never had access to a landline telephone and, if they do, they are extremely difficult to reach because they tend to avoid listing their numbers in the White Pages. The time calls are made will also affect who is reached. I figure a disproportionate number of Maori are shift workers and these workers will be missed because, from my experience and the pollsters call my family every time, the poll is conducted late afternoon early evening when shift workers are beginning their shift/still sleeping. Again, a large bloc is missed. The poll also worked from a low base, only 655 voters from the Maori role were surveyed, and the margin of error was quite high at 3.9% for voters on the Maori roll and a whopping 10.4% for electorate results. Another significant flaw is that not all the Mana electorate candidates had been announced when the poll was conducted. Furthermore, respondents were not given the names or respective parties of the candidates they could vote for.

These problems are difficult to correct, or some of them. It is too expensive to call cellphones (and get cellphone numbers in the first place) and it is doubly difficult to target a particular demographic (i.e. Maori) even under normal conditions. The poll could adjust for age, sex and income sampling error, but this was not done which, again, takes away from the validity of the results.

To be fair, the poll is not worthless. Polls are a snapshot at a particular moment in time. In this case the poll was conducted between July and September. A time when the Mana Movement was gaining traction, the Maori Party continuing to decline and Labour struggling to make headway. However, this is not reflected in the poll results.

Party vote:

  • Labour 38.4%
  • Maori Party 22.2%
  • National 16.4%
  • Mana 8.5%
  • Green 6.5%
  • NZ First 5.1%

A landline poll will tend to reach nine to five conservative Maori so it’s unsurprising to see a leaning towards Labour, National and, arguably, New Zealand First. Support for National is well overstated, having said that I expect the general support for National to flow onto Maori voters. Support for the Maori Party also seems overstated I, quite honestly, know of no more Maori Party supporters and know of only one and two by extension. Support for the Greens is also overstated, among Maori voters the Greens tend to do poorly on the day (under 5%). Labour and Mana should expect to poll better. Mana will ride the momentum, albeit slowing momentum, they are building and Labour can expect to bring in more votes out of Maori habits and the “two ticks” work of MPs like Parekura Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta and Rino Tirikatene. 

Te Tai Tokerau:
  • Labour 30.2%
  • Mana 28.6%
  • Maori 22.2%
This cannot be correct. This result runs contrary to everything I have perceived. I know others feel the same (even commentators from the right like David Farrar). Hone is an unmovable object in Te Tai Tokerau. Kelvin has done nothing to justify such a high result nor has Hone done anything that would turn the tides against him. This result is a rogue. Hone will win by over 10%. If he doesn’t, well, then I’ll renounce my reputation as a decent Maori political commentator and probably never wirte again out of embarrassment.  

Tamaki Makaurau:
  • Maori 46.1%
  • Labour 30.4%
  • Mana 15.7%
This result appears more accurate. I think Mana’s support will drop with the announcement of Kereama Pene as the party’s candidate. This drop in support will, naturally I think, flow back to Pita Sharples. I expect Shane to rise as the campaign heats up and he goes head to head with Pita. Pita has already experienced a reflex backlash and I doubt Shane has the ability to exacerbate that backlash in a significant way. 

  • Maori 59.3%
  • Mana 18.7%
  • Labour 8.8%
If the pollsters had put forward Annette Sykes name I expect that the result for Mana would be much higher. Annette enjoys huge support in the Eastern Bay, for example the Ruatoki Valley where landlines are near non-existent, moderate support in Te Arawa and a few strong factions of support in the Western Bay. Te Ururoa has no functional branches left and can only rely on his whanaunga in Te Arawa and possibly Tuwharetoa, but I tend to think Tuwharetoa, who are staunch in the Tuhoe sense, will back Annette. Labour’s candidate, Louis Te Kani, will do well in his native Tauranga, but will struggle in Tuwharetoa and the Eastern Bay.     

Te Tai Tonga:
  • Labour 41.4%%
  • Maori 34.5%
  • Mana 3.4%
This sounds about right. Expect Rahui Katene to snatch Christchurch, but lose Wellington and the rest of the South. This will be a close battle, but I expect Rino Tirikatene to prevail.  

  • Labour 58.8%%
  • Maori 12.9%
  • Mana 17.6%
Nanaia is safe – no doubt about that. Expect to see Angeline Greensil poll much higher than 17.6%. However, Nanaia is not threatened. Voters will consider her good form as their MP over the past decade and her extensive whakapapa connections. Angeline brings some much needed theatre and fire to the race, but her brand of tino rangatiratanga is more attractive in places like Tuhoe, Nga Puhi and the East Coast as opposed to Tainui. 

Te Tai Hauauru:
  • Labour 40.3%%
  • Maori 48.6%%
  • Mana 1.4%
Well out of whack with feeling on the ground. Tariana is well ahead. The Labour candidate, Soraya Peke-Mason is well connected in the Ratana Church, and the Church is very influential in Te Tai Hauauru, but so too is Tariana. Tariana can stand on her form over the past decade as well and her mana as a Maori leader and leader of the Maori Party.  

Ikaroa Rawhiti:
  • Labour 40.5%%
  • Maori 31.6%
  • NZ First 10.1%
  • Mana 8.9%
Parekura is safe too. His style of campaigning is old, but effective – wildly effective. I’m not even joking when I say Parekura knows almost all of his voters by name. This sort of closeness to his constituents does not go unnoticed. Parekura is an institution, much like Hone, even his opponents refuse to bag him. As a former Minister of Maori Affairs and dedicated electorate MP Parekura has the record and the mana to carry him through this election. The Maori Party candidate is strong, but I doubt he is strong enough to come within 10% of Parekura. Expect Mana’s Tawhai McClutchie to dig into the Maori Party vote as well.

I’m not going to bother with the other results. Most are rogues, in my opinion at least, and I don’t have time to continue with this post. Again, if you are curious for my thoughts just flick me an email and I’ll get back to you in good time. My email address is at the bottom of the page.

For the full results see this over at Curiablog.

Oct 13, 2011

New Maori Blog

I've added the brilliant Turangawaewae to the Maori blog list. Turangawaewae is considered, relevant and indigenous. The writer comes from the left and her postings are unmistakably Maori in outlook. Check it out here.

Oct 12, 2011

A few images (updated)

On ya, John
Piri knows what's up
We are the 99%

Building a Blacker Future
Vote Labour, vote for action
This puts it in perspective
Says it all
JK's election bribe for the Bay

More images to come

Oil to spread

It appears that my whenua in the Eastern Bay of Plenty will eventually be affected by the Rena spill. Dr James Holborow of the Department of Conservation is quoted in the Gisborne Herald as saying that a strong westerly will push oil as far east as the East Cape. Rick Pollock of Whakatane is quoted in the Whakatane Beacon as saying that a westerly wind (which is forecast tomorrow) will push oil towards Matata, the Raurima Islands, Whakaari (White Island), Whakatane, Ohope and Te Kaha. This puts many of the taonga of Ngati Awa, Ngati Rangitihi, Whakatohea, Te Whanau a Apanui and other Eastern Bay Iwi at risk. Perhaps most significantly Te Paepae a Aotea (Volkner Rocks) may become contaminated. Te Paepae o Aotea is said to be the place where the spirits of Ngati Awa depart for Hawaiki.  

For a useful timeline of the disaster see this from Zetetic

The Rena Disaster

The Rena disaster goes to show New Zealand does not have the capacity to respond to even the most minor of oil spills. New Zealand does not have the policy mechanisms or the capacity to deal with an actual spill and the consequences thereof - not even a minor spill. Hekia Parata should take note. If she approves oil extraction in the Raukumara this could end up happening to her moana and her whenua in Ngati Porou, but to the power of x1000.

The response from the authorities has been typical New Zealand - casual as anything. The hope for the best approach. The authorities have sat around twiddling their thumbs waiting for someone to tell them what to do, but that someone, read John Key, has taken the same hands off approach he takes to dealing with his Cabinet and his Governments policy. The Prime Minister needed to provide the impetus in the immediate wake of the disaster because the backwater hicks at Maritime NZ had no idea how bad this could get nor any power to do anything substantial. A state of emergency should be declared immediately and the resources we do have should be deployed now. Or even better the resources should have been deployed straight after the fact. It blows my mind that the Government declined the offer from Lancer Industries to pump oil from the ship. WTF.  

The effect the disaster will have on the moana and the whenua will be devastating. Not only will the oil affect the health of the moana and whenua, but the toxic, and ineffective may I add, dispersant the authorities have used will also damage the moana and whenua. The dispersant used is four times more toxic than the oil itself. The disaster is going to severely affect customary and recreational activities. Most worryingly the disaster is going to affect the spiritual health of the Iwi of Tauranga Moana. When the land is healthy the people are healthy, when the land weeps the people weep. The spill is going to devastate kaimoana as well as the spiritual guardians of Tauranga Moana. I am not sure what the spiritual guardians, kaitiaki etc, of Tauranga Moana are, but I know some Iwi hold, for example, the Stingray as a prominent spiritual guardian.        

Local Iwi should be given a more prominent role in determining the response, who should be held to account and how the consequences will be dealt with. Naturally, given we have a National Government at the helm, Maori have been sidelined. Only today have Maori been given a place on the response team.

If New Zealand doesn’t have the capacity to respond to a minor oil spill from a container ship, how the hell will we deal with a spill, either minor or major, from an oil rig? This is the deathblow against the Government’s dream of oil extraction. Hekia cannot now, as a woman immersed in her culture and well aware of the effects of a disaster on Papatuanuku, push ahead in her role as Minister for Energy and Resources. There will be immense pressure coming from her Iwi Ngati Porou and her whanaunga in Te Whanau a Apanui, but there will also be pressure coming from Cabinet. It’s going to be interesting to see whose interests she prioritises, I’m leaning towards Cabinet.   

Of course, not only are Maori furious, but so is the rest of New Zealand – especially the people of the Bay of Plenty who have had their backyard ruined, meaning their summer is down the drain too. Last night Minister for the Environment Nick Smith got an ear bashing, and rightly so, from angry Tauranga residents. And what about compensation for the businesspeople who have lost their livelihoods? John Key is deflecting the issue in typical fashion; he doesn’t want to front the hard issues.

Before I end this post, here’s something to chew on:

Our ineffective PM

Maori electorates, Kereama Pene and Asset sales

I want to say so much more with these topics, but I don't have the time:

Rawiri Taonui nails it in this column:

Mana whenua will therefore dictate the outcomes in at least six electorates, this time supporting the candidates they think best represent their interests, regardless of which party they come from.
Tribes will also back their own among those who fought out the Mana-Maori Party split. Both factors should see the sitting MPs - Parekura Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Tariana Turia, Te Ururoa Flavell and Harawira - return to Parliament.

As I’ve always said the vote in the Maori electorates is a personality vote, but also, and this is the first time I’ve put this forward, a loyalty vote. Loyalty includes tribal loyalty and loyalty built up over the years of the MPs service to the electorate.    

The wild card is that the Digipoll survey has preceded the announcing of several Mana candidates. Maori voters prefer names and faces. Expect some figures to change as candidates are confirmed.

Correct. The Marae Poll was shit and I’ll briefly explore why tomorrow. 

Mana's Annette Sykes faces an uphill battle overhauling a 40-point gap to Flavell sitting on 59.3 per cent in Waiariki.
Sykes is highly intelligent and hugely experienced in litigation and Waitangi Tribunal proceedings. Iwi politics may be against her.
She is also assertive, which conservative traditionalists might rail against.
Sykes would have been a better selection in Auckland. Sharples has significant support; however, there is potential volatility.
Urban Maori make up 80 per cent of the population so mana whenua will be less influential. Sykes would also be a point of difference against two high-profile male candidates and would pull in more Maori women votes.
The right Mana candidate will throw Auckland wide open.

While, Mana haven’t put forward the right candidate, they’ve put forward…
Kereama Pene cannot foot it with Dr Pita Sharples and Harvard graduate Shane Jones – those guys will eat him for breakfast. Pene’s selection is manna from heaven for Pita Sharples though. Chris Trotter discusses the appointment here.


Mana may have got it wrong in selecting Pene, but the party does get it right in calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16. The best way to engage young people in the political process is to include them. Say you’re an employed sixteen year old and contributing to the economy, shouldn’t you have a say in how the economy is managed? I think so. For a nice summary on the pro’s of lowering the age see this post at Political Dumpground.    


In an attempt to distance herself from the Nat’s Tariana Turia has come out against asset sales. This will annoy her Iwi backers who have vigorously supported asset sales, but placate her disgruntled left-wing supporters and serve as a point of difference between her party and the Nat’s. I wonder if the Iwi Leaders will be thinking twice about opening their pockets to the Maori Party.

Oct 10, 2011

Short break

Blogging will be light to non-existent in the coming weeks. I have an exam next week and then another the following week. Given that I have yet to really start studying I thought I had best give blogging a break and focus my energies elsewhere. Of course, should an important issue pop up, I might give my thoughts. In the mean time if you're looking for my opinion on anything feel free to email me at morgan dot godfery at gmail dot com. I'll be blogging furiously in November in the run up to the election though, so hang tight.

Oct 5, 2011

Sexism and Maori

On Monday night Native Affairs ran a panel discussion with Dr Hone Kaa and Matt McCarten. The panel discussed the upcoming election as well as the Maori seats. Julian Wilcox, the host, suggested to Hone Kaa that Waiariki could go either way (to Te Ururoa or Annette), however Dr Kaa disagreed. He held that Waiariki is Te Ururoa’s because it is a “Wahine voice versus a Tane voice”. Dr Kaa then went onto say “given that tribal area (meaning Te Arawa)… how many women do you see speaking on a Marae there?” What he was implying is that Te Arawa is, and I wish there was a less offensive term for this, sexist. Although he did not come out and say so in certain terms, the implications of his statements are clear. 

It's sometimes said that Te Arawa is, to quote a very prominent Maori leader who shall remain nameless, “chauvinist”. Women are accorded a subordinate place on the Marae and the social hierarchy. I think Dr Kaa poses a valid question.

We know that on the arrival of Europeans, or more specifically missionaries, our Tikanga was warped to better reflect Christian notions of the place of women (i.e. as secondary to men) and we have yet to reclaim our original ideas about the role of women and their place in our world. Or, alternatively, we have yet to respond to and incorporate modern notions of the place of women. But is this a justification? Or is this really the case? I don’t really know.

Having said that, I doubt any perceived or real chauvinism on the part of Te Arawa will have much bearing on the result. The tribes of the Mataatua (Ngati Awa, Tuhoe, Whakatohea, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Pukenga – as well as Nga Puhi of course) accord women a special place as a result of two tipuna – Wairaka and Muriwai. Depending on whom you ask, Wairaka or Muriwai saved the Mataatua Waka on arrival in Whakatane. As a result of this women have always and continue to occupy a central role in the life of the aforementioned tribes. With this in mind, the perceived or real chauvinism of Te Arawa will not have much, if any, affect on the election as the tribes of the Mataatua Waka outnumber those of the Te Arawa Waka.

(In no way is what I write a slur against Te Arawa. I'm probably woefully wrong).

Oct 4, 2011

Te Tai Tonga - the lowdown

Today’s post is the first in a series analysing each Maori electorate. Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring each electorate. I’ll assess the candidates, gauge the voters, lay out the issues and, most importantly, forecast the result. I thought about endorsing candidates, but then I thought most of you probably don’t care and, for the ones that do care, it’ll be fairly obvious where my preferences lay.   

I’ll preface this post and say that each post in the series will be horrendously long. Unless you’re a political junkie, you’re probably going to find this series horrifically dry. But don’t let that stop you. I like to think this series will be important and useful as far as Maori political discourse goes.

As far as I know, no one has offered an in depth analysis of any of the Maori electorates – ever. With that in mind, I thought I’d give it a go. Commentary and analysis on the Maori electorates, and Maori politics in general, is thin.

The Stats

Te Tai Tonga is the most under analysed electorate and the most homogenous. Ngai Tahu exercises rangatiratanga (authority) over most of the South Island alongside Waitahi, Ngati Mamoe and a small number of other Iwi. Te Ati Awa exercise rangatiratanga over the Wellington section of Te Tai Tonga as well as parts of the upper South Island. Today, Maori from the East Coast, for example Ngati Porou, are prominent in Wellington while Maori from the North Island, for example Nga Puhi, are prominent in Christchurch. Maori from other Iwi outnumber Te Ati Awa in Wellington. Ngai Tahu is the most populous Iwi in the South.

The Maori population in Te Tai Tonga is overwhelmingly young, 59.8% of Maori are 29 or under. In comparison with other Maori electorates Te Tai Tonga is, for want of a better term, more well off. For example, 13.3% of Te Tai Tonga households earn over $100,000 while only 8.1% of households in neighbouring Ikaroa-Rawhiti earn over $100,000. Te Tai Tonga is also, relatively speaking, more educated than most other Maori electorates. 9.2% of Maori in Te Tai Tonga hold a Bachelors Degree or higher compared with only 5.6% of Maori in bordering Te Tai Hauaru.

In the 2008 election Rahui Katene won, rather easily, with a majority of over 1000. Labour’s Mahara Okeroa was the second placed candidate gaining almost 42% of the vote while the Green candidate polled at almost 11%. In 2005 Okeroa secured 47% of the vote (in 2008 the situation reversed with Katene winning 47%). The Maori Party candidate won 34% of the vote while the Green candidate, Metiria Turei no less, gathered 12% of the vote.

In both the 2005 and 2008 election Labour cleaned up in the party vote stakes with 57% of the vote in 2005 and 49% in 2008. The Maori Party, Nats and Greens polled second, third and fourth respectively. The Maori Party increased their share of the vote from 17% in 2005 to 22% in 2008. National increased their vote from 7% to 11% while the Greens remained largely static rising less than a percentage point from 2005 to 2008. In the 2002 election Okeroa annihilated his competitors and the Greens and New Zealand First outpolled National.

The Candidates

Ok, hopefully you managed to make it through that. Political forecasting, if you will, combines a number of factors including historical trends, the contemporary situation and a little bit of intuition. To make an informed judgement you need to lay out the facts. Hence the above.

Four candidates will contest Te Tai Tonga. The incumbent, Rahui Katene of the Maori Party, Labour’s Rino Tirikatene, Clinton Dearlove of the Mana Movement and Dora Langsbury from the Greens.

Rahui has held the seat since 2008. Rahui is a qualified lawyer and a former policy analyst and nurse. She is a member of a number of select committees and connects to Iwi across the entire South Island.

Rino Tirikatene is, for want of a better description, a political pedigree. His Koro, Eruera Tirikatene, held the Southern Maori seat (aka Te Tai Tonga) for a number of years as did his Aunty Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan. Rino has worked for top law firm Simpson Grierson as well as Maori development organisations for 12 years. Rino stood for Te Tai Tonga Te Puku O Te Whenua in 1996:

“This is not my first time representing the Labour Party. At the tender age of 23 my father passed away, he was to stand for Labour in the Southern Maori seat. I took up his mantel in 1996 and carried on his journey”.

Clinton Dearlove is, in Wellington political circles at least, an unknown quantity. I had never heard of him nor had anyone I’d spoken to. Dearlove affiliates to Waitaha and Nga Puhi (the second most populous Iwi in the South). Dearlove holds an honours degree in Science from the University of Otago (very few Maori hold any sort of science qualification) and his primary interest appears to be education (he is a secondary school teacher of 10 years).

Dora Langsbury stood for the Greens at the last election. Langsbury is of Ngai Tahu, Waitaha and Ngati Mamoe descent and works for Te Wananga o Aotearoa. According to the Greens website Langsbury policy interests are:

Areas of interest include Maori Affairs, Treaty of Waitangi, Seabed and Foreshore, Iwi settlement process, sustainable housing and transport, buy local, water management, education, mental health, public health, humane standard of living, disability affairs

The Analysis

Readers will know I’m picking Rino Tirikatene to snatch the seat.

Rahui Katene is the invisible Maori Party MP. Sharples and Turia are the leaders, Flavell is the workhorse and Hone was the principled voice (or the big mouth). Rahui, however, was not known for much beyond being Turia’s lapdog. She breathlessly followed her leaders despite pressure from within, read from Hone and his supporters, and pressure from without, read from Maori generally (think the foreshore and seabed hikoi etc).

The vote in the Maori electorates is a personality vote. Most Maori don’t vote along party lines. However, Rahui is one of the few Maori MP’s to ride off of the success of her party. In 2008 the Maori Party had built enough momentum to launch an assault on Te Tai Tonga without having to stand a moneyed or widely known candidate. The party’s credibility peaked in 2008 and so to did their support among voters and their support from politically minded Maori (i.e. campaigners etc).

Another factor that played into Rahui’s hands was Mahara Okeroa’s age and perceived uselessness (or actual uselessness is how I see it). Maori snubbed Labour in 2008 - their share of the party vote dropped and only two Labour MP's managed to hold their seats. 

Having said all of that, one factor will benefit Rahui’s chances – the Christchurch earthquake. Rahui has received, and rightly so, kudos for her work in Christchurch. From day one Rahui has moved across the city lending a hand or a sympathetic ear to her constituents. As the MP for Te Tai Tonga this is her job and she has, by all accounts, performed it with distinction.

However, Christchurch is not where the electorate will be won. Support in the South Island is, for the most part, evenly split between the Maori Party and Labour. Labour cleaned up the candidate vote in Bluff and the party holds an acceptable lead in Invercargill and Timaru. It is fairly even in Dunedin and Christchurch with the Maori Party enjoying the most slender of leads. 

(here is the link to the booth by booth breakdown of the electorate)

Wellington is where the electorate will be won. Rahui thrashed Mahara Okeroa across Wellington. From Rongotai to Petone to Wellington Central Rahui cleaned up. So, assuming Rino Tirikatene holds Mahara Okeroa’s support in the South, Wellington will become the key battle ground.

My money is on Rino Tirikatene to win in the South and peel back Rahui’s lead in Wellington. Petone and Rongotai, and most other Wellington suburbs, are traditional Labour strongholds and will follow a strong Labour candidate. Wellington Central Maori, many of whom are public servants, will also punish the Maori Party for their alliance with the public service bashing National Party. Then again, the only Maori I know who ever voted or vote National are public servants. I still can’t figure out why this is, but that’s for another post.

Tirikatene has run a clean campaign across the entire electorate. Nothing flashy, nothing nasty, just an old fashioned campaign focussing on the issues and exploring the solutions. Rino will benefit from a reflex backlash against the Maori Party and, according to the latest Marae digipoll, he already enjoys a healthy lead. However, as a qualification I must add that I do not place too much faith in the results of that poll and will tell you why in my next post.

Ultimately I think the vote will follow whoever is perceived to be the strongest and most effective candidate. In my mind, and from what I have ascertained from living in Te Tai Tonga, the strongest candidate is Rino Tirikatene. Rino comes from an illustrious line of Maori politicians and demonstrated out in the traps that he is the smartest and most promising candidate. His experience in the corporate world and in Maori development roles gives him the experience he needs to cut in the throat slitting world of Parliament and the challenging world that is contemporary Maoridom.

Rahui is perceived as nice, but weak. She followed her leaders like a puppy, despite numerous protestations from her constituents (especially Ngai Tahu re the MCA Act).

I doubt the Mana candidate, Clinton Dearlove, win a significant amount of votes, but he will, despite this, make an impact. Only a well known and moneyed candidate could gain a large number of votes this late in the game. Clinton Dearlove is largely unknown and Mana is perhaps weakest in the South so he cannot fall back on the party branches in the South. Mana is, however, strong in Wellington. I tend to think Dearlove (cool name eh) will steal more than a few votes from Rahui in Wellington and, thus, hand the city to Rino and, consequently, the electorate (as I said the winner must win Wellington). The natural transition for disgruntled Maori Party voters is to Mana. Mana also enjoys a strong set up in Wellington so despite Dearlove’s low profile he can rely on strong party support to push his name and message in the city. Given the makeup of Te Tai Tonga (i.e. the young age profile of the electorate) Dearlove is likely to pick up a few votes in the South thus handing Rino a slight advantage in the South too. Dearlove is also of Nga Puhi descent and Nga Puhi is the second most populous Iwi in the South. Having whakapapa to the most populous Iwi will work in Dearlove’s favour.

I haven’t heard anything from the Green candidate and as a result I doubt she will impact the race in a big way. The Greens are focussing on the party vote – not the candidate vote.


The key battleground is Wellington. As I said, the Mana candidate will snatch enough votes from Rahui in Wellington to allow Rino to charge up the middle and win the city and the electorate. Rahui has not done enough in the past term nor enough in the last few months to fend off the strong challenge Labour is mounting.

Should the Maori Party lose Te Tai Tonga the National Party has reason to worry. Given the pathetic state of the Act Party and the unprecedented possibility of the governing party obtaining an outright majority, a strong Maori Party increases the chances of a second term National Government.

The next post in this series will examine the other marginal electorate – Waiariki. The next post will examine Te Tai Tokerau in the wake of the results from the Marae Digipoll. At this point I’m unsure whether or not I will have time to finish this series and examine the other electorates. Exams are approaching for me. Hopefully I can find the time.