The Maori Party has revealed that six candidates will contest the nomination for Te Tai Hauauru. From the party website:
Hundreds of Maori Party members from throughout the electorate gathered at Whangaehu Marae south of Whanganui yesterday to hear from the six nominees and cast their vote... The nominees are:
- Frana Chase;
- Rahui Katene;
- James Makowharemahihi;
- Christopher McKenzie;
- Amokura Panoho;
- Pakake Winiata.
With the exception of Rahui Katene, these aren't big names. Or put it this way: there isn't a Julian Wilcox. But the party doesn't need a name candidate. Tariana Turia's endorsement and support could be enough to keep the electorate in Maori Party hands. It'd be reckless - and more than unfair - to underestimate the respect and support Tariana has earnt and enjoys. Ken Mair makes an important point, though - "we aren’t looking for a candidate to fill Tariana’s shoes. We are looking for a candidate to carve a new path".
The Maori Party needs to rebuild its identity. The Maori renaissance is over and the post-settlement era is beginning. Tariana and Pita Sharples were - and to some extent still are - central figures from the Maori renaissance. New hands are needed to redevelop what a Maori party looks like in 2013. Being loosely pro-Maori doesn't cut it when three other parties can credibly claim the same rationale (Greens, Labour, Mana).
There's increasing political choice in the Maori electorates. Labour's monopoly is over and the two-way battles of 2005 and 2008 were short lived. Four parties can credibly claim that they're contenders. In an environment where each seat is contested vigorously the Maori Party needs to have something more. New blood is better positioned to redefine the contract between the Maori Party and Maori society than the old hands. That's why the decision in Te Tai Hauauru might be the most important decision the party makes. Good luck to them.