Mar 17, 2014

The cycles of Maori politics

I’m going to make the call: all things remaining the same, the incumbents in the Maori electorates will retain their seats. Here’s how it’s looking.
Te Tai Tokerau
Labour: Kelvin Davis
Mana: Hone Harawira

Tamaki Makaurau

Labour: Shane Taurima (probably)
Mana: tbc.
Maori Party: possible candidates include Bronwyn Yates, George Ngatai, Te Hira Paenga and Tūnuiarangi McLean. The selection hui is scheduled in May.


Labour: Nanaia Mahuta


Labour: the candidates are Katie Paul, Ryan Te Wara and Rawiri Waititi.
Mana: tbc (at the AGM I believe between 11-13 April)
Maori Party: Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Tai Hauauru

Greens: Jack Tautokai McDonald
Labour: Adrian Rurawhe
Maori Party: Chris McKenzie


Labour: Meka Whaitiri
Mana: Te Hamua Nikora

Te Tai Tonga
Greens: Dora Langsbury
Labour: Rino Tirikatene

Labour has a clear run in Hauraki-Waikato and Te Tai Tonga. There are few - if any - viable challengers. Mana and the Maori Party have missed the window of opportunity and it seems that Tamaki will fall Labour's way while Ikaroa looks increasingly safe. Te Ururoa and Hone appear safe too. Te Tai Hauauru is the great uncertainty.

Labour, Mana and the Maori Party can't hope to run viable campaigns in the seats they haven't selected candidates in. The election is six months away and the window of opportunity has passed. At this point, any campaign against the incumbent is nominal. Maori politics is relationship based and its difficult to build a political relationship with the electorate with only six months on the clock. That's leaving aside the other, more practical issues, like campaign personnel and strategy.

But the bigger picture is important too: conflict characterised the last decade in Maori politics. Think of Closing the Gaps, Orewa and the Foreshore and Seabed Act. The cruel irony is that the Maori Party has resolved much of that conflict - Whanau Ora has replaced Closing the Gaps, National has abandoned its Maori bashing tactics and the Foreshore and Seabed Act has been repealed and replaced - yet Labour will be the beneficiary.

That's terribly unfair. But while stability returns to Maori politics, the Maori electorates appear to be reverting to type: Labour-led. Maori politics runs through cycles of uncertainty. When uncertainty and instability arises the Maori electorates turn against Labour. It almost happened with Matiu Rata while it actually happened in the 90s with New Zealand First and the 2000s with the Maori Party. The Young Maori Party was born amidst uncertainty and low confidence among Maori, but when certainty and confidence returned Labour and Ratana swept the Maori seats.

There was a window of opportunity when Mana and the Maori Party might have challenged that cycle. But I think that window has passed. The best they can hope to do is retain what they have.


  1. Tamaki Makaurau (TM) looks interesting. If the Maori Party pick Tunuiarangi McLean then I think they have a very good chance of success. Neither Mclean or likely Labour candidate Shane Taurima are 'Aucklanders' in regards to their iwi/whakapapa links. But Mclean has crafted a much more in-depth relationship with Auckland Maori, particularly in the Southern part of the TM electorate - in the same mould that Pita Sharples carved his relationships in West Auckland. You could almost say like Ikaroa-Rawhiti last year, Taurima is being 'parachuted in'. He's not an Aucklander in the sense that McLean is. His public persona is not of a low-middle income earner or young student - who make up the bulk of TM's voter profile. It's of a media professional, who ended up in Auckland via the East Coast and Wellington. Because of his 'insider' networks, Taurima understands how systems and processes work. But that could also be a negative, casting him as a bureaucratic automaton, whose reality is far removed ' from ordinary TM Maori life. The advantage Taurima holds is Labour's organizational machine and perhaps his sexuality appealing to Labour's Auckland Maori rainbow roopu. Personally, if I was Labour I would have chased Mclean. His dazzle seems a lot more in synch with TM realities.


  2. I would have thought that Mana have a reasonable chance in Waiariki if Annette Sykes is the candidate again (and I don't have a lead on that at this stage). Otherwise I can't see them getting another Maori seat, even after the strong showing in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.

    As I've said far too many times, the goal of the Mana candidates in all seats bar Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki (and maybe Ikaroa-Rawhiti) should be to grow the Mana party vote. Easiest route to bigger representation is 1.2%, though granted this will be more achievable with strong electorate campaigns. I would be tempted to run some candidates in the general seats of Mt Albert, Rongotai, Wellington Central and others as well, all seats that Mana didn't contest in the previous election. If they could find the funds of course.

    As for the Maori party, their prospects look really dire. Despite my hopes to the contrary, I suspect that Te Ururoa will hold Waiariki, but the rest of the seats look(/feel?) look goners. Who knows, they might pick up a list seat themselves if the party vote holds up.


  3. Generally speaking, I find myself disillusioned with the state of NZ politics overall. The carnage wrought in the Maori seats since 2005 is depressing. And the fight by the two major parties for the Centre at the expense of everyone else just seems bizarre. I don't buy into this popular catch - cry from anti-Nats to vote in anyone but them. It seems so negative. Why vote a govt out? I would rather vote one in. But there doesn't seem to be much in the way of choice. I'm seriously considering not bothering to vote at all.

    Adrian W.

  4. Fascinating korero with you and the other two panelists on Native Affairs last night, Morgan (Apologies I forget the names of the other two). Interesting comment from the excellent Te Kaea political reporter about Shane Taurima ' s candidacy facing possible derailment because of the time it will take for TVNZ to release the editorial investigation outcome. Maybe they'll try schmoozing Julian Wilcox again? Tunuiarangi McLean ' s chances may have just shot up?


  5. Kia Ora e hoa, agreed, I found your to views to very inderpendant and facsinating, keep up the good posts on Twitter.

  6. I absolutely agree with your comment about how the Maori party has effectively solved the problems yet wont be rewarded because of this misguided feeling that Labour love Maori. Actually Labour loves the Maori vote and that's about it (Nanaia Mahuta excluded - she's fantastic). Generally speaking the red appeal via seemingly great promises of band-aid fixes continues to get the vote of those on the Maori roll. But Maori voters are becoming increasingly perceptive, educated and discerning. Unfortunately I don't think there are enough of these voters on the Maori roll to make a difference in this election but give it a decade and maybe the cycle will be broken.

    On Ikaroa Rāwhiti, the Maori party candidate will be announced on 13 April. Yes a bit late but Meka is by no means a shoo-in. What impact has she had since the by-election? And Heather Skipworth (founder of Iron Maori) has already announced publicly in the Hawkes Bay Today newspaper that she will run for candidacy. There could be a battle yet down here. Iron Maori Party - has a nice ring to it :)

  7. It would be interesting to know if, 5 months on, Morgan still felt Te Ururoa was safe in Waiariki.

    1. Short answer, no. In my defence I did say "all things remaining the same". Things didn't remain the same. I'd like Annette to win, I also think she has an even chance of doing so.



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