13 Oct 2023

Māori electorates: What to watch for on election night

7:52 am on 13 October 2023
Nanaia Mahuta, Hana Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke and Meka Whaitiri

Photo: RNZ / Composite image

When Meka Whaitiri defected from Labour to stand for Te Pāti Māori, it set up a dramatic contest. The intrigue across many of the other Māori seats runs even deeper.

Labour holds six of the seven existing Māori seats. But the contests are about much more than the party holding its ground.

The seats remain Te Pāti Māori's avenue to Parliament, given it is again unlikely to reach the 5 percent threshold.

Polling of the electorates is not considered wholly reliable but it suggests close contests between Labour and Te Pāti Māori are likely in three of the seven seats - Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, Te Tai Hauāuru, and Hauraki-Waikato.

There are plenty of sub-plots to watch out for too - National is standing candidates for the first time in two decades, and there is a reasonable chance the youngest MP in 170 years could be elected in Hauraki-Waikato.

The electorates have also been a source of one particular piece of misinformation that's circulated during the campaign. Some people seem to think being on the Māori roll means you get an extra vote on election day, but that is not true. No matter the roll you're on, you get two votes; one party vote and one electorate vote.

More on the election campaign:

Meka Whaitiri

Meka Whaitiri, pictured alongside Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer soon after she announced her defection from Labour earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone


This is likely to be the closest race amongst the Māori electorates. The seat is a Labour stronghold, held by the party since its establishment in 1999. Parekura Horomia was the MP until his death in 2013. Meka Whaitiri won the subsequent by-election for Labour and has held the seat since then.

But in May, Whaitiri defected to Te Pāti Māori, resigning from the Labour Party after more than 10 years. Her resignation shocked the electorate. She is still standing in the seat but for Te Pāti Māori. Labour is standing a new candidate, Cushla Tangarere-Manuel, who previously worked as the chief executive of Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby.

So the question is: Will the electorate stay loyal to Meka Whaitiri? Or will it stick with Labour?

Polling by Curia published last month put Tangarere-Manuel at 33 percent and Whaitiri 25 percent. But with 29 percent of those polled at the time still undecided, it could come down to a knife edge.

Ata Takakaraina from Vision NZ is also standing.

The electorate covers the eastern North Island, with the main centres including Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, and Wairarapa, as well as most of the Hutt Valley and Wainuiomata. Other population centres in the electorate include Wairoa and the Tararua District.

Soraya Peke-Mason

Labour's Soraya Peke-Mason is one of four wāhine competing for the Te Tai Hauāuru seat Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

Te Tai Hauāuru

This seat was flung wide open when incumbent Labour MP and speaker of the house Adrian Rurawhe announced he wouldn't stand for re-election in the electorate, opting to go list-only.

Four candidates are now competing for the western electorate. Labour's Soraya Peke-Mason is stepping up against fierce competition from co-leader of Te Pāti Māori Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, National's Harete Hipango and Paris Winiata from Vision NZ.

This race between Peke-Mason and Ngarewa-Packer is likely to be close. A poll last month put Peke-Mason at 34 percent, only five points ahead of Ngarewa-Packer (29 percent). As co-leader of Te Pāti Māori, Ngarewa-Packer has a strong profile, which could boost her chances.

But Peke Mason is not new to campaigning in Te Tai Hauāuru. She ran for the electorate in 2011, losing to the Māori Party's Tariana Turia by a few thousand votes. She has opted to not stand on the Labour Party list.

National's Harete Hipango, who is the first National Candidate to stand in a Māori seat in more than 20 years, had 12 percent support in the poll. Undecided voters tallied 16 percent.

The seat covers the western North Island and is the second- largest Māori electorate by land area. Te Tai Hauāuru includes the cities of New Plymouth, Whanganui, and Palmerston North. Voter turnout for Te Tai Hauāuru was 69.7 percent in 2020.

Nanaia Mahuta and Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke

Both Nanaia Mahuta and Hana Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke have close ties to the Kingitanga. Photo: RNZ / Supplied / Erica Sinclair


This seat looms as one of the biggest stories of election night.

Established in 2007, it has been held by Labour's Nanaia Mahuta since its inception. Mahuta first entered Parliament in 1996 when she was 26 years old.

Mahuta, a senior Cabinet Minister, is not on Labour's list so must win the seat in order to make it back to Parliament. She faces Te Pāti Māori's 21-year-old Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke, who would be the youngest elected MP since 1853 if she won.

Polling suggests the race might be much closer than expected. A Curia Market Research poll had Mahuta on 36 percent, followed closely by Maipi-Clarke on 32 percent, and 14 percent undecided.

Maipi-Clarke has been a high profile candidate and the polling suggests she can expect good support from younger voters. The Curia poll gave her 43 percent support among those aged under 40, compared with 30 percent for Mahuta, though turnout among rangatahi is typically lower.

Mahuta, 53, is the country's longest serving female MP and has held multiple portfolios - including minister of foreign affairs. If Maipi-Clarke unseats her, it would be a huge loss for the Labour Party and its Māori caucus, as she is one of their most senior and experienced MPs.

Both Nanaia Mahuta and Hana Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke have close ties to the Kingitanga.

The Hauraki-Waikato electorate covers part of Auckland and Waikato regions - from the Manukau Harbour to south of Te Awamutu across to Matamata in the east, and Kawhia in the west. The electorate also includes the Coromandel Peninsula. In 2020, the voter turnout was 68.1 percent.

The main urban centres and towns within the electorate include Hamilton, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Pukekohe, Papakura, Matamata, Cambridge, Thames, Whitianga, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Te Awamutu, Raglan, and Kawhia.

Rawiri Waititi

Rawiri Waititi is expected to hold Waiāriki, keeping Te Pāti Māori's place in Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone


Te Pāti Māori will be expecting to hold this seat with its co-leader Rawiri Waititi polling well.

Waiāriki was formed in the 1999 election and first held by Mita Ririnui (Labour) till 2005. Te Ururoa Flavell (Māori Party) is the longest serving MP to have held the seat from 2005 to 2017. Tamati Coffey took it narrowly in 2017 but Waititi defied the odds to win it back in 2020, crucially returning his party to Parliament.

Labour's Toni Boynton and Vision NZ's Charles Tiki Hunia are also contesting the seat.

Waiāriki covers the Bay of Plenty region and Taupō district. The eastern border begins at Cape Runaway and extends southwest to south of Tūrangi and the Kaimanawa Mountains. It also incorporates the western edge of Lake Taupō and the area west of Rotorua. Waiāriki includes the major population centres of Tauranga, Whakatāne, Rotorua, and Taupō. In 2020, the voter turnout was 69.3 percent.

Peeni Henare

Peeni Henare, the current MP for Tāmaki Makaurau and a Cabinet Minister for Labour. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Tāmaki Makaurau

Peeni Henare, a Cabinet Minister in the Labour Government, is expected to hold this seat.

A Curia poll had Henare at 37 percent, 10 points ahead of Te Pāti Māori's Takutai Natasha Kemp (27 percent), National's Hinerewa te Hau (9 percent) and Darleen Tana for the Greens (6 percent).

Henare's majority was just shy of 1000 in 2020, though he faced more prominent challengers in John Tamihere (Te Pāti Māori), and Marama Davidson (Greens). Since his win in 2020, he has also built his profile as a minister.

Tāmaki Makaurau is the most urban of the seven electorates, and also the smallest in terms of land area. It includes the west Auckland suburbs of Kelston, Glen Eden, Glendene, Te Atatū South, the Henderson Valley, and the west coast communities from Te Henga (Bethells Beach) to Whatipu. It also includes many of the suburbs around Manukau and Waiheke island. Almost 90,000 people voted in the electorate last election, with a turnout of 65.1 percent.

Tamihere was the first MP for Tāmaki Makaurau, from 2002 to 2005, for the Labour Party. Pita Sharples (Māori Party) followed from 2005 to 2014. Henare has held the seat for Labour since 2014.

Ngātiwai Trust Board CEO Hūhana Lyndon (Ngātiwai, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Whātua, Te Waiariki, Ngāpuhi) has announced she will be running for the Te Tai Tokerau seat for the Green Party. Photos are taken outside of Te Tii Waitangi marae on 4 February, 2023.

Huhana Lyndon, the Green Party candidate in Te Tai Tokerau, is likely to make it to Parliament via her party's list. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

Te Tai Tokerau

The northern-most electorate has regularly been a focus of national attention. Tau Henare (NZ First/Independent/Mauri Pacific) was the first MP for Te Tai Tokerau from 1996 to 1999. After that, Dover Samuels (Labour) held the seat from 1999 to 2005, before Hone Harawira won it for the Māori Party in 2005 and 2008, then MANA in 2011. Kelvin Davis has held it for Labour since 2014.

Davis, deputy leader of Labour, should hold the seat again. Competition will come from Mariameno Kapa-Kingi of Te Pāti Māori who ran last election, and newcomer Huhana Lyndon for the Greens, who has previously worked as CEO of both the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust and Ngātiwai Trust Board.

Both Kapa-Kingi and Lyndon are well-known wāhine Māori in the electorate. Lyndon is likely to get into Parliament on the Greens' list if she fails to defeat Davis. Experienced campaigners Maki Herbert (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis), and Paturiri Toautu (Independent) are also standing.

The electorate covers all of Northland from Te Rerenga Wairua/Cape Reinga to the North Shore suburbs of Auckland city. The southern boundary bisects the Auckland Harbour Bridge and incorporates the west Auckland communities of Henderson, Swanson, and Waitākere, but not the ranges.

Other cities or towns within the electorate include Warkworth, Wellsford, Mangawhai, Dargaville, Whangārei, Kaikohe, Paihia, Kerikeri, and Kaitaia. In 2020, there were 38,173 registered voters, with a voter turnout of 69.4 percent.

Labour Ministers are sworn in by the Governor-General in a ceremony at Government House.

Labour's Rino Tirikatene-Sullivan Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Te Tai Tonga

An enormous electorate, Te Tai Tonga covers all of the South Island/Te Waipounamu, Rakiura/Stewart Island, Rēkohu/the Chatham Islands and crosses over the Cook Strait to include Wellington and parts of the Hutt Valley.

Labour's Rino Tirikatene-Sullivan has held Te Tai Tonga since 2011 and is highly likely to return for a fifth term. The family name has been across the seat for 76 years.

In 2020, he won the seat with a 6855 margin ahead of Tākuta Ferris of Te Pāti Māori. Both are standing again, along with Rebecca Robin from Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis and Geoffrey Karena Fuimaono Puhi (Independent).

Background of Māori seats

Māori seats give whānau Māori representation in New Zealand's Parliament. Every area in Aotearoa is covered by both a general and a Māori electorate.

The number of Māori seats is determined by the number of voters on the Māori roll - in 2018 there were 247,494. The electoral boundaries are reviewed every five years, and the next review will take place before the 2026 General Election.

Previously, Māori could only switch between rolls every five years, but the law was changed last year to allow switching at any time, except in the three months before the election.

Being on the Māori roll doesn't affect who you can give your party vote to, it only changes the options for the local electoral candidate. For example, someone on the Māori roll living in Wellington won't vote in the Wellington central electorate, they'll vote in the Te Tai Tonga electorate, which covers all of the South Island and Wellington.

The Māori seats are filled in Parliament in the same way as the general electorates. The party votes of people on the Māori roll are factored into the overall allocation of seats in Parliament just like in general electorates.

Dedicated electoral seats for ethnic or indigenous groups exist in other places across the globe; in Lebanon, Fiji, Zimbabwe, Singapore, India, and the United States dependencies of Guam and Puerto Rico.

You can find your electorate here

* Curia Market Research is the only company to have polled Māori electorates. Their polls include a total of 500 registered voters in each electorate by landline, mobile and online. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 per cent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Stay up to date with Checkpoint's live election night special with Lisa Owen, Corin Dann, Jane Patterson and reporters around the country from 7pm to midnight on Saturday, running alongside live data and blogging with electorate and party vote results on RNZ's website. RNZ Asia will also be running its own live blog in Chinese.

实时更新报道, 尽在RNZ中文! 本周六下午5点起,以中文实时追踪2023年新西兰大选。各党票数、全国选情 、计票进展与最终结果,第一手资讯尽在 www.rnz.co.nz/chinese,本周六,我们与您一同关注大选。

Then on Sunday, stay tuned for the Morning Report special from 8am to 10am, examining the results, the drama, and the changes from the night before: with polls this close, exactly who's in government will likely come down to negotiations.

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