21 Sep 2023

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti: Labour defector Meka Whaitiri trails in latest poll

11:47 pm on 21 September 2023
Meka Whaitiri

Meka Whaitiri now represents Te Pāti Māori. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

A third of voters remain undecided in the Māori electorate of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, a new poll is showing.

Interest increased in the race for the seat when former Labour minister Meka Whaitiri switched to Te Pāti Māori in May.

A Whakaata Māori/Māori TV poll has revealed Labour's newcomer, Cushla Tangaere-Manuel, has an eight-point lead over Whaitiri.

But the field remains wide open, with 29 percent of those polled still undecided on which candidate they will choose. Vision NZ candidate Ata Tuhakaraina is yet to make the leaderboard.

The poll, conducted by Curia Market Research, was completed on Tuesday and puts Tangaere-Manuel at 33 percent and Whaitiri on 25 percent.

In her first full interview since the defection, she told 1News' Breakfast show she did not feel heard, and had "joined the party where I know my voice and those I represent will be heard".

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Labour's Māori MPs said at the time Whaitiri never raised concerns about not being listened to - and said it didn't match their own experience.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti has been a Labour stronghold since it was established in 1999. If undecided voters were to swing behind Whaitiri, she would become the first non-Labour MP in the electorate's 24-year history.

Tangere-Manuel, a first-time candidate and the former Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby chief executive, isn't on the Labour Party List and must win to enter parliament.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidates Labour's Cushla Tangaere Manuel (left) and Te Paati Māori's Meka Whaitiri (right) after a debate at Ōrongomai Marae in Upper Hutt.

Labour's Cushla Tangaere Manuel, left, with Meka Whaitiri after a debate at Ōrongomai Marae in Upper Hutt earlier this month. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith

The Whakaata Māori poll showed Labour is still the preferred party at 33 percent, ahead of Te Pāti Māori on 24 percent.

However, Te Pāti Māori is gaining ground among younger voters, with 39 percent support from those aged 18-39, compared to Labour's 24 percent.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti covers the entire eastern side of the North Island from the East Cape to Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and down to Hutt Valley. It includes some of the areas hardest hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Poll respondents identified cost of living as their leading issue at 23 percent, followed by the economy and employment, both on 9 percent. Males cared about employment whereas females were more concerned with health and housing.

Whakaata Māori released the poll results during a live debate with Tangaere-Manuel and Whaitiri on Thursday night.

Five hundred registered voters were polled by Curia by landline, mobile and online , with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent.

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