Election 2014

22 Nov 2011

Western Maori candidates united on fighting poverty

10:40 am on 22 November 2011

All of the candidates standing for the Te Tai Hauauru seat are unanimous on one issue - lifting Maori people out of poverty.

They also admit they face a mammoth task competing against the incumbent MP, Tariana Turia, who has firmly held the seat since 2002.

The electorate covers the west coast of the North Island, starting from Porirua through to Manawatu, Whanganui, Taranaki, up to Kawhia and across to Tokoroa.

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Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has held the seat for eight years - winning comfortably by a majority 7817 in the 2008 election. Her iwi are the people of the Whanganui river - Te Atihaunui, Ngati Apa and Nga Rauru.

Mrs Turia entered Parliament in 1996 as a Labour list MP, but left the party in May 2004 over the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

She says creating better job opportunities is top of her list, but it is about quality and sustainable work - which comes from making sure young people get the best education they can.

Mrs Turia says she does not want Maori job seekers just to take any job - she wants them to see education as being the critical pathway forward for them. Gaining higher qualifications will ensure they don't just take the first off, last on job options - it will be a career where they can compete with anybody to do anything that they really choose.

Tariana Turia says too many Maori students have failed in the education system and it is time to start assessing what it can do to turn around the negative statistics.

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Labour candidate Soraya Peke-Mason was born in Tokoroa and raised in Whanganui and married into the Mason whanau from Ratana Pa - a Labour Party stronghold since 1932.

She says for generations, Maori voters have favoured her party and would be happy if they voted like they did in the 2008 election with 50.66% giving Labour their party vote.

Mrs Peke-Mason says she sees whanau struggling to feed their children everyday and pay for basic food staples such as milk and bread and has seen first-hand mothers filling their babies' bottles with soft drink instead.

A political novice, Frederick Timutimu, is standing for the Mana Party. His whakapapa connections to the seat are through his Ngati Raukawa iwi in Tokoroa.

Mr Timutimu is realistic about his chances - saying it is going to take a miracle for him to take votes off Mrs Turia.

He says raising the minimum wage, getting more people into work and getting rid of the goods and services tax (GST) altogether are his top priorities.

All the candidates agree that the MMP voting system should be retained.