23 Nov 2011

Maori Party faces challenge in Te Tai Tonga

8:21 pm on 23 November 2011

The Maori Party is facing a strong challenge in Te Tai Tonga, the largest geographically of the seven Maori electorates.

Radio New Zealand's Te Manu Korihi News profiles the seat.


Rahui Katene of the Maori Party won the seat last election by a majority of 1049.

Ms Katene descends from iwi within the electorate and says there's a chance she may lose votes from South Island tribe Ngai Tahu, which was not happy that the Maori Party supported the Marine and Coastal Area legislation.

Despite that, the lawyer and former Justice Department analyst told Te Manu Korihi News she is certain she'll win the race. "I have been around the electorate enough now that I know that .. the people of Te Tai Tonga, support me."

Ms Katene says her main policy aims are to have Whanau Ora rolled out across all government agencies so Maori can have more input. She also wants an alternative justice system for tangata whenua.


Labour's candidate, Rino Tirikatene, is a former chief executive of the Federation of Maori Authorities whose grandfather, Sir Eruera Tirikatene, was the first Ratana MP. He is the nephew Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan who served in Parliament for 29 years.

Mr Tirikatene says many Maori are struggling and he says his party wants to take pressure off households, with such pledges as increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and taking GST off fresh fruit and vegetables.

"The main policies we're pushing for are our cost of living policies, it's on growing our economy and also protecting our assets."

A lesser-known candidate is Clinton Dearlove of the Mana Party, who may take votes from the Maori Party because of the Marine and Coastal Area legislation.

His CV boasts an honours degree in microbiology, a bachelor's degree in human biology, and work as a teacher of Te Reo Maori.

Mr Dearlove is of Ngapuhi descendant, but says he has some ancestral connection to Te Tai Tonga.

He says areas Mana is aiming to improve include health, housing and jobs.

Contesting the seat for the Green Party is Dora Langsbury who is No 22 on the party list.