Election 2011 News

Te Tai Tokerau candidates trade jibes

Updated at 11:10 am on 24 November 2011

The gloves have come off in the contest for Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau in the final week of campaigning.

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

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, the MP for the electorate since 2005, is up against robust opposition from Labour's Kelvin Davis and Maori Party candidate Waihoroi Shortland.

The tension between Mr Harawira and Mr Davis has been simmering since the Labour list MP slashed Mr Harawira's majority in the June by-election.

During the fourth week of the election campaign the two traded jibes in the media: the Mana leader said Kelvin Davis was advising people to vote for the Maori Party if they weren't voting for him and he wondered if Phil Goff knew.

Kelvin Davis retaliated saying Mr Harawira was feeling the heat and showing signs of desperation.

"I was asked in an online chat if I wasn't to win Te Tai Tokerau, which party would I prefer to see win, and I said the Maori Party because the Mana Party's policies are actually going to be fiscal failures."

He said the rest of Mr Harawira's policies would depend on funded from the party's "Hone Heke" tax which Mr Davis argues will not bring in any government revenue.

In the June by-election, Mana said a vote for Mr Harawira would see both him and Kelvin Davis elected - Mr Harawira as electorate MP and Mr Davis from the Labour Party list.

However Kelvin Davis says he won't make it back as a list MP unless Labour wins 30% of the party vote and he's intent on winning the electorate.

He says Hone Harawira has no mates in Parliament and no one will work with him so if he does hold the seat he'll be powerless to achieve anything for Te Tai Tokerau.

But the Mana leader has made a strong and popular case for his policies at public meetings and debates and dismisses the "no-mates" jibe as churlish.

Mr Harawira says he doesn't expect to be going into Parliament alone and thinks candidates Annette Sykes, John Minto and possibly former Green MP Sue Bradford will join him.

Should that happen, Mr Harawira says, he foresees no shortage of mates in Parliament.

"We're comfortable with the fact that a number of the things that we're talking about are similar to what the Greens and similar to what Labour's talking about."

Hone Harawira says that despite the Labour leader Phil Goff ruling him out as a coalition partner all the Maori MPs have said they could very easily work with him.

He says he was told by an MP that Mr Goff's position is his personal stance, while Labour's position is that it doesn't rule out anybody.

The confounding factor in the campaign for Te Tai Tokerau may well be the Maori Party's new candidate Waihoroi Shortland.

The affable and respected orator, actor, broadcaster, youth worker, and former Ngati Hine chairman has a high public profile.

He says he's enjoying his first campaign more than he expected, and if he's not kissing babies, at least he's not scaring them.

"They love me! I've got one of those faces babies love.

"A little three-year-old kid looked up at me one day and said 'you've got a humpty dumpty head' ... and they loved you."

All three candidates say they'll be campaigning right up to Friday night for the right to represent it.