23 Aug 2017

Hauraki-Waikato voters weigh their options

9:40 am on 23 August 2017

Voters in the Hauraki-Waikato electorate are making their choices between Labour incumbent Nanaia Mahuta and Rahui Papa for the Kīngitanga-backed Māori Party.

About 20,000 people turned out to vote in the Māori electorate in the last election, when Ms Mahuta won 60 percent of the vote.

This time around, with commentators calling the contest for the seat a close two-horse race between the two cousins, every vote counts.

The electorate stretches from Auckland's Papakura, taking in Waiheke Island and going as far south as Cambridge and west to Kawhia.

In Kaiaua, a small town on the coast south of the Hunua Ranges, Puhi Thompson basks in the sun sharing a coffee with his uncle, Maire Tamihana, outside the town's pink dairy.

Puhi Thompson is undecided about whether he'll split his vote.

Puhi Thompson is undecided about whether he'll split his vote. Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

A self-employed carver, he says it's not a glamorous lifestyle. Uncle Maire is in retirement. Both are voting this election, hoping for a change of government.

"I voted for Angeline Greensil from the Māori Party but she didn't get in, so we kind of felt like our votes didn't count," Mr Thompson says.

"Well, we want a left-wing government so time to get out and vote. I've had enough of National."

Mr Tamihana has been living in Kaiaua for the past 30 years with his wife, who passed away last year.

He hasn't voted much in his life and says he never considered any of the candidates any good, but that's changed.

"I'm older, taking notice of what is going on. I think we have to stand up now."

He explains healthcare has been difficult for him and his late wife to access.

"Before my wife passed away in November, we were travelling to Hamilton about three times a fortnight and that was real hard."

Maire Tamihana

Maire Tamihana has not voted much before, and remains undecided on who he will vote for, but he wants to vote. Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

For Mr Thompson, the environment is a big issue and he's considering giving his party vote to the Green Party.

He says the condition of the local waterways has convinced him; he says the rivers are part of the pataka kai (food source).

"It's the same as the moana for our traditional kai: watercress, tuna, koura ... It is impacting, because the environment is being polluted. I've seen watercress growing in cow shit, I've seen tuna swimming around in cow shit.

"They'll still survive, but is it good for you, I don't know."

Daniel Ratahi, down from the marae, who lives in the kaumatua flats, says he will also be casting a vote this election.

Daniel Ratahi lives in the kaumatua flats in Kaiaua.

Daniel Ratahi lives in the kaumatua flats in Kaiaua. He says he's voting for Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

He already knows where his tick is going.

"Nanaia Mahuta, from this area."

In the heart of the seat is the Waahi Pā, the king's marae, where Nanaia Mahuta and Rahui Papa both hail from.

Māori King Tuheitia, Ms Mahuta's cousin, has publicly lent his support to the Māori Party.

Mr Ratahi says the front lawn he shares with five other homes is promoting a large hoarding for Mr Papa.

"Yeah, they put it there because we're part of the Kīngitanga too," he says.

"I don't know why he's doing that, cause he's going against his own cousin too."

Hauraki is a small iwi with around 15,000 members, but it makes up a good part of the Hauraki-Waikato electorate seat.

While 70 percent of the iwi has a formal qualification, it's not always the answer to work in the area, Mr Ratahi says.

"I'm a house husband at the moment, my wife works. There's nothing. Like, I'm 64 and there is no work around here."

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