9 Mar 2017

Māori King backs Rahui Papa for Hauraki-Waikato

8:20 pm on 9 March 2017

Māori King Tuheitia Paki has endorsed tribal leader Rahui Papa to contest the Hauraki-Waikato seat - a huge insult to the current MP, and member of the King Movement, Nanaia Mahuta.

Kiingi Tuheitia making his annual speech at Turangawaewae in August 2016

King Tuheitia - pictured at Turangawaewae in August 2016 Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

At his 10th coronation celebrations last year, Kingi Tuheitia said he was supporting the Māori Party because he was disappointed Labour would not consider them as possible coalition partners if they won this year's election.

Kingi Tuheitia endorsed Mr Papa, of the Māori Party, in a speech today at Paaraawera Marae in Kihikihi.

He said Ms Mahuta, who is his cousin, was off to the back benches where there was "no mana".

Rahui Papa - Pamārire leader

Rahui Papa Photo: Supplied

Ms Mahuta said she was not at the poukai but had seen some references to the speech on social media.

"You know it beggars belief really, it's quite bizarre, but I'll get on with the job."

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the party's aim was to unite Māori.

He said he was "hugely excited" by the endorsement.

"Clearly we want to win it and we don't deny it's going to be a hard slog but that's what elections are about."

Nanaia Mahuta

Labour Party MP Nanaia Mahuta: "[It] is time for people to think seriously about their choice when they get to the polling booth." Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

One elder, who did not want to give their name, as they said it was too early to speak publicly, said the sidelining of Ms Mahuta was unprecedented.

Ms Mahuta was close to Kingi Tuheitia's mother, Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, and is the daughter of the Māori Queen's brother, Sir Robert Mahuta.

Ms Mahuta said she would be keeping on focusing on the issues that mattered in her region.

"When people are sleeping in cars, when they waiting at the hospital for four hours to get seen, when things are getting tough, it's signalling that is time for people to think seriously about their choice when they get to the polling booth."

Rahui Papa is a tribal elder of many hats - including historian for the King Movement, which was founded in 1858 with the aim of uniting Māori.

He is also the chairman of Te Arataura, on the leadership board of Waikato-Tainui and the senior advisor to the Māori King.

Mr Papa, however, has a huge margin to win back from his rival and relative. Ms Mahuta has held the seat for 18 years and has considerable standing in the region.

Today at the Paraawera Marae.

Paaraawera Marae Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes