Contest for Māori seats heat up

9:44 am on 14 December 2016

Wheeling and dealing in the Māori seats is on the cards according to a Labour Party source.

Labour currently holds six of the seven Māori seats and the Māori Party has recently announced it is going after them all at next year's election.

RNZ understands Labour is taking a close look at whether its current MPs can win.

Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare

Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

A Labour Party source told RNZ that the MP for Tāmaki Makaurau, Peeni Henare, has been under pressure to stand on the party list but Mr Henare will not comment on that suggestion.

"I've made it clear that going forward I will be contesting the seat and the list conversation will have to be something the party has."

Mr Henare said Labour had talked to him about next year's election.

When asked whether he had been asked to stand aside Mr Henare said he hadn't.

"They have talked to me about my intentions for next year and I've made it clear I'll be standing in Tāmaki Makaurau."

Asked whether there is any threat to him standing in the Tāmaki seat or whether he had been asked to stand on the list, Mr Henare said he remained committed to his electorate.

He said leading into the election there had been no 'awangawanga' or pressure put on him.

Mr Henare has a good whakapapa for politics.

His great grandfather Tau Henare was the MP for Northern Māori until 1938 so when Peeni Henare won Tāmaki Makaurau in 2014, it was expected by his iwi.

But high profile names such as urban leader John Tamihere and entertainer and writer Moana Maniapoto have been thrown around as possible contenders to challenge him in the Auckland-based seat.

John Tamihere

Former Labour MP John Tamihere. Photo: Supplied

Mr Tamihere would not respond to questions about whether he is being asked to stand for Labour again, while Ms Maniapoto said she hadn't been approached this year.

Labour won six Māori seats at the last election under the leadership of Nanaia Mahuta, a veteran politician of 20 years.

The MP for Hauraki Waikato, Nanaia Mahuta, said Mr Henare had worked hard for his people.

"Look the Māori caucus is quite buoyant and as we head towards the 2017 elections if there is any pressure it will be on the Māori Party finding its candidates. If they don't announce before Christmas time I think that will send a huge message to the constituency that they're not serious about their bid."

RNZ contacted Labour Party President Professor Nigel Haworth for comment but he didn't return the call.

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