Campaign battle underway for politicians vying for Māori electorate seats

Campaigning for the seven Māori seats, some of the country's largest electorates, is well underway.

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Seven seats are up for grabs, including in some of the country's largest electorates. Source: 1 NEWS

Waiariki is one massive electorate, stretching from Cape Runaway, through the Bay of Plenty, and over to the western edge of Lake Taupō. 

Contenders there all have name recognition.

Incumbent Tāmati Coffey is a former television presenter, the Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi is a well-known tribal figure, while Vision NZ candidate Hannah Tāmaki co-founded Destiny Church with her husband.

"If we do look at those three contenders you've got the dynamic of individual personality and it will be the wit and the charm of these individuals that will see the success of their candidacy in this election," Te Arawa FM's Mercia Yates says.

But with Labour holding all seven Māori seats and riding high in the polls, some say the seats aren't as pivotal this time around.

"This is the first election probably in four cycles since the rise of the Māori Party in 2004 that they’ve not been a factor, and that’s stunning," political commentator Matt McCarten says.

He says it’ll take a superhuman effort for the Māori Party to get back.

That means unlike past elections, there's been no real talk about coalition deals.

Another factor is Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's popularity with Māori voters, which has flow-on effects to the strategic value of the seats.

"It’s all boring. I mean some might call it an election, some might call it a coronation," McCarten says.

Labour list candidate Willie Jackson says a "boring" election isn't his problem.

"I don’t care how people see [the Māori electorates], the reality is they’re important in the overall scheme of things," he says.

"They could be the difference in terms of who the Government is. 

"Last time Waariki was incredibly important and so they remain an important part of the whole kaupapa. One thing’s for sure, we aren’t taking this for granted."

The Māori Party lost Waiariki in 2017, killing its parliamentary run. With low party polling in 2020, the seats are crucial to the party's survival.

"We've got to win, we've got to win and we've got to get a voice back in Parliament that's not controlled by non-Māori," Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere says.