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Three Māori women to headline battle for East Coast seat in upcoming election

September's election battle for the North Island’s biggest general electorate, the East Coast, will be headlined by three Māori women.

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National's Anne Tolley has been the East Coast MP for 15 years, but her retirement from politics has thrown the contest for the seat wide open. Source: 1 NEWS

The electorate covers a large area, comprising of the East Cape, Eastern Bay of Plenty and the main centres of Gisborne and Whakatāne.

National’s Anne Tolley has been the East Coast MP for 15 years but her retirement from politics has placed the seat up for grabs.

In June, the National MP announced she would retire after this year’s election.

Labour list MP Kiri Allan and National's Tania Tapsell are tipped as frontrunners with the Green Party's Meredith Akuhata-Brown also in the mix.

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Ms Tapsell says it’s “wonderful” that there are three Māori women, not just for the East Coast, but for Māori as well.

Their battle crystallises a long-term trend for the region.

In 2005, nearly 60 per cent were on the Māori roll voting for the Māori electorate, but by 2018 voters were almost at 50/50 between the Māori and general roll.

Victoria University political scientist Maria Bargh says one of the biggest reasons for that is choice.

“Māori want the same selection of candidates that they can see in general electorates," she said.

Ms Allan's says her focus will remain on the primary sector and trade which are "critical to us coming out the back of Covid".

While Ms Tapsell is setting her sights on roading and water access.