By Irena Smith| | @irenasmithtvnz

We’re calling the race for Hauraki-Waikato a battle royale.

That’s because the two protagonists, Nanaia Mahuta and Rahui Papa, have indelible links to the Kīngitanga.

Both have dynamic, impressive and immaculate credentials.

The Labour party incumbent, Nanaia Mahuta, is Māori royalty. She’s the daughter of the outstanding Māori leader, the late Sir Robert Mahuta. Sir Robert is the adopted son of King Korokī, so he is a brother to Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. That means Nanaia is King Tuheitia’s first cousin.

With more than 20 years in Parliament and experience as a cabinet minister, Nanaia would have to be the front runner in this race.

But her campaign for re-election has been jolted by King Tuheitia endorsing the Māori party candidate, Rahui Papa.

Papa might be a newbie to central government politics, but his profile in Māori politics – at a local and national level – is second to none.

He is known nationally as a strong and powerful voice for the Māori King. He is a former Chair of Te Arataura, the executive board of Te Whakakitenga. Te Whakakitenga is the legislative council of Waikato Tainui. Equally articulate in both Māori and English, Papa is also recognised as one of the key figures of the Iwi Chairs Forum.    

So with such pedigree and proficiency doing battle in Hauraki-Waikato, picking a winner won’t be easy.  

But something we know for sure - it’ll be a fascinating contest punctuated with drama and intrigue.

We wouldn’t expect anything less in a battle royale. 

(Aired on 23/08): We attended Koroneihana in Ngāruawāhia to find out what some of the voters are thinking on the ground.

(Aired on 01/09): We caught up with Māori Party candidate Rahui Papa to find out, how he hopes to out trump Māori royalty and Labour candidate Nanaia Mahuta in the race we've dubbed, a battle royale.

(Aired on 08/09): She’s the incumbent Hauraki-Waikato MP and has more than 20 years of experience in politics, but Nanaia Mahuta says this election has probably been the toughest due to the political allegiance of the Kīngitanga to the Māori Party.