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  • Te Tai Tonga: Big names and one big electorate

    By Hania Douglas| Hania.Douglas@tvnz.co.nz | @itshaniawithanh

    The key word for the Te Tai Tonga electorate is big.

    Big region, big names, big issues.

    In terms of land mass, it’s the biggest electorate by far. That’s because it covers all of the South lsland, Stewart Island, and part of Wellington

    Incumbent Labour MP, Rino Tirikatene, comes from a Māori political dynasty. Before it was Te Tai Tonga, the electorate was known as the Southern Māori seat. His Grandfather, Sir Eruera Tirikatene held Southern Māori from 1932–1966. His Aunt, Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan then took over from 1967–1993.

    Rino Tirikatene has a background in economic development, and before entering Parliament, he worked in the region in many different capacities.  

    Māori Party candidate, Mei Reedy-Taare has a background in journalism and iwi politics. Like Tirikatene, she also has good pedigree. The daughter of educationalists, Sir Tamati and Lady Tilly Reedy, she credits her political nous and strong Māori principles to her parents.

    Rounding off the big 3, Greens candidate Metiria Turei needs no introduction.

    Turei entered Parliament in 2002 and hit the house with a bang, singing part of her maiden speech before the rules allowed it. Her exit from Parliament is even more dramatic. She recently announced her resignation as Greens Co-leader and from Parliament as the political maelstrom over self-confessed historic fraud offences became too unbearable.

    But Turei will still be on the hustings in Te Tai Tonga seeking party votes for the Greens. It’ll be interesting to see how many electorate votes she picks up on the way and how much of a bearing that will have on the final result.

    Issues concerning the region include the protracted rebuild of Christchurch and Kaikoura. Housing is also big. But while the rest of the country is talking about getting rid of the Māori seats, many Te Tai Tonga voters are dreaming of an eighth seat, as they say that the sheer size of the electorate makes it almost impossible for any MP to represent them adequately. 

    For now, it appears the race for the Te Tai Tonga is not going to be easy, and it’s going to be interesting to watch how the game unfolds for our country’s largest electorate. 

    (Aired on 29/08): Electorate size wise, Te Tai Tonga is the biggest of all Māori electorates with three candidates vying for the seat and the right to carry Te Tai Tonga issues to parliament.

    (Aired on 07/09): We meet the candidates for the biggest of the Māori seats, Te Tai Tonga. As reporter Hania Douglas discovered, they're all keen to represent the electorate, as but they all have different reasons and issues they want to tackle.

    (Aired on 13/09): Seven years ago, Christchurch was hit with the first earthquake of what was to become their new norm, but while the rebuild effort continues, locals and hauora providers say the bigger issue has been the post-traumatic stress, with mental health statistics skyrocketing and people turning to substance abuse to cope.

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