Waiariki: The TV Star versus the Minister
The signs suggest the shark will gobble up anyone brave (or silly) enough to swim with him in Waiariki.
The credentials of Te Ururoa Flavell are formidable.
He’s the Māori Party Co-Leader.
He’s the Minister of Māori Development.
He’s an articulate speaker in both English and Māori.
He’s a 61 year old workaholic and fit as a buck rabbit.
He’s been MP for Waiariki for 4 terms.
At the last election, Flavell cleaned up against Rawiri Waititi (Labour) and Annette Sykes (Mana).
Waititi got around 6000 votes, Sykes got 5500, Flavell - close to 10,000.
But in 2017, the political landscape has dramatically changed in Waiariki.
Waititi has switched allegiance to the Māori Party; Sykes is another who won’t be swimming with the shark this time due to the Mana-Māori Party agreement for the Māori electorates.
So you’d think with a fat majority of 4000 and another 5000 plus on offer from Mana voters, Flavell will be a shoo-in for September 23?
Labour’s Tamati Coffey doesn’t think so.
Buoyed by the so-called ‘Jacindamania’, the former TV presenter will be using all of his charm, charisma and profile to wrest Waiariki off Flavell.
He’ll also seize on the electorate’s desire to see a change in government, an administration that has been supported and propped up by the Māori Party for several terms.
Homelessness, unemployment and poverty are also core issues Coffey will attribute to the government and once again, the Māori Party will be guilty by association.
Finally, Coffey will have a crack at Te Ururoa for his push to reform Māori land law, an agenda that has drawn criticism from a number of quarters like the Māori judiciary, the legal profession and landowners.
So make no mistake, there will be a real fight happening in Waiariki.
But true to his name, Te Ururoa will fight to the death as the political stakes are so high.
Flavell knows only too well if he loses Waiariki that would also spell the end of the Māori Party’s 12 year presence in Parliament.
(Aired on 24/08): We head to Te Waiariki to find out what voters want from their candidates, Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell and Labour candidate Tamati Coffey.
(Aired on 04/09): It's the only seat of the seven to be held by another party other than Labour. The Māori Party's co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell has fought off other candidates over the last twelve years to hold the seat. However, this year, local Rotorua businessman and former TV star Tamati Coffey has thrown his hat in the ring taking on the big task of trying to make a change.
We head into the Waiariki electorate and into the Urewera and Whirinaki, down to Te Whāiti and Minginui. Voters in those areas feel they've been forgotten by the Government. Public works there are rare. Nevertheless, a new agriculture venture has been established which will open up employment opportunities to residents.