With the launch of Hone Harawira’s “Mana” Party this weekend, I cannot help but wonder whether his support is being overstated by his supporters. Of all the Maori politicians in Parliament, he alone has the ability to divide both Pakeha and Maori with his comments. His white “mofo” comment was heavily criticised by more moderate Maori, and his attacks on corporate Maori are unlikely to go down well in areas such as Tainui and Kai Tahu who are staunchly supportive of their Iwi leaders. How then will the seven Maori electorates vote in November? certainly, neither the Maori Party, Labour of the Mana Party will take a clean sweep – but which of those three will emerge as the dominant party?
The Maori Party will hold Te Tai Hauaauru, but will have to fight hard to retain Te Tai Tonga. Rahui Katene is a very intelligent and capable politician but she suffers from simply being unable to maintain contact with a seat which covers the entire South Island and Wellington, while fulfilling Parliamentary duties (Mahara Okeroa lost the seat in 2008 for this very reason).
Over in Ikaroa-Raawhiti, the impending retirement of Parekura Horomia, has opened a very intriguing three-way battle for the seat. As Morgan most expertly sets out, all three candidates are highly-qualified, have strong Runanga backgrounds and will represent Maori well. Chalk this up as a potential hold to Labour, although the Maori Party is in with a fighting chance because, ironically enough, of the Takutai Moana Act. Ngati Porou have remained outside the entire debate because sitting on Chris Finlayson’s desk is the Ngaa Rohe Moana o Ngaa Hapuu o Ngati Porou Bill. There is plenty of time between now and November for this Bill to pass into law and for Ngati Porou interests in the Foreshore and Seabed to be legally recognised.
Hauraki-Waikato is a potential win for the Maori Party. Nanaia Mahuta’s grip on the seat was severely tested in 2008 and Labour’s absolute policy of no asset sales has the potential to alienate many within Tainui who are ambitious for their future. Tainui is perhaps the most business-oriented iwi in the country (helped in no small part by receiving the first settlement back in the 1990s) and it does a good job ensuring that its profits are funnelled down to its Marae. Issues such as the foreshore and seabed and offshore drilling will only be of secondary concern compared to issues of economic development and environmental protection. As for the latter, the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 is likely to be paraded by the Maori Party as a great achievement for the hapu of the Waikato.
Moving north to Taamaki Makaurau and a straight two-way battle between Pita Sharples and Shane Jones is emerging. Jones has emerged relatively unscathed from the credit card scandal and poses a very real threat to Sharples to win over the hearts and minds of Taamaki. However, I tend to think that the mana of being Minister of Maori Affairs will see the Maori Party retain the seat.
Now it gets interesting – Waiariki and Te Tai Tokerau. And, ultimately, the winner of these seats will depend entirely on the decisions made by Hone Harawira in the coming weeks. Declare war on the Maori Party and he faces the prospect of an acrimonious battle with them on his home patch, thus opening the door for Kelvin Davis to claim the seat back for Labour. Davis is a well-respected, well-spoken, moderate Maori MP who will rise above the Maori Party-Mana Party battle. This seat is simply not worth the fight for the Maori Party. They will lose it, and it will not be a noble loss either.
As for Waiariki, I believe that Annette Sykes will stake a very strong claim for the seat. She is perhaps the only person with the mana and visibility of the potential candidates for the Mana Party to win an electorate seat alongside Harawira. Battle-hardened from a few decades in the Courtroom, she will certainly rattle a few cages in Parliament. Whether this is the image that Harawira wants his party to portray is, in itself, another question completely. As for Te Ururoa Flavell, it is clear that Harawira is after a bit of utu. He would love nothing more than to take on the man who had him thrown out of the Maori Party and beat him. And he might just be able to do it. When you look at where the vocal opposition to the Government is emanating from at the moment, a lot is sourced in the heart of Flavell’s electorate.
I have been known to be wrong in the past, but I am going to take a risk and set out my predictions for November. Feel free to bookmark this page and come back and mock me if (when) I get it wrong!
Te Tai Tonga – Maori Party, Labour a close second.
Te Tai Hauaauru – Maori Party, no real challenges.
Ikaroa-Raawhiti – Labour, to edge out a tight three-way battle.
Waiariki – Mana Party, but only if Harawira takes the fight to Flavell.
Hauraki-Waikato – Maori Party
Taamaki Makaurau – Maori Party, Labour paying the price of Jones’ indiscretions.
Te Tai Tokerau – Mana Party, unless Harawira takes on the Maori Party in which case Labour.