The Māori Party’s Rawiri Waititi appears to have taken the Waiariki seat from Labour’s Tāmati Coffey. Photo / George Novak
The Māori Party is likely back in Parliament after a spectacular battle for Waiariki between Rawiri Waititi and Labour’s Tāmati Coffey – with Waititi taking the seat.
The final count may come down to special votes but Waititi has his nose out in front.
As well as that spectacular battle, it was the number of Māori running in this year’s general election that caught the attention of political analyst Chris Wikaira.
“I can’t remember any election where there were as many Māori candidates with a real shot of winning whether they be Labour or National in general electorate seats,” he says.
“The electorate as a whole is now more comfortable with the idea that a Māori can represent in their general seat, because history shows us that Māori wining general seats is the exception, not the rule.”
He says the biggest exception has been Winston Peters.
“He has been the only Māori who won different general seats for two different parties [winning Hunua and Tauranga for National and Northland for NZ First].”
With Peters, a core of Māori veteran political power will exit Parliament with the departure of New Zealand First.
He also praised The Māori Party candidates, with party co-leaders John Tamihere for Tāmaki Makaurau and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer for Te Tai Hauāuru only losing by a small margin.
“If they can keep the group of candidates they had for this election together, to stand the next time, they potentially are in really good shape,” he says.
Tāmati Coffey is one of the 15 Labour Māori list and electorate MPs that have a seat in Parliament for the next term.
Wikaira says Māori eyes are going to be on those Māori MPs to be able to achieve big results.
“The expectation of what they can achieve might even be unrealistic,” he says.
“The Māori MPs for Labour campaigned on ‘we’re here, we can do that business, we’re a part of the big party’. They have to push really, really hard with their leadership to get things that Māori want.”
After the 2017 election, Te Ao Māori News reported the numbers of MPs of Māori descent were 13 in the Labour Party, eight in the National Party, six in New Zealand First, one in the Green Party and one in the ACT Party.
Labour has more Māori MPs now than they did in 2017 with 15; Dr Shane Reti and Simon Bridges are in Parliament for the National Party; and ACT and Green have three each; and Rawiri Waititi for The Māori Party.