Election 2020: Battle for Waiariki seat comes to a head

WAIARIKI:
• VOTES COUNTED: 20,709- 98.7%
• LEADING CANDIDATE: Rawiri Waititi – 9,415
• 2ND CANDIDATE: Tamati Coffey – 8,994
• Margin – 421
• PARTY VOTE LEAD: Labour Party – 61.1%
• 2nd PARTY:Māori Party- 17.2%

Māori Party’s Rawiri Waititi says he is feeling “really elated” the Waiariki seat could swing his way.

Current MP Labour’s Tāmati Coffey, who is trailing by more than 400 votes, has not conceded the seat saying he will wait until special votes are counted.

But if he wins, it will be one great birthday present for Waititi, who had a “coastie type of day” yesterday also celebrating his birthday.

He spent the day down at the beach on East Coast, having a BBQ with family and friends and diving for kina and crayfish.

Waititi said the people voted “strategically” to get more Māori voices into Parliament, seeing as Coffey was high enough on the Labour list to secure a spot.

“We are really excited … we have done something that people would not have expected of a minor party.”

The atmosphere at the party was “electric” as waiata and haka erupted as the results grew more positive, with Waititi saying there was no other way to describe it.

Rawiri Waititi at his election night party in Te Kaha.  Photo / Supplied
Rawiri Waititi at his election night party in Te Kaha. Photo / Supplied

Waititi had been in contact with former Māori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell who congratulated him and said to Waititi that he was “really proud” of their campaign and how they ran their line of kōrero.

He said Coffey was right in saying it was not over as the special votes could make a difference but he hoped those had also voted strategically to have them both in parliament.

There would be more Māori advocating for Māori in parliament as a result of voting Māori Party in and it was a pity other electorates did not see the same, he said.

“We are relashing our waka.”

They would start planning for 2023 today

as they would only be getting stronger, he said.

Waititi would be in Auckland today visit marae and meet with the Māori caucus.

Rawiri Waititi at his election night party in Te Kaha.  Photo / Supplied
Rawiri Waititi at his election night party in Te Kaha. Photo / Supplied

Coffey said there would be no concession just yet as with a margin so slim he believed he could catch up with special votes.

He said he would be sending Waititi a message saying something about what a “cliffhanger” and a “nail-biter” the night had been.

He would be congratulating his Labour colleagues after the results.

Coffey was holding a BBQ today for all his volunteers and he said although the next few weeks would be an anxious one as additional votes rolled in, there would still be a sense of “relief”.

Towards the end of Coffey’s election party, he was hugging his supporters as they left and saying “the shows not over yet”, with many repeating it back to him.

He said at the last election he picked up about 400 special votes so he would wait a couple of weeks for those to be counted.

He said instead he would focus on the bigger win and that was for the Labour Party.

“We have showed that our Prime Minister is the one who should lead our country.”

In response to Labour’s win, he said it was brilliant and well-deserved. Coffey would still be a member of parliament on the labour list.

Tamati Coffey watches results in Rotorua.  Photo / Andrew Warner
Tamati Coffey watches results in Rotorua. Photo / Andrew Warner

Earlier in the night when the race looked tighter, including at 9.40pm when 59 per cent of the votes were counted and the results were tied, Coffey said it was a “nail biting game” and “the sweat is real”.

“There is no where else I’d rather be than here with my friends and whanau.”

He said he believed he campaigned as best he could.

Earlier in the evening, Waititi said he was not feeling anxious as the people had spoken. He said it was “rocking in the Ka” with hundreds coming from all over the electorate coming down.

People had come in “flocks” to show their support, he said.

“The Māori Party waka is in the water and ready to go.”

Meanwhile, close to 50 people congregated at Destiny Church for a small party for Vision NZ leader Hannah Tamaki. Tamaki herself hosted a campaign party at the Pullman Hotel.

Tamaki said she was “optimistic but realistic” and her campaign was vital in building a platform and clearing some perceptions of her.

“I wanted to give it a good go. I’m not a political person but I am a people person.

“I’ll be happy with even just a few little numbers.”

She said she planned to give it a good go for another six years. She had enjoyed people being able to get to know her for her, not just her husband.

Hannah and Brian Tamaki at the Pullman Hotel in Rotorua tonight.  Photo / Caroline Fleming
Hannah and Brian Tamaki at the Pullman Hotel in Rotorua tonight. Photo / Caroline Fleming

election-interactive
Tamati Coffey in Rotorua tonight.
Tamati Coffey in Rotorua tonight.

Waiariki is the New Zealand parliamentary Māori electorate that was first established in 1999.

Labour MP Tamati Coffey currently holds the seat in the Waiariki electorate. Photo / File
Labour MP Tamati Coffey currently holds the seat in the Waiariki electorate. Photo / File

The electorate includes population centres in Tauranga, Whakatāne, Rotorua and Taupō and includes Te Arawa and Mataatua iwi.

The 2017 election sent shockwaves through the electorate as former broadcaster and Labour MP Tāmati Coffey won the seat with 53.7 per cent of votes, defeating the Māori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell who had held the seat for more than a decade.

Former Māori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell pictured looking very disappointed on election night in 2017. Photo / File
Former Māori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell pictured looking very disappointed on election night in 2017. Photo / File

It had been a tight race, with Coffey only edging Flavell by a margin of 1719 votes.

This left the Māori Party without any electorate seats and no parliamentary representation.

In the 2013 census, there were 83,361 people in the Waiariki electorate.

About the electorate
Median age: 25
Culture: Close to 90 per cent Māori, 45 per cent European and 4.8 per cent Pacific peoples.
Language: About 25 per cent speak Māori and 95 per cent speak English.
Education: No qualification – 30 per cent. Level One Certificate – 15 per cent.
Religion: No religion – 42.8 per cent. Christian – 38.7 per cent.
Median income: $54,100 in 2013 – the lowest of any Māori electorate at the time.
per cent. Not specified – 14.9 per cent.
Voter turnout in 2017: 68.6 per cent.

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