Politics | Politics

Cruising down to Highway 35 - Labour candidates hit the ground on the East Coast

Former Waiariki MP, Tāmati Coffey says he is ready to fight for the East Coast.

“It’s going to be a short, sharp campaign.

“I’m ready for it,” he told after flying into Gisborne today.

He and fellow Labour Party candidate, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti hopeful Cushla Tangaere-Manuel are traversing State Highway 35 seeking votes from the locals hit hard by the wild weather throughout this year.

Tangaere-Manuel, herself a proud Ngāti Porou uri says the journey is about seeking the “blessing” of the East Coast people, and supporting each other’s campaigns.

“I te wā i tae atu au ki te Whare Paremata mō tētahi paku whakatau, i reira a Tāmati. Mai i taua wā kua tino tautoko ia i ahau.”

Needs ‘an experienced champion’

(When I arrived at Parliament for a little whakatau, Tāmati was there. And from that moment onwards he has been supporting me.)

Labour has already committed $257m towards repairing the fragile road - the only link for residents to the rest of the country.

“The East Coast has been through so much this year and it needs an experienced champion in Parliament.”

After announcing his planned retirement from Parliament earlier this year, he put his hand up to replace good friend, and current East Coast MP, Kiritapu Allan, who will step down at the election following recent controversies and health issues.

He has Allan’s support to campaign for the seat she won in 2020, defeating National candidate and current Rotorua Mayor, Tania Tapsell by more than 6,000 votes.

“I asked her for her support, she gave me her support and she was there at my confirmation as well as the candidate.”

Whanau connection

He now has a little under three months to win the seat and see off the challenges of National’s Dana Kirkpatrick, Jordan Walker of The Greens, Michael Howe of ACT and DemocracyNZ’s Chris Robinson.

The campaign is also a chance for Coffey to reinforce his paternal roots on the East Coast. The pair’s first stop was at Uawa (Tolaga Bay), where his grandmother Lucy hails from. Speaking to a packed audience at the local fire station, he revealed another close connection he has to their soon-to-be former MP.

“Kiritapu has a daughter, Hiwaiterangi. I am Hiwaterangi’s dad.”

Despite living in Rotorua, he is determined to win the East Coast seat, which stretches from Gisborne, around the East Cape to Maketū in the west and a southern boundary that encompasses Murupara and parts of Te Urewera. Its population centres include Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Kawerau, Edgecumbe.

Coffey has already appeared to win over some of the Ngāti Porou-based East Coast voters, confirming Waiapu as the correct river referred to in the song Pōkarekare Ana - a source of contention between the East Coast tribe and those of his mother’s people of Rotorua.