Whakatau 2023 | Whakatau 2023

Te Tai Hauāuru debate shows commitment to electorate will be the difference on election day

Labour’s Soraya Peke-Mason holds a slender lead in the race to be the next Te Tai Hauāuru MP but, whoever does win the electorate on October 14 will be committed to being the face of the electorate in Wellington.

Peke-Mason, Te Pāti Māori’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and National’s Harete Hipango are the three leading contenders for the seat and faced off in the first of seven electorate debates on Whakaata Māori.

As it is across the country, the cost of living was the biggest issue among voters polled, with 27 per cent identifying it as the most crucial.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Ngarewa-Packer, who trails Peke-Mason by five percentage points said it showed whānau were concerned with living with dignity, and having a quality way of life was crucial to reaching their “true potential”.

“That critical part of the cost of living is dealing with poverty. The issue is we have had no big parties come up with wealth tax. And that’s one of our big bastions. We have to ease the pain, we have to flip around the tax system that has been designed to make it easier for the rich to get richer, and our whānau continue to work hard and struggle.”

Peke-Mason, a current Labour list MP seeking to retain the seat for the party that has held it since 2014, said she was prepared to continue the work carried out by current Te Tai Hauāuru MP and Speaker of the House, Adrian Rūrawhe in advocating for the large district stretching from Tawa in Wellington to Manawatū up the western coast of the North Island to Taranaki and across to King Country and south Waikato.

‘A lot to contend with’

“I am not scared of hard work, I am known as a person who does hard work, who perseveres and gets stuff done. We have a long way to go, yet we need another three years to continue the programme. The frameworks that we’ve got for hapu, marae, iwi to continue doing the great work that you all do out in our electorate to close those gaps, to aspire for your people in your electorate, in your hapu in your iwi.”

She defended her party’s record of supporting kaupapa Māori projects despite having endured a difficult six years on the benches of power.

“We’ve had a lot to contend with over the last six years. A pandemic, terrorism, flooding, White Island. We’ve had setbacks, we get that, but the thing is we have gained $1 billion every year for the last three years that are kaupapa Māori policies. That is evidence in itself.”

Hipango, the first National candidate to stand in a Māori seat for 20 years, is a distant third in the Whakaata Māori-Curia Research poll but is buoyed by the results, showing she has 12 per cent of support from those polled, while the party’s support has increased by 10 points on its party vote in 2020.

“It’s a big jump from 2020 and the 3 per cent party vote bearing in mind that the waka for the National party was on to the water in Te Tai Hauāuru just in March this year, and Parliament rose just a few weeks ago. That’s certainly reassuring but, importantly, it’s providing the option to our people in the electorate that there is more than just Labour and Te Pāti Māori and Greens. The National Party is back here and we’re mobilising.”

In response to a question by panellist, Chris Wikaira about her ability to convince National party leadership to keep supporting initiatives for Māori like Whānau Ora, or advocate for transformational policies that will be inherited by future governments Hipango says she absolutely can do that.

‘Enabling and empowering our community

“The bottom line is we will continue to invest because we recognise the power and importance of enabling our whānau.”

She added the difference between a Labour and National government was Labour centralised the control of kaupapa like Whānau Ora into central government, whereas National supported the ‘mana motuhake’ of communities.

“Mana motuhaketanga is about enabling and empowering our community, decentralising and bringing it back out to the power base, the power of our people in place. Whānau Ora is part of that bottom line.

The commitment is there in terms of recognising what was in place in 2010 with Tariana [Turia] and the leadership of John Key and Bill English alongside Pita Sharples and the support of Whānau Ora and the investment of government resourcing, which is not just about pūtea but the people and bringing it back out to our people on the ground because that is where it is most effective.”

Public Interest Journalism