Whakatau 2023 | Hauraki-Waikato

Hauraki-Waikato candidates see rangatahi as the key to Parliament

Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke was not expecting a poll of the Hauraki-Waikato electorate to show she was doing really well, so much so she told a Whakaata Māori debate tonight said she had come prepared to laugh off the result as “if I’m not No. 1 in the chart, at least I will be No.1 in your heart.”

However with just four percentage points between herself and incumbent MP Nanaia Mahuta according to the Whakaata Māori-Curia Market Research poll, Maipi-Clarke is in touching distance of doing the previously unthinkable and taking the Hauraki-Waikato seat.

She says it’s a sign the youth in the electorate are finally finding common ground with Te Pāti Māori.

“Our electorate holds the youngest population in Aotearoa. So 48.9 per cent are actually under the age of 40. It’s about looking at our rangatahi, but again it’s about a huge range of whānau.”

Maipi-Clarke stuck to her messaging that has seemingly worked so far in this campaign for Te Pāti Māori – the Kohanga Reo generation is here.

In her opening statement, she referred to the incidents of burglary at her home, calling it the “hardest week of my life” but said she was continuing to “stand up and fight”.

‘Kohanga reo generation’

“When I first started this I had reporters laughing at me, why would she do this? I am here, and I am making sure that our voices are heard. Not just for us, but the seven generations’ worth of sacrifice our tūpuna have had to make to ensure we have a kōhanga reo generation.”

Nanaia Mahuta, who has served the electorate for more than 20 years, said it has been an honour to represent her people in Parliament and is determined to use her experience to continue to do so for another term.

“What I’ve learned is that in order to represent and advocate for our electorate, we need to use the skills that we have available to change things for the better and that’s what I’ve done.

“In leadership and experience and also bringing the heart of your community to the decision-making table, I’m asking for your support in Hauraki Waikato, once again.”

Maipi-Clarke, who wasn’t yet born when Mahuta first entered Parliament said she didn’t put her hand up to compete against her “whaea Nanaia” but about raising a voice for the Māori who didn’t vote last time.

“It’s not about us. It’s actually about the voices that aren’t being heard. More than 180,000 Māori did not last election. It is about making sure our people are included. I can represent them.”

‘Improved lives for 77,000 children’

Mahuta rejected claims the Labour government has dropped the ball when it came to helping whānau suffering the impacts of Covid-19 and global factors contributing to rising inflation.

“There are a number of things we have done to improve outcomes for whānau. We’ve indexed core benefits to salaries, rather than to CPI-adjusted rates. The Children’s Commissioner has said that step alone has improved the lives for at least 77,000 children. We’ve targeted the way we utilise tax to be able to support a number of initiatives that will be able to help low and modest-income whānau.”

Maipi-Clarke, who at 21 said she was aware of her limited experience in life, argued Te Pāti Māori’s food sovereignty policy would help alleviate the pressures and highlighted her work in restoring knowledge of maramataka Māori and kūmara growing in Waikato as examples of what she can provide to the electorate.

“Our kura were able to come onto our māra kai and grow the kūmara and take it home. A whole grocery worth. There are so many models out there. If we look at the cost of living and Te Pāti Māori’s tax policy, whānau will be able to get eight weeks of free kai and 15 per cent off GST on all kai.”

Mahuta also denied a wealth tax, as suggested by Te Pāti Māori and the Greens, would make a difference. Instead, she said supporting community programmes had been proved to be more effective.

“Take for example the way we supported a number of organisations to initiate programmes like Māra Kai in their community. That happened as a result of Covid.

“A wealth tax may be a policy of potentially a coalition partner but it is not a policy that we have costed that we deliver on. So we will be very clear on that. GST off food is one of the policies we will support.”

‘Aunty’ of the House vs youngest candidate in 170 years

Mahuta, at 27 years in the House has been given the unofficial title of Mother of the House – although she prefers “Aunty” of the House (National’s Gerry Brownlee shares the title to be called Father of the House) – and reflected on the achievements she’s made during her career, particularly for the electorate.

“When I think about advocacy in our electorate to have a stand-alone wharekura after the track record of schools like Rākaumanga – Te Wharekura o Ngā Taiatea, Te Wharekura o Kirikiriroa, those are all positive achievements that have all evolved as a result of a long track record in our electorate.

“When I think about an organisation that nurtured me, the Māori Women’s Welfare League as well as Te Whakaruruhau the Māori Women’s Refuge, both organisations have grown and flourished female leadership and I am very thankful to them.”

Should she do enough to earn a 10th term in the House she will go past former Southern Māori MP the late Whetū Tirikatene-Sullivan as the longest serving Māori wahine in parliament who served as an MP for 29 years.

Mahuta has seen off the challenges of all and sundry through her time in Parliament – 2008 being the closest anyone has come to toppling her when Angeline Greensill of the Māori Party came within 888 votes.

Win over rangatahi, win the seat

Both candidates agreed motivating rangatahi to vote would be crucial to victory.

“We have to appeal to the range of issues that might motivate rangatahi to vote,” Mahuta said. “But rangatahi aren’t voting, I think, solely on what’s in it for them. I do think they are voting on environmental issues and I do think they are voting on issues that might impact on their parents and their grandparents.

“When I think about the range of issues, what we are doing in healthcare, what we are doing in terms of superannuation might also be a motivating factor for rangatahi as well as issues around education, their own health, housing aspirations and climate,” Mahuta said.

Public Interest Journalism