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Labour bids for a strong Maori presence

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/05/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

A new batch of Maori list candidates and retention of the seats it already holds will give Labour a strong Maori presence in its post-election caucus.

That's what leader Andrew Little is aiming for - he says that when the votes have been counted Labour will have at least 12 Maori MPs.

But he doesn't know that for sure, and the Maori Party will be trying to upset his confident prediction.

There are seven Maori roll seats and Labour holds six of them. The Maori Party holds the seventh.

In the political landscape that existed in 2014, Labour could confidently expect to retain those six seats in this year's election.

But the landscape has changed.

In February the Maori Party and Hone Harawira's Mana Party struck a deal.

Harawira will stand in Te Tai Tokerau, the Northland seat he lost to Kelvin Davis in 2014, and the Maori Party won't contest it.

Mana will stand aside in the six other seats, giving the Maori Party a clear run.

In March, Maori King Tuheitea controversially endorsed the Maori Party.

It's difficult to know whether that will make much difference, but it's more likely to help the Maori Party than hinder it.

Another change since 2014 is that Labour's Maori electorate MPs have decided not to go on the list.

They have no safety net - if they lose, they go.

It's a show of strength, of confidence in their ability to retain the seats, and to rob the Maori Party of the "two for one" argument.

That argument, used in 2014, was that Labour voters could safely support a candidate from another party with their party votes because the Labour MP would get back into parliament on the list anyway.

In this new landscape, Kelvin Davis is in dangerous territory.

He beat Harawira by 743 votes in 2014.

Davis gained 9712 votes. The combined Maori Party/Mana vote was 11,548.

In two other Maori electorates, Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru, the combined Maori Party/Mana vote was more than Labour's winning candidates gained.

And the deal is good for Te Ururoa Flavell in his Waiariki seat.

The Maori Party co-leader must hold it to ensure the party survives, because it isn't going to get five per cent of the party vote.

Flavell's 2014 majority was a solid 3889, but Mana's Annette Sykes gave him a good run and captured 5482 votes.

With her out the way, Flavell must be considered safe.

Labour wants to demolish the Maori Party and nearly did in 2014.

It's going to be a lot more difficult this time, and Labour's bid for a strong Maori presence could be sunk by stronger support for the Maori Party in electorates where Mana will no longer split the vote.

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