by Lahni Wharerau
Earlier in August I was asked to write an opinion piece for the recent developments in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate. It’s a bit of a read, I felt it is an opportune time to get the discussion circulating given the brevity of the time left for us to decide who will carry our voice to “The Lions Den.”
Wow Whānau, what a week in Te Tai Tokerau politics. Poor results in the Labour polls across the board this week prompted the resignation of Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party just seven weeks out from the election.
A four a.m call to Kelvin Davis sent him on an impromptu trip to Wellington, the result of which has quickly catapulted him to the heady heights of becoming Deputy Leader for the Labour party and the very first Maori in the role. The transition was so fast that he didn’t even have time to tell his family before the press conference announced it to the nation and the world. What a difference a day makes.
That feat in itself is a huge achievement and we should all be proud for one of our own Sons of Ngāpuhi becoming the first Māori in the role as Deputy Leader. Congratulations e Ngāti Manu.
It’s interesting to note however that this knee jerk reaction from Labour has actually given us in the north one of the best chances that we have had in some time to change the political landscape in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate. Overnight we too find ourselves in the fortuitous position of being able to vote strategically and put two sons of Ngāpuhi in the hot seats on the front benches, where it counts.
This overnight Labour caucus reshuffle poses both an interesting opportunity and dilemma for us here in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate. As deputy leader, Kelvin is guaranteed a list placement and presumably he can continue his work locally with a lot more pull, the downside of the promotion is the many responsibilities that go with the job.
Kelvin will be expected to not only deal with pressing issues on the ground here in our electorate but will have a myriad of tasks and engagements at both a national and international level. Great for the salary package and benefits but not as effective perhaps for the people of Te Tai Tokerau who are in a dire state on so many levels its almost overwhelming.
Meanwhile the return of Hone Harawira for the MANA Movement. Has fired up the people, from what I’ve seen first hand MANA are running a very effective campaign, and in the right place, where it counts, by canvassing, cold calling and door knocking to encourage voters to enrol on the Māori roll and to turn up on the day and exercise the right to elect a representative at all.
This is an issue of paramount importance not just in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate but across the board in all of the Māori seats, and as Tariana Turia reaffirmed this week in her statement to Waatea News. It’s a wider issue of Māori people losing faith in the political system and failing to vote. “I think that our people, you know some of them are just struggling to live day to day to day. Do they really care about elections and do they really understand the whole issue around the decisions that politicians make, impact on them every day. It’s one of the reasons why we believe that the mainstream political parties generally, don’t listen to Māori people because they know that they’re not their voting public,” she says.
MANA and The Māori Party already have an agreement whereby the Māori Party have not put anyone up in opposition to Hone and MANA in this electorate which is a wise move on the part if the Māori party and a major coup not just for Hone and MANA but for the people of the north.
The aftermath of the last election which saw Hone lose out by a paltry number of votes spread through our communities in the north like a wave. The disappointment was palpable and those of us that live here whether you voted for him or not were absolutely dumb founded, given his huge support in the community as to how that ever happened.
Whether you are a MANA movement member or not, if you live in the north, and care about our language, culture, people, social and political issues enough to go to any hui that discussed these issues. You would have seen Hone and Hilda Harawira there, they have both been at the forefront and on the frontline for the advancement of the people in Te Tai Tokerau in a countless number of ways for many years.
No doubt about it our whanaunga Hone certainly can be a polarising figure, and he knows how to speak his mind that’s for sure, and when he does it is often with a typical northland “dialect” that could make a sailor blush.
I will say this for Hone, he’s been a central figure in Te Tai Tokerau for decades and not only for the purpose of a political campaign or on a temporary basis.
That famous language and straight talk that he delivers is the voice of many of the people who live here. He is a staunch advocate for the people and the problems that are prevalent in our communities. I honestly can’t think of a better representative for the people given the other candidates. Hone is in touch with the community more so than any other Te Tai Tokerau MP that I have seen both in this race to the beehive and over the decades before his political career.
And I have no doubt that he will represent our electorate and the people in it in a more effective manner that Kelvin can given his new appointment.
The other contender in this sprint to the finish line, Godfrey Rudolph representing the Greens is relatively unknown and in my view, seems to have conceded to that fact by promoting a Green Party Vote. Godfrey’s campaign seems to be run predominately on the issues of the water quality in our environment and his passion for Te Reo Māori.
On the basis of a lacklustre performance and ill informed statements on a recent panel discussion on TVNZ’s “Marae” it seems that his disconnectedness from his constituents seriously impede’s his chances against long time community stalwart Hone Harawira and our current MP Kelvin Davis.
In my view a vote for Hone Harawira gives us, the people of Te Tai Tokerau a fighting chance to tackle the big issues that are facing our hapū and communities. Statistically we in Te Tai Tokerau are overrepresented in almost every negative aspect of society and it will require a unified approach to find lasting solutions, with Kelvin Davis coming in at number two on the list what better solution than to have two Te Tai Tokerau Members of Parliament where it counts, in the hot seats on the front benches.
During his term Kelvin Davis has been very effective in highlighting the abuse of prisoners in the system under the National administration chosen lead contractor SERCO commendable in itself and for those in the system that he has been able to help but consider that we need an MP in Te Tai Tokerau with a real commitment to the task at hand, and in our electorate should be focusing on keeping our whānau out of jail instead of waiting until they are in there before sending the ambulance to the bottom of the cliff. Or off attending to more pressing matters.
Which brings me to my final point. Watching the press conference it looked like our Ngāti Manu relation was both elated and a little overwhelmed at the prospect of this new role, and so he should be. Labour have long enjoyed a relationship with Māori that kept them in power.
Lets hope that our whanaunga doesn’t let the trappings of his new found power and responsibility go to his head.