The four leading Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection candidates share their final thoughts about their four-week campaign with Lawrence Gullery before people vote tomorrow night.
The Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election has been "like a hard out sprint race" which crosses the finish line on Saturday night when the Maori electorate's new MP will be revealed.
Mana Party candidate Te Hamua Nikora cast his vote in Napier yesterday and would be in Hutt Valley today, June 28, for some last minute campaigning, driving back up to Gisborne where he would spend election night, June 29.
At the Napier polling both, he told Hawke's Bay Today he had enjoyed being a first-time candidate and would contest next year's general election, no matter what the outcome of the vote tomorrow.
"I would say the by-election has been a hard out sprint race over the past three weeks.
"By far the key themes from each town we've gone to, to meet the people, has been poverty, housing and jobs."
He said the three issues were not exclusive to Maori but were common among lower income communities around New Zealand.
"And it just so happens that Maori make up the majority of that group."
Mr Nikora, a television entertainer, said it had been difficult to campaign against the other candidates who had similar policies, goals and aspirations. The candidates had agreed they would not campaign on personal issues but would focus on challenging policies.
Mr Nikora, Gisborne, thought his work as an entertainer and motivational speaker gave him the ability and advantage to connect with people.
"I'm not going to go down to Parliament singing and telling jokes. When I'm there I will do what is required by parliament to represent our people and policies.
"But when I am out of Parliament, I will be the laid back Te Hamua that everyone knows and can relate to."
His campaign in the past couple of days had included visits to Wairoa to encourage people to vote.
"I've been on the radio in Wairoa saying it doesn't matter who you vote for as long as you vote. You need to vote to have a voice, to make a difference, otherwise you're wasting your privilege to vote in the first place."
Mr Nikora said Mana Party leader Hone Harawira gave him one piece of advice before the by-election campaign started.
"He said just be yourself, don't change for anyone. Be true to yourself and your people."
Maori Party candidate Na Raihania, Bridge Pa, said he did not put much "stock on unscientific polls" which have suggested Mr Nikora was leading the by-election.
"The evidence of a good poll is in the work that we do as candidates on the ground. To win this election you must have earned the trust of the people and that is done kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with a results based kaupapa (policy).
"I have been working very closely on the ground and steadily gaining support across the electorate if anything there is a ground swell of support for my campaign as a steady politician grassroots based with a plan that is embedded in the future of whanau, especially rangatahi."
Mr Raihania said he had been working closely "on the ground" with people and steadily gaining support across the electorate.
"If anything there is a ground swell of support for my campaign as a steady politician grassroots based with a plan that is embedded in the future of whanau, especially rangatahi."
He campaigned against Parekura Horomia at the 2011 general election and his experience in the by-election confirmed what people were looking for in their new MP.
"Voters are looking for the person that can give them hope and inspiration someone who walks with the people and articulate their concerns from a position of knowing and feeling the mamae (hurt). Being the people's MP is all about being honest and respectful its about putting people first, every time. I have grown as a person, as a grandfather and a husband."
Senior community leaders in Wairoa were worried about rangatahi in their town not voting in the by-election, a trend the candidates had been challenged to turn around.
"Whanau will vote if they see a genuine interest in their community by a sincere person who cares for the people. It's about political parties being relevant to the constituents and that's our responsibility we have to up our game and not blame the voters."
Mr Raihania believed his strong profile from the previous election and his continued work in the electorate would help give him the upper hand when it came to counting votes.
"I am the known face from the last election. After the last election I stayed with the people when times were hard. I have faith in our people. They can trust me with their hopes dreams and aspirations. My Vision is for every child to be fully clothed and to be loved, secure employment for all whanau and every grandparent to feel warm and safe in their home."
Green Party candidate Marama Davidson has been busy in Hawke's Bay during the by-election, speaking at meetings held to discuss oil and gas exploration in Dannevirke, state housing in Maraenui and the Ruataniwha dam in Clive, to name a few.
"The big theme coming from those meetings at Clive and Maraenui is the lack of democracy and accountability, from central and local government, over decisions which have been made over the top of those communities.
"Maraenui meeting was huge and very much driven by grass roots people in the community. That group out there (Tu Tangata Maraenui) is outstanding, taking the government to task over its actions."
Ms Davidson has worked for the Human Rights Commission as an educator and works for the Owen Glenn Inquiry into family violence and child abuse.
She grew up in Whirinaki valley and had recently lived in Auckland and Ruatoria. She is a keen user of social media and has been lifting her profile online with constituents in Ikaroa-Rawhiti but it was a mixture of whakapapa, or family connections, with policies which really connect with people out on the campaign trail.
"In a Maori seat whakapapa plays a huge part but people also want to know what you stand for and what your vision is. What I've learnt during this campaign is that people really wants jobs but not at the cost of papatuanuku (environment).
"It has been a privilege to hear the stories and challenges people are facing."
Ms Davidson launched the Green Party's jobs package for Ikaroa-rawhiti in Hutt Valley yesterday. She would make delivering "thousands of sustainable jobs" her priority if elected on Saturday night.
The package included developing a true carbon price on forestry, to ensure investment in the industry which will encourage reforestation on Maori land.
"I think forestry is already a big industry and that is one we can get into straight away. In other areas, there are so many people calling out for the rail to be re-started, to get trucks off the road.
"There are also jobs to be created through conservation work, cleaning our rivers, waterways and dealing with erosion."
Ms Davidson said she thought people would vote for ahead of the other candidates because she brought "passion and practicability" to politics.
"I've got the most experience in working through the politics which shape our communities, backed by best policies of the Green Party. I will offer a calm, fresh new start for people.
Labour Party's candidate Meka Whaitiri said people in Ikaroa-Rawhiti had been "ignored over the past five years" by the government. People in communities like Wairoa had tried hard to be heard but "no one was listening".
"Central government must work harder to engage with local champions that are doing the yards on the ground to make politics relevant to our people again. I believe that if central government makes real change and enables communities to thrive, our people will participate and vote.
Ms Whaitiri, from Whakatu, and the chief executive of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated, said people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti were "hurting on the ground" partly because there were no jobs.
"Where there are, the wages are so low and the cost of living is so high, our people are barely surviving."
During her campaign, she visited Maraenui where there were more than 100 empty state houses but people nearby living in a three bedroom whare with 12 adults and five children.
They had been forced to live this way because they did not meet the Housing New Zealand eligibility criteria for state homes.
"It is hard visiting the stretches of roads where homes have been bowled down in Pomare (Hutt Valley), and meet the people that have been tossed out of their homes.
Ms Whaitiri said working on a campaign had required candidates to "bare your soul, day in and day out".
"Our people have had enough of small talk. They want to know who you are, where you come from and what you have done for our people.
"I feel constantly humbled by our people, full of grace, compassion and humility even in the hardest of times. I am grateful to the people I have met and for the stories you have shared."
Ms Whaitiri said she had "done the hard yards on the ground" from working at the freezing works and shearing sheds to the board rooms of iwi organisations and her career have her the experience over the other candidates to lead the electorate.
"I have lived and breathed this electorate, right from being a postie in Wainuiomata and playing representative sport for the Hutt Valley when I was younger, through to being a Treaty settlement negotiator for Rongowhakaata and the Chief Executive of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.
"I also understand Wellington. I spent 16 years in the public service, most of which was spent creating jobs, but I was also the Senior Advisor to the Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon Parekura Horomia. I love our people and I have served our people for my lifetime. Ikaroa-Rawhiti deserves a strong candidate that knows rohe, and is skilled to be an effective advocate and operator in Wellington."
Voting in the by-election closes about 7pm, Saturday, June 29. Preliminary details will follow later in the evening via www.electionresults.govt.nz