Getting Hone Harawira to promote participation in next year's census was like trying to find pearls in a flax bush.
The Te Tai Tokerau MP and Mana Party leader identified so closely with those responsible for the undercount of Maori in past population tallies that he was ambivalent about the benefits census 2013 will bring them when it is held on March 5.
"My constituents feel disconnected from society. Census information does not signal a bright new world for them," Mr Harawira said.
"We should take pride in filling out the census, but I don't feel it advances the Maori position in society."
Mr Harawira, NZ First leader Winston Peters and Labour list MP Shane Jones had all agreed to help Statistics NZ community liaison adviser Rowan Tautari boost the number of Northland Maori filling out census forms.
Mr Peters made his contribution last month, saying the Government needed accurate population figures for economic and social planning, such as for the construction of hospitals. Mr Harawira conceded, "Winston is dead right", but added the worth of economic planning would elude someone who was "a cynical Maori, laid off work, apathetic and with no love for the system".
However, the Mana leader agreed the census forms, to be delivered to households from February 16 to March 5, 2013, would produce valuable information quantifying the degree of poverty in his electorate. It was good to have those statistics when making a case for the desperately poor in the North, Mr Harawira said.
It sounded like his constituents should all stand up and be counted so he had good ammo to use when fighting for their cause in Parliament. And if the census undercount Maori were also not on the Te Tai Tokerau electoral roll, a further increase in their public participation could increase his poll majority.
Mr Harawira laughed, but that suggestion wouldn't wash with him.
"I don't do it [be an MP] because of the numbers. I'm prepared to be counted or discounted in the next election," he said.
Maori were estimated to number 673,500 or 15 per cent of the population of 4.41 million last year.
census 2013 questions can be answered online as well as on the forms delivered to households. For more information check out www.census.govt.nz.