Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Harawira weighs up forcing early vote

Hone Harawira. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Hone Harawira. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Independent MP Hone Harawira is considering resigning and forcing a byelection in his Te Tai Tokerau election, despite the election being just seven months away.

Mr Harawira will launch his new Mana Party on Saturday and the Herald understands he and his strategists are considering forcing a byelection to seek a mandate for his new party from Te Tai Tokerau voters.

It would be a deliberate echo of Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia's departure from the Labour Party over the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004.

At the time, she also resigned from Parliament and won her Te Tai Hauauru seat back in a byelection under the new Maori Party banner.

Matt McCarten, who is now helping with Mr Harawira's new party, was one of Mrs Turia's campaign managers for the byelection.

No byelection is required if the MP resigns within six months of an election - that would be on May 28.

Labour leader Phil Goff said any such move by Mr Harawira so close to an election would be "irresponsible, farcical and a reckless waste of valuable taxpayers' money".

"If Hone Harawira wanted to force a byelection, why didn't he do it at the time when he left the Maori Party?

"Why would someone who claims to be concerned about people suffering because of the rising cost of living want to waste taxpayers' money on such an irresponsible political stunt?"

On average, byelections cost about $500,000. It also costs parties and candidates, many of whom are struggling to fundraise for the election because of the economic strain on the country and the focus on giving to the Christchurch earthquake.

Mr Harawira and Mr McCarten did not return calls yesterday.

But he has already missed the deadline for allocated radio and TV advertising time before the election.

Parties had to apply by March 17 to be eligible for the allocation and the Electoral Commission yesterday confirmed no application was received from Mr Harawira, who left the Maori Party on February 22.

Strict rules apply to broadcast ads during an election campaign.

Labour did not stand a candidate against Mrs Turia in the Te Tai Hauauru byelection. It is unlikely to show the same mercy to Mr Harawira, whom Mr Goff has ruled out working with in a future Government.

But yesterday Mr Goff said it was still a hypothetical situation.

It is understood strategists hope a byelection would refocus attention on Mr Harawira and his new party and notch up a first win against the Maori Party, giving him a strong platform to campaign from in the general election.

It could also force the Maori Party's hand in deciding whether to stand against him or cede the seat.

The Maori Party's campaign team is due to meet this week to decide whether to adhere to the agreement with the Harawira camp not to challenge each other in the Maori seats.

- NZ Herald

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