Tamaki Makaurau electorate: Housing an issue for city Maori

By Yvonne Tahana

The last in the Herald's electorate series explores Tamaki Makaurau, the Auckland Maori seat, and the unique challenges candidates face

Campaigning in the city-based Maori seat is totally different to the other six more rural electorates. Photo / Natalie Slade
Campaigning in the city-based Maori seat is totally different to the other six more rural electorates. Photo / Natalie Slade

The underdog tag does not fit well for Labour MP Shane Jones as he trails incumbent Tamaki Makaurau MP, Pita Sharples.

On paper it is a heavyweight fight and there was a theory floating around earlier in the year that the advent of Mana would allow Labour to come through the middle as Hone Harawira's party and the Maori Party cannibalised each other.

Last election, Dr Sharples won 64 per cent of the vote. A recent Te Karere DigiPoll survey had 58 per cent of voters sending their tick his way again. Mr Jones trailed with 23 per cent, followed by Mana's Kereama Pene on a respectable 14 per cent.

The Maori seat is uniquely different from the six other seats which mix large tracts of rural New Zealand - where iwi concerns inform voters to a larger extent than in Tamaki Makaurau. This electorate is based exclusively in Auckland where most Maori live away from their tribal roots or don't know them.

Harvard-educated Mr Jones is a son of the north from Te Aupouri. A list MP since 2005 after a stellar career at Te Ohu Kaimoana (Maori Fisheries Trust), in the past he's been touted as future leader of his party.

Campaigning here is different from Te Tai Tokerau, the seat's northern neighbour. There, politics tend to be played out in natural Maori institutions such as marae.

"Tamaki is totally different. You have to go to the work sites, you have to go to social service providers, you go to the wanangas and it's good if you can make it to sports events at the weekend," Mr Jones said.

Dr Sharples has a huge advantage having lived in the city for more than four decades - his roots go into kura kaupapa, kapa haka, virtually anything to do with cultural revitalisation.

Jones, who attended Maori boarding school St Stephen's, hasn't lived here.

Nevertheless, he says he likes campaigning. Working across the isthmus with other Labour candidates was a highlight as were the political panels, a stage where Jones' ability to drop stinging, classic one-liners with aplomb is part of his armoury.

But other elements such as being told he had no chance were dispiriting. "The poll the other week wasn't too flash. You know as well as I do in Maori politics, personality is equally as important as policy."

He seems resigned to a situation where voters will back his party - Labour enjoys good support off the party vote in the electorate, garnering 49.1 per cent at the last election and is likely to win that battle - and vote for Dr Sharples.

The pair have a collegial relationship, expressing mutual respect when talking about each other. Dr Sharples said his strong faith in his electorate meant he'd been able to campaign for candidates in Te Tai Tonga and Ikaroa-Rawhiti.

Both believe housing in the region is a huge issue. Dr Sharples says he needs to do more to advocate for Housing New Zealand tenants affected by development in Glen Innes which may see many moved out of their homes while the area undergoes a multimillion-dollar upgrade, with no guarantee they'll be allowed back.

Mr Jones, however, believes a lack of supply across the city is a "shocker" for families and could be exacerbated by inadequate Auckland Council plans if the Government doesn't step in with a borrowing project to alleviate the problem.

- NZ Herald

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