Joking aside, Maori Party candidate spells out balance of power

By Yvonne Tahana

Na Raihania joked that he could help John Key with his literacy if he wins the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection.

The Maori Party candidate's name stumped the Prime Minister earlier this week. Mr Key guessed "Ha" before endorsing Mr Raihania.

In Gisborne yesterday, Mr Raihania, 50, who began his day campaigning with party flag waving on the bridge into town before 8am, laughed at the gaffe.

"I had a bit of a giggle. He may have to take advantage of our literacy/numeracy programme to help him out a bit. I don't take it personally at all."

Asked if being endorsed by a National PM was helpful or more of a hindrance in terms of Maori voters, Mr Raihania said: "That shows quite clearly we're not in bed with National - he can't remember my name. Strange bedfellows. But that's really important, we're distinctive, we're not National, we're our own identity."

But at two engagements with younger students at the Eastern Institute of Technology and at a private training institute, Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell and Mr Raihania took quick classes in realpolitik - they spelt out what a Maori/National Party relationship looked like at the moment.

They started with some electoral maths - 61 was the magic governing number.

National had 59 of its own votes, but were backed up by one-man-support-bands in bedraggled Peter Dunne, who they joked was "done", and Act's John Banks, who was dealing with a civil prosecution.

Neither of those two seats are gone for National but the pair argued that the situation made the Maori Party's three MPs just a little bit more valuable, and one more seat would put the party in a far stronger position.

Explaining the sums to potential voters isn't the sole strategy the party is banking on here, especially in a seat that the late Parekura Horomia held by force of personality over five terms until his death earlier this year.

Mr Raihania took an unsuccessful tilt in 2011 and came second by 6541 to Mr Horomia.

On Turanga FM, a local iwi radio station, he said he was "proud" to have lost to a good man.

Still, he hopes that run will have given him an edge against the three other main contenders - Meka Whaitiri for Labour, Te Hamua Nikora for Mana and the Green Party's Marama Davidson.

Sharples, Flavell drop leadership quarrel ... for now

Dr Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell were in Gisborne yesterday campaigning but they were sharply reminded of the impact of their leadership tussle on ordinary party members.

At private training establishment Turanga Ararau about 50 students and staff listened as Waiariki MP Mr Flavell and Ikaroa-Rawhiti hopeful Na Raihania pitched for their votes.

During question time one tutor told Mr Flavell he didn't like the "fighting" within the party: "I've been a member for eight years and I'm losing faith."

Mr Flavell told the man: "I accept that ... I'm happy to take it on the chin and catch up later."

Later Mr Flavell told the Herald: "I wouldn't classify it as fighting ... It's not as if we're fighting ... everything's all right.

"It hasn't been an issue on the campaign 'cause we're just getting on with it. We're all as one ... but know that at some point in time a discussion around leadership is going to take place."

Dr Sharples, the Maori Affairs Minister, said the leadership question would wait till another day. The health of the Maori Party meant a win in Ikaroa-Rawhiti was needed.

"We've got to try and really win this. We're down to three, [Tariana Turia] Tari's leaving and I'm getting on.

"His [Te Ururoa's] challenge was a fair challenge. It doesn't mean to say we hate each other.

"We're breaking our backs to be united. We've dropped the leadership quarrel for now."

- NZ Herald

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