Labour's Meka Whaitiri wins Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election

By Claire Trevett, Yvonne Tahana, Lawrence Gullery

Meka Whaitiri secured over 40 per cent of the vote. Photo / Paul Taylor
Meka Whaitiri secured over 40 per cent of the vote. Photo / Paul Taylor

Labour's Meka Whaitiri has won the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election but the contest between second and third has prompted Mana leader Hone Harawira to renew his call for the Maori Party to join forces with his Mana Party to stop a Labour clean-sweep of the Maori seats.

Whaitiri took the seat with a majority of 1,761 votes over Mana's Te Hamua Nikora and got about 42 per cent of the vote in the byelection in which turnout was just 35 per cent of the 33,000 enrolled voters.

Mana's Te Hamua Nikora beat the Maori Party's Na Raihania by about 500 votes, getting 25 per cent of the vote while Mr Raihiana got 20 per cent. That was slightly down on the 23 per cent he secured in 2012 against Parekura Horomia, whose recent death resulted in the by-election.

Mr Harawira said the result sent a strong message to the Maori Party that its relationship with National was a"death wish" in the Maori seats and it should consider a union with Mana.

"I said my door is open and always will be if it's something our people want."
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he would not rule out Mana and Maori parties working together in the future.

"But we parted a while ago and they have built up a separate party and we are not together. Anything is possible though, in politics, you can't discount anything."

Labour's Meka Whaitiri said she had a clear mandate from Ikaroa-Rawhiti, despite claims by Mana on the campaign that Mr Nikora was neck and neck with her.

"The people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti have placed their faith in me and I'm happy with that.

"When you go into any battle you go in prepared and you don't take your opposition lightly and I haven't done that. I've respected the other candidates and put my best foot forward and at the end of the day the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti have spoken."

Labour leader David Shearer said the byelection was the starting point for Labour to take back all the Maori seats and was effectively the end for the Maori Party.

"I think the Maori Party is sliding away now I really don't think it can build itself up."
Both the Mana and Maori paties have already said they will stand again in Ikaroa-Rawhiti in 2014.

Mr Nikora said he was pleased with his campaign and expected to run again.

"I'm proud of the fact that we've awakened a lot of people that weren't politically minded, who didn't think it was relevent."

He said Mana and the Maori Party needed to talk about the future.

"People in the electorate, just talking to normal grassroots people they didn't like to have to decide between Mana and Maori. They wanted us to roll together and I think that would be a beautiful thing."

Dr Sharples said the party would meet over the next few days for discussions before its annual meeting in a fortnight where its leadership issues are expected to be addressed.

Dr Sharples said other factors contributed to the result including Labour's party machinery and Nikora's high profile because of his time hosting Homa Te Pakipaki on Maori Television. However, Mr Raihania's portion of the vote was similar to the 2012 election and he had campaigned well, Dr Sharples said.

"While we are disappointed, we are proud of the way he ran his campaign. He was honest, committed and he focused on the issues that are important to the people of Ikaroa Rawhiti."

Mr Raihania was unsure whether he would stand again, but was confident of the future of the party.

For Labour, it was time to celebrate. The mood was buoyant at Whaitiri's election day headquarters at Manutuke Marae from the moment the first results came in. Her brother Robert said that Whaitiri's usual role at the marae was in the kitchen doing the dishes, but now was the time for her to step up.

Among the celebrations, there was still time to remember Parekura Horomia, whose death in April had resulted in the byelection. One woman at the marae, Lil Huata, had campaigned for him for four elections and wore a picture of Mr Horomia on her red jumper. She retired it last night.

Although Whaitiri's result was lower than Horomia's 60 per cent in 2012, she faced a stronger line up of candidates in both Nikora and the Green Party, which did not stand a candidate in that seat in 2012. The Greens' Marama Davidson secured 1,188 votes (11 per cent).

Provisional Results:
Meka Whaitiri (Labour) - 4368 (42%)
Te Haamua Nikora (Mana) - 2607 (25%)
Na Raihania - 2,104 (20%)
Marama Davidson - 1,188 (11%)
Michael Appleby (Aotearoa Legalize Cannabis Party) 161
Adam Holland (Independent) 13
Maurice Wairau (Indepedent) 27
* Total votes: 10,519. Turnout: 35.8%
About 1,635 special votes are yet to be counted and official results are expected by Wednesday July 10.

- Herald on Sunday

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