Deborah Mahuta-Coyle: Maori votes worth courting

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Parekura Horomia's big heart is missed in Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Parekura Horomia's big heart is missed in Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Driving back from Gisborne, Parekura Horomia spots a group of Maori kids milling around the local shops.

He tells me to pull over and yells out the window, "Hey chief! Where's your mum?"

One of the boys in the group turns around smartly and says, "Hi Uncle Para, she's at home." The others whisper to each other "Far, bro, that's Parekura."

The boys march over to the car and each shake Horomia's hand. He then asks if they have had kai. The boys say no, so into a nearby bakery we head.

"You fullas get what you want," he tells them. "Get a drink. And one of those. And some of these. Deb, put those ugly apples down." (I tried!)

The boys dig in - and have enough in plastic bags to take home with them. We get to the counter. "That will be $67," we're told.

Horomia turns to me and says, "Deb, got 20 bucks?" I pull out my wallet.

Grinning, he then says, "Deb, got 67 bucks? I'll pay you back later. Thank you, Deb. Geez, you're a good girl," and walks away.

He still owes me $67. I owe him much more than that.

This week, it's a year since Horomia died. He helped his people in any way he could, giving them lunch or changing government policies so they could afford to get their own.

This was the driving force behind Horomia's ability to remain the Labour MP for Ikaroa Rawhiti for 14 years. He had real aroha for his people and so did they for him.

The Maori vote will be crucial at this year's election.

The farce that is the "Mega-Mana" merger and Shane Jones announcing his exit from politics paves the way for Labour's Kelvin Davis to return.

As an MP, Davis will be a huge threat to the survival of Mana. More importantly, he is a great role model and will do more for Maori in the North than any other candidate trying to get their nono into that seat.

The departure of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, and the Maori Party's cosy relationship with National, means the Maori Party will lose seats. Their only hope of survival sits on the shoulders of co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Maori voters in the seven seats tend to split their votes - the majority give Labour their party votes then vote for the candidates they like.

But after six years under a National-led Government propped up by the Maori Party, the desire for a change may see Maori voters consolidate behind the Labour banner.

If Horomia was still with us today, he'd be whipping Labour's Maori Caucus into action, calling the National Party "outlandish Tories". And he'd be ordering me to make him a cup of tea while looking in his wallet for $67.

• Deborah Mahuta-Coyle was a Labour candidate in 2011. The Herald on Sunday will publish a range of views "out of left field" over the next month.

- Herald on Sunday

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