The Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate hasn't seen much change since being established in 1999, with Labour dominating the seat at every election.

Current Labour MP Meka Whaitiri is leading the race ahead of this year's election with Maori Party's co-leader Marama Fox and Greens candidate Elizabeth Kerekere behind her.

Maori politics professor Rawiri Taonui said this was an electorate with a long Labour legacy and he didn't think this was going to change anytime soon.

Mr Taonui said the link with Labour in one sense was due to the electorate being so tribally conservative with their preference to back a strong tribal representative.


"Three things come together and it's the legacy of Apirana Turupa Ngata, the previous presence of Parekura Horomia and the tribal conservative element.

"Meka has inherited this mantle from Parekura so she has a strong backing across the electorate."

Mr Horomia was the first MP of the electorate and held the seat until he died in 2013.

A byelection was enforced, however Labour retained the seat through Ms Whaitiri, which she then held in the 2014 general election.

Mr Taonui said this byelection played a significant part in the historical context of the electorate and could have reversed this strong Labour trend if the combined Maori Mana party didn't "blow it".

"If they had stayed unified their joint votes would have beaten Labour and they would have most likely retained the seat in the 2014 election.

"Instead they made a huge mistake and gave Meka time to add her legacy to Parekura's. Maori don't change who they back unless they do something really really dumb like form an alliance with Kim Dotcom."

Political commentator Morgan Godfery agreed with Mr Taonui and said it would be really hard for Ms Fox to take the seat.

"The tribal connection is huge and it becomes out of habit for Maori to continue backing the same person they always have or their families have."

Mr Godfery said Ms Whaitiri followed on from Mr Horomia with these tribal and personal connections and being personally endorsed as his successor had a huge backing.

"It was said that Parekura used to take six days to return to the East Coast from Wellington rather than six hours due to the amount of houses he would stop at on the way home."

Mr Godfery felt it would be a safe seat for Labour again and Ms Fox's run was too late.

"She needs another three years if she wants to try and take the seat."

Political commentator Scott Campbell said the area the electorate covered was another key reason as to why it was so Labour dominated.

"Ngati Kahungunu are a strong influence but also look at the likes of the freezing works, Watties, forestry and rail as a lot of people worked in these industries and had been in the unions or Labour focused and shaped the electorate."

Mr Campbell said Ms Fox had done a good job but it would stay Labour, given that it was one of Labour's strongest seats.

"Even when there was the Foreshore and Seabed debate which resulted in Labour passing the Foreshore and Seabed Act, Labour managed to hold the seat, so I think unless there is a seriously big issue it will stay Labour once again."

Hawke's Bay-based political strategist and campaign manager Simon Lusk said Maori seats were very, very hard to campaign in because of their vast size.

"Ikaroa Rawhiti runs from East Cape to the top half of Lower Hutt. The allowable campaign spending is the same for a general seat, $26,200 in the last 90 days of the campaign," he said.

"The size and the limited budget means that it is hard to successfully challenge an incumbent. There have only been two MPs for Ikaroa Rawhiti since its formation in 1999, Labour's Parekura Horomia and Meka Whaitiri."

"Interestingly the proponents of abolishing Maori seats appear not to have considered what redistributing Maori voters to the general seats of Napier, Wairarapa & Tukituki would do. In all likelihood Maori voters moving to the general roll would swing these seats in Labour's favour."

For Ikaroa-Rawhiti the percentage of those enrolled at both the 2011 and 2014 election were strong with 95 per cent in 2011 and 97 per cent in 2014. However, only 59 per cent of people eligible to vote voted in 2011 while 66 per cent voted in 2014.

In 2011 Mr Horomia received 10,558 votes, getting a share of 60.71 per cent compared to Maori Party's Na Raihania who had 4017 and a share of 23.1 per cent. In 2014 Ms Whaitiri continued this dominance and received 9753 votes with a share of 46.27 per cent compared to Maori Party's Te Hamua Nikora who received 5080 votes and a share of 24.1 per cent.

All three political commentators believed this trend would continue and felt Ms Whaitiri's majority could even increase again.