The Māori Party is vowing to hold Labour to account and dismantle the systemic racism "keeping our people in second place".
The "unapologetic Māori voice" looks set to make a stunning return to Parliament, with Rawiri Waititi topping incumbent Tāmati Coffey of Labour in the Waiariki Māori seat.
Waititi won by 415 votes, however, that could change depending on special votes.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Waititi said it had been a "wonderful evening", and he credited the victory to a "comprehensive ground game and social media campaign".
The most important issue for Māoridom was tackling systemic racism, he said.
"I will be giving all sorts of things a go, but the main thing is ensuring we can break this system that continuously keeps our people in second place.
"The statistics have not changed - justice, schools, health. Māori die 10 years earlier [than non-Māori], and nothing is done. If we are dying earlier we should have earlier screening, drop superannuation, we must do something about it, not keep the same old, same old."
Systemic, or institutional racism, refers to policies or practices that advantage one group, in this case Pākehā, and disadvantage others, Māori. Its impacts in Aotearoa have been recognised and studied for decades.
He would also advocate for greater Māori representation and authority.
"If we are talking about Te Tiriti [o Waitangi], we are talking about 50/50."
The party's policies included changing New Zealand's name to Aotearoa, and returning the original Māori names to our towns and cities.
It had also called for a Māori Parliament, for 25 per cent of Government spending to go to Māori, and for no more Māori babies to be taken into state care and instead funds diverted to a Māori-led organisation.
While he would likely be on his own in the house, Waititi said he had "big shoulders" to carry the hopes and aspirations of his people.
"One of us may be in the house but there are six outside continuously putting pressure on the Government, making sure Māori gains are not only in today's policy but tomorrow's policy."
Labour looks set to have a record 15 Māori MPs, two more than in 2017, and holds six of the Māori seats.
But the delivery and advocacy for Māori in the Pākehā-majority party has come under intense scrutiny from the Māori Party, which has branded itself as the "unapologetic Māori voice".
Waititi himself was particularly critical of the Covid response for Māori, with Waititi leading his iwi Te Whānau ā Apanui's response in eastern Bay of Plenty.
However, while he'd be their biggest critic, he was not ruling out working with Labour.
"I have known those fullas for years ... the cards are in their hands ... we will work with anybody who has the same values as our Māori movement."
Waititi, 39, was born in Ōpōtiki, with firm links to Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Ngāti Porou.
He spent his childhood in the rural East Coast, immersed in the reo and tikanga, attending kohanga reo, before moving to Auckland as a teenager for school.
He trained and worked as a teacher, and has also been a lecturer at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, where he completed a master's degree in mātauranga Māori.
He's worked in a range of Māori organisations, sat on various boards and councils, and most recently has been working with his iwi Te Whānau-ā-Apanui.
He was instrumental in establishing iwi road blocks during the first wave of Covid-19, which have been credited with keeping the virus out of highly vulnerable Māori communities.
If Waititi secures the seat it will mark a stunning return to Parliament for the party.
In 2017 all seven Māori seats went to Labour candidates, in turn eliminating the Māori Party after nine years in government alongside National.
The party had a refresh, appointing new leaders in former Labour MP and Cabinet member John Tamihere, and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, a Ngāti Ruanui iwi leader.
It pieced together a gritty campaign
Speaking at his election night party in Tāmaki Makaurau co-leader John Tamihere called Waititi's result an "incredible outcome".
"This is rewriting the political history of our country," Tamihere said, as the roughly 200 supporters gathered at Et Tu Bistro in Te Atatu erupted into chants of "Māori Party".
But it was a bittersweet moment for Tamihere, losing Tāmaki Makaurau to incumbent Peeni Henare of Labour.
The fate of the Māori Party sat on a knife's edge all election night.
The closest seats, as predicted, were in Tāmaki Makaurau, Waiariki and Te Tai Hauāuru, with Labour's leads over the Māori Party in the mere hundreds in each for much of the night.
In Te Tai Hauāuru co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer lost a hard-fought battle to Labour's Adrian Rurawhe. Labour won the four other Māori electorates.