The Green Party is making a play for the Maori vote with more candidates in Maori seats than any previous election and a nationwide roadshow to appeal to iwi leaders.

The party's Maori caucus kicks off its national tour today in Northland, and will later head to Auckland, the East Coast, Wellington and Christchurch.

At Maori events this year the party's leadership has highlighted the growth of its Maori caucus and its share of the vote in Maori seats.

Its caucus is now 31 per cent Maori - higher than Labour, on 21.9 per cent, and National, on 13 per cent, but lower than New Zealand First on 42 per cent.


The party's share of the vote in Maori seats has grown steadily between 2008 and 2014, though that is partly because it took a big hit in 2005 and 2008 after the Maori Party was formed in 2004.

It is running candidates in five of the seven Maori seats in the September election - more than ever before - including co-leader Metiria Turei in Te Tai Tonga.

Asked why Maori voters should choose the Greens over Labour or the Maori Party, Turei said her party had been the most consistent advocates on issues which affected Maori - higher incomes, affordable housing - and on constitutional issues such as the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Greens' environmental policies on deep-sea oil drilling and freshwater appealed to many Maori, she said.

Turei also said the party was unique in advocating values of kaitiakitanga and mana whenua over elite Maori business interests.

She cited the case of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, which the Greens supported despite iwi fishing groups saying it breached a full a final Treaty settlement. Turei said that was a case of iwi fishing groups misusing a constitutional argument for its business interests.

On the roadshow, the party will be championing its policy of compulsory te reo teaching in all schools. The policy goes further than the Maori Party policy, which calls for te reo to be available in all schools.

Further Maori policies will be announced during the campaign, Turei said.

If the Greens are successful in growing their vote in the Maori electorates, it could make life slightly more difficult for its campaigning partner Labour Party in marginal seats.

The six Labour MPs who hold Maori seats have made the daring decision to remove themselves from the list and stake their re-election solely on winning their seats.

The Greens are running a candidate in Te Tai Tokerau for the first time - te reo teacher Godfrey Rudolph. The Maori Party has agreed not to run a candidate in the seat to give Mana leader Hone Harawira a chance of unseating Labour MP Kelvin Davis.

Turei said there was "always a risk" of splitting the vote. But she said her party would be campaigning for the party vote "first and foremost".

Turei has previously run in Te Tai Tonga but stood in North Dunedin in the last two elections. She will be up against Labour's Rino Tirakatene, who had a majority of 3554 votes in 2014.

Green Party average party vote in Maori seats
1999: 4.9% (no candidates in Maori seats)
2002: 10.5% (1 candidate)
2005: 3.2% (1 candidate)
2008: 3.8% (1 candidate)
2011: 10.1% (1 candidate)
2014: 11.1% (4 candidates)