The Te Tai Tokerau byelection campaign has begun in earnest with five candidates, including a Pakeha with a history as a "mercenary" for Maori separatists.

The Electoral Commission confirmed the five candidates yesterday as Hone Harawira, leader of the Mana Party, Labour MP Kelvin Davis, Maori Party candidate Solomon Tipene, Kelvyn Alp representing OurNZ Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate Herbert Maki.

The byelection will be held on June 25. It was forced by Mr Harawira's resignation from Parliament to seek a new mandate as Mana leader following his split from the Maori Party.

Labour's senior MPs have travelled to the region to support Mr Davis and Mr Harawira's billboards are spread far and wide throughout the electorate. However, it has been a later start for the Maori Party, whose candidate Mr Tipene hammered up his first billboard yesterday at a launch with the party leaders in Whangarei.

The leaders will spend today and tomorrow campaigning with Mr Tipene.

Auckland resident Mr Alp has a colourful past, including as the former "mercenary" in the Armed Intervention Force which claimed to be the military arm of separatist Maori government.

He was also the leader of the Direct Democracy Party, whose candidates included National Front leader Kyle Chapman.

In 2004, he was raided by police after buying a gun holster from Trade Me amid claims he was trying to "overthrow the New Zealand government" although he was not charged. Last year he was linked with plans to start a gold mine in the Solomon Islands.

The only Pakeha in the byelection, he told the Northern Advocate he did not believe his skin colour would count against him.

He said all the electorate's MPs to date had done little, with Maori still at the bottom of the heap in Northland.

"You either want solutions or you want egos. I'm not aligned to any particular hapu or iwi so can serve all equally."

Among his policies is a financial transaction tax - similar to the "Hone Heke" tax Mr Harawira's Mana Party is proposing. His party also advocates a written constitution which entrenches the Treaty of Waitangi.

* All parties were asked to supply their election posters. The Maori Party and Labour were the only ones to respond.