Members of a Ratana parish are supporting Hone Harawira in the Tai Tokerau byelection - partly because some believe he is the fulfilment of a prophecy.

Kia Maia Ratana Church started a "car-koi" from South Auckland to Kaitaia this morning.

It is led by Kereama Pene, an apotoro rehita (senior minister), who is ineligible to vote in the June 25 byelection because he lives in the Tamaki Makaurau electorate.

But Mr Pene is from Te Tai Tokerau and will be campaigning for the Mana Party on the trip.

He believes Mr Harawira closely embodies an important tenet of church founder Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

"The founder of Ratana carried two books - the Bible and the Treaty. He always believed that one day the Treaty should become the foundation document of New Zealand. Not just a piece of paper."

However, prophecy was also important, Mr Pene said.

"What [T.W. Ratana] basically said at Ratana Pa is: If all the lights go out or all the people lose hope, the prophet said 'turn your eyes to the north, a young man will rise up carrying the Treaty'.

"This is the first young guy who has said 'I'm going to carry the Treaty, that's going to be my first korero [thought] and that's going to be my last korero'.

"I guess we're driven by our own prophecy, there's no doubt aboutthat."

Although Labour's stranglehold on the Maori seats has been cut, overt political support from a senior minister who is campaigning for a non-Labour candidate is rare.

"This shouldn't be taken as a vote against Kelvin [Davis, the Labour candidate] or Matua Horomana [Solomon Tipene, Maori Party], we actually like them, they're okay, but this is a vote for change.

"If you can't do it in 70 to 80 years you're never going to do it," Mr Pene said.

Mr Harawira said he was humbled by the support and talk that he might be the northern Treaty man spoken of, but he was not actively pursuing it.

"I'm honoured that they think of me in that way - the Treaty's always been a central part of my life and things that I've fought for.

"If it's something placed upon my shoulders, I will do my best to honour it."

But former Labour Te Tai Tokerau MP Dover Samuels does not believe the byelection will be won by driving north.

He believes Mr Davis should be targeting conservative Maori voters.

National received 9.34 per cent of the party vote at the 2008 election - in a race where a single percentage point divides Mr Davis and Mr Harawira it could be the strategy that counts.

"We have to start appealing and campaigning to them," said Mr Samuels.

"There's no way that any Tory Maori in Tai Tokerau is going to vote for Hone, but they have no candidate in Tai Tokerau.

"There is quite a group of people that support the National Party in the electorate.

"If you get a close race, this may very well be the key to Kelvin winning the byelection."


"Turn your eyes to the north, a young man will rise up carrying the Treaty." - leader, founder and prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, 1873-1939

* "Mangai" mouthpiece of the holy spirit, healer.

* T.W. Ratana forged the Ratana/Labour alliance in 1936 with Michael Joseph Savage.

* Led to a decades-long stranglehold on Maori seats.