The Māori Party has selected candidates in two of its three target seats for the September election and it is only a matter of time before John Tamihere makes it three.

Tamihere's son-in-law, Rawiri Waititi, was selected at the weekend to stand for the Māori Party in the Bay of Plenty seat of Waiariki, held by Labour's Tamati Coffey with a majority of 1719.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer was selected in October to stand in the western seat of Te Tai Hauauru, held by Labour's Adrian Rurawhe with a majority of 1039.

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And Tamihere's close confidant and strategist for the 2019 Auckland mayoral campaign, Matt McCarten, has all but confirmed the persistent rumour that Tamihere will be standing in Tamaki Makaurau, the Auckland-based seat held by Labour minister Peeni Henare with a majority of 3809.

Matt McCarten. Photo / Michael Craig
Matt McCarten. Photo / Michael Craig

Writing for E-Tangata, McCarten says Henare's response to the recent furore over Whanau Ora was a strong reason for Tamihere to run as a Māori Party candidate.

"It will be a rollicking campaign where anything can happen," said McCarten.

Tamihere is now the chief executive of the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, a body that gets most of the Government's funding for Whanau Ora programmes, for which Henare is the responsible minister.

While the commissioning agency is a privately owned entity, it would be expected for Tamihere to stand down from his job while contesting the minister's seat.

The Māori Party needs to win just one electorate seat to avoid the requirement to meet the 5 per cent threshold.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Supplied
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Supplied

Waititi, aged 39, stood in Waiariki in 2014 for Labour but said he had now "seen the light."
He said the Māori Party was the only party that prioritised Māori aspirations and needs.

"There is a new Māori generation breaking through and we're going to move ahead in this country but we have to be brave and courageous enough to believe in ourselves if we're going to make a difference.

Rawiri Waititi. Photo / Supplied.
Rawiri Waititi. Photo / Supplied.

"There is an uprising in the air, an indigenous revolution, here at home and across the globe. We will not stand still or keep silent any more."

Tamihere previously held Tamaki Makaurau for Labour, until 2005 when Māori Party co-leader Sir Pita Sharples defeated him for the Māori Party.

Māori Party co-leaders have held all three seats previously: Te Ururoa Flavell lost Waiariki in 2017; Dame Tariana Turia retired from politics in 2014 when Te Tai Hauauru went to Labour; and Sharples also retired from Tamaki Makaurau 2014 when Labour retained it.

Māori Party president Che Wilson has said the party will target the three seats.