"Waiariki is Maori Party turf", according to Te Ururoa Flavell while Labour's Tamati Coffey says he believes he has the support from Mana Party voters to take the seat in September's election.

They went head to head on TV1's Marae programme today with the pair set to take each other on for the all important Waiariki electorate seat in the upcoming general election.

Incumbent Waiariki MP Mr Flavell, who has held the seat for 12 years, is the only person keeping the Maori Party in Parliament and Mr Coffey said he had a very good chance of winning the seat if he could persuade former Mana Party voters to vote for him.

Mr Coffey said Mana did not support the new Te Ture Whenua bill put forward and promoted by the Maori Party and felt they would hold the key to his success.


"The Mana Party thinks it's [Te Ture Whenua] a 'destructive and poisonous cancer', their words not mine," he said.

Mr Coffey said his party had campaigned hard on what he said was a bill unfair on Maori land owners, describing it as a land grab by the Government and a policy written by National and promoted by the Maori Party.

However, Mr Flavell said he could have pushed the bill through under urgency, but resisted that option as he said he wanted to "take our time and do it right" to allow Maori to have as much say on the new bill before it was passed, or not.

But the number one issue for Mr Flavell was homelessness in the wider region.

While Mr Flavell said he had "no idea" how homelessness got so bad in the region, he said plans were underway to help remedy the problem with more than 140 homes lined up to be built in the near future in the Bay of Plenty, including more than 40 in Rotorua.

He said many people did not know who to turn to and the inability of various agencies to help people in need were two of the major issues Maori had when it came to homelessness.

Mr Coffey accused the Maori Party of not looking after Maori interests and instead had become a tool of the National Party to push through unpopular policies like the selling of state houses.

However, Mr Flavell said Labour's six Maori electorate MPs had done nothing for their people while in opposition and the Maori Party had secured more than $2 billion worth of funding in its nine years "at the table" with the National Party.


"You are just two voices at a very big blue table," Mr Coffey said.

Waiariki electorate
- Was formed in 1999
- Covers the main centres of Rotorua, Tauranga, Whakatane and Taupo
- The Labour Party's Mita Ririnui held the seat from 1999 until 2005
- The Labour Party has won the electorate party vote in every election since the seat was established
- The seat has been held by Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell for 12 years since 2005
- Mr Flavell won the seat by a majority of 3889 votes last election
- It is the only electorate seat held by the Maori Party