The race for Te Tai Hauauru is as close as predicted with the Maori Party's Chris McKenzie holding a slim three-point lead over Labour rival Adrian Rurawhe.

A Maori TV/ Reid Research poll released on Wednesday had Mr McKenzie on 32 per cent with Mr Rurawhe on 29 per cent, the Greens' Jack McDonald on 11 per cent and the Mana Movement's Jordan Winiata on 10 per cent - impressive given that he had only been in the race for one week.

The candidates squared off in a televised debate on Maori TV's Native Affairs on Wednesday night which showed regional economic development and making the regions an attractive place to live were key issues for locals. The programme interviewed Wanganui voters in the days after the Whanganui River settlement.

The candidates were asked what role government still had with iwi following the river settlement.


Mr McKenzie said the settlement alone would not get the river clean and there needed to be ongoing collaboration. Mr Rurawhe said it was important government continued to work with iwi and hapu.

Mr Winiata said Treaty settlements corrected the wrongs of the past but there needed to be a mechanism for money to filter down to hapu.

Meanwhile, Mr McDonald pushed the point that the electorate could have two MPs if enough voters gave their party vote to the Greens and he got in on his list ranking of 20.

"I think both these guys are great candidates, I would like to work with both of them," he said of Mr McKenzie and Mr Rurawhe. None of the candidates would be drawn on who they would go into coalition with despite questioning from Native Affairs presenter Mihingarangi Forbes.

"Trying to organise some sort of shonky arrangement and trying to push us out to the right actually gets a bit frustrating sometimes. We are not the right; we are not the left," Mr McKenzie said.

The Native Affairs poll showed Labour was the preferred coalition partner for the Maori Party but a majority supported coalition with National if there was no choice.

Meanwhile, the poll showed the party vote had tightened up in the electorate. Labour led on 36 per cent with the Maori Party in second on 23 per cent. National sat on 12 per cent, slightly ahead on the Greens and Internet Mana tied on 11 per cent. The phone poll surveyed 500 people and has a margin of error of 4.83 per cent.