(Published in Hawke’s Bay Today, 28th March 2017)
The Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate has entrusted the Labour Party to advocate for its people for the best part of 70 years.
As the MP and first elected woman for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti I am always conscious that this historic relationship must never be taken for granted. The Labour Party Māori caucus have collectively opted off the party list this election and I believe that decision honours this relationship.
As part of Labour’s constitutional requirements I formally requested an exemption in early February. My request came after much deliberation and consultation with kaumātua from all around the electorate, my campaign team, electorate committee, whānau and colleagues.
In the end, there were compelling reasons that influenced my decision.
During my maiden speech in 2013, I asked that I be judged on my actions and held accountable to those I represent. I believe I have worked hard in the electorate and in Parliament over the last four years, advocating for my constituents on the issues that matter. After one by-election and a general election, it’s now time I put it to the electorate to judge whether I have done a good enough job to return.
Another reason I opted off the list is to create opportunities for others.
We currently have six fantastic Labour Māori candidates in Willie Jackson, Willow-Jean Prime, Tamati Coffey, Paul Eagle, Kiritapu Allan and Shanan Halbert. Freeing up space on the list for these outstanding candidates combined with a strong push for the party vote boosts our chances of increased Māori representation in Parliament.
There is of course a strategic element. Our opponents campaigning in the Maori seats would likely say that our list rankings mean we do not need to win our electorates to get into Parliament. This unified move from the Labour Māori MPs neutralises the “2 for 1” vote-splitting tactic before it even starts.
The 2014 election saw a huge swing back to Labour in the Māori seats with a majority Labour party vote in all Māori electorates. We will once again be campaigning hard for the party vote as we believe Labour has kept faith with Māori on issues of significance, whether it’s access to housing, quality healthcare and education, or protecting our land owners’ rights and precious whenua.
We know more will be achieved for Māori with Labour in government than the piecemeal approach to ‘concession politics’ taken by the Māori Party. How can a party that consistently polls at less than 1% really drive Māori aspirations forward?
The shaky MANA- Māori Party alliance is already fracturing, with Hone Harawira launching attacks on the Māori Party for supporting National’s unpopular RMA reforms and pushing through the contentious Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill. It’s clear that a vote for the MANA-Māori Party alliance is a vote to keep National in power.
As Labour’s Māori Caucus we are backing ourselves and each other. I am grateful to have a party leader, president and colleagues who also back us and our decision.
Over the coming months we’ll be running a campaign to continue building on the trust already shown by our voters. We also recognise that, no matter where your political loyalties lie, we must engage more of our people to get out and vote.
Labour will provide the strong, stable and responsible leadership Māori are asking for with our Māori caucus forming an integral part of a Labour-led government. We have a plan to make progress for Māori on the problems we face in housing, health and education and we know that a change of government is required to achieve this.
Our opponents have had nine years to make real gains for Māori. They haven’t.
Labour currently has two Māori MPs on frontbench, five overall in Shadow Cabinet and the potential to have the most Māori MPs and Ministers in any government to date. We’re committed to working together to show how Māori will be better served with a strong Labour Māori voice in Cabinet.