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Te Tai Tonga race heats up at Victoria University

Nov 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

TE TAI TONGA is being seen as a two horse race between the current chair, the Māori party’s Rāhui Kātene, and Labour’s Rino Tirikatene.

The candidates for the biggest electorate in New Zealand met on Tuesday at Victoria University’s student union building for an informal hui, or debate.

Although the turnout was low (of the 20 who attended fewer than 10 were media or support staff), the debate was passionate and at times, a little heated.

When debating Māori representation in the two major parties Mr Tirikatene questioned Hutt South list MP Paul Quinn.

 “I don’t know half the Māori in the National party, who are they? But you definitely know who you’ve got in the Labour party, you’ve got Shane, you’ve got Parekura, you’ve got Pagani, you’ve got me wanting to come through, you’ve got Louisa Wall. We’ve put the first Māori woman in a safe general seat,” he says.

Mr Quinn challenged that, saying, “I’m disappointed that he sits there and says he doesn’t actually know his cousin, Hekia Parata, is in Government”.

The candidates in attendance were:
– Paul Quinn campaigning for the National party vote.
– Rāhui Kātene, the incumbent Te Tai Tonga representative from the Māori party.
– Dora Langsbury from the Greens.
– Michael Appleby, filling in for Emma-Jane Mihaere Kingi for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis party.
– Rino Tirikatene from the Labour party.
– Puhi Karena an independent candidate campaigning for the Wellington Central seat.
– Clinton Dearlove, the Mana party candidate.

Each candidate was given five minutes to introduce themselves and explain their policies and party background.

Topics ranged from the Voluntary Student Membership Bill, child poverty, the Treaty of Waitangi, hemp forests, bio fuel, jobs creation, Māori education, student housing, disability support and Māori seats.

Mr Quinn spent the majority of his five minutes rubbishing the Labour party, saying that the reason he joined National was due to Labour’s lack of progress over treaty settlements.

Ms Kātene (left) talked about her pride in the Māori party and reflected on the past six years since its original inception.

She says during the past three years, working closely with the National Government, the Māori party has been able to achieve more for Māori than any other party ever has.

“I’m really pleased that we have a Māori party that was formed by Māori, for Māori, of Māori, and is based on kaupapa Māori. We are the only Māori party in parliament,” she says.

She highlighted child poverty as an area that required more work and said she would ideally like to see GST off all food.

Dora Langsbury, the Green candidate for the seat, says she is standing for the seat as progress is still needed 170 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

She says she wants a richer future for her tamariki (children).

“I personally believe that access to lifelong, free, high quality education is the key foundation to building a richer future,” she says.

Labour candidate Rino Tirikatene told the hui that under National and Māori the cost of living has gone up, while the rich have received tax cuts.

“There’s no kaupapa Māori in that,” he says. “That has actually caused a whole lot of harm to our people and we need to change that.”

Mana’s Clinton Dearlove (right) says current systems are preventing Māori from flourishing.

“Māori are traditionally second-class learners” he says.

When an informal debate began between the candidates the friction between the two leading candidates Kātene and Tirikatene was clear.

“Labour does nothing for nothing for Māori,” Ms Kātene told Mr Tirikatene.

“You sold out, you sold out,” he responded.

Te Tai Tonga runs from Wellington to Stewart Island/Rakiura, and also encompasses the Chatham Islands.

The iwi of Te Tai Tonga are Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe, Waitaha, Ngāti Rarua, Rangitāne, Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Tama, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Toa and the Moriori people.

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