Fox chasing tough odds

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox is facing the battle for her political life in the seat of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.

If she doesn't win, she has to rely on the party vote to get her back to Parliament.

But that's where the Māori Party is dragging in the polls.

Māori Television's exclusive polling of the Māori seats asked voters in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti their Preferred Candidate.

Labour's incumbent Meka Whaitiri is well ahead with more than half the vote at 55%.

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox is 16 points behind on 39% followed by the Green's candidate, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere at 6%.

Fox says, "That seat has been held for 70 years in the hand of a Labour candidate, so 16% behind Meka shows a huge gain for me and we're coming."

The Māori Party needs a serious break to change the tide.

From Hicks Bay in the East Cape through to Gisborne, Napier, Wairarapa and Wainuiomata, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti is still hooked on Labour.

The poll sampled 400 voters between July and August and asked Māori in the electorate who would get their party vote.

Leading the top five is Labour with 50.4% support as the Preferred Party.

The Māori Party has less than half that support at 21.1%.  New Zealand First sits on 12.0%, followed by the Greens 7.5% and National 5.9%.

The Opportunities Party debuts in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti at 1.6%, even though it's not standing anyone in the Māori seats, followed by the Mana Movement on 1.3% and Act on 0.3%.

It's not all overboard for the Māori Party.  Compared to polling for the same period in the last election it's made the most gains.

In 2014, the Māori Party was well behind in seventh place.

It's now moved up to second with the highest support gain of 7.2%.

But Labour has also increased support by 5.2%.

Labour's new leader Jacinda Ardern continues to win Māori voters as the Preferred Prime Minister followed by Winston Peters.

But among Ikaroa-Rāwhiti's first-time voters, a whopping 80% are still undecided.

The Reid Research poll has a margin of error of 4.89%.

Join Māori Television tonight at 8pm for its first live debate of the Māori seats where Fox and Whaitiri go head-to-head for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.