Vying for the Hauraki-Waikato seat tonight in Māori Television’s debates saw Labour cabinet minister Nanaia Mahuta go head to head with Māori Party candidate Donna Pokere-Phillips.
Joining political reporter Rukuwai Tipene-Allen on Māori Television's review panel tonight was political analyst Chris Wikaira (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāpuhi) and University of Waikato lecturer Associate Professor Linda Te Aho (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, Waikato-Tainui).
Mahuta’s opening statement defused the notion of a two-for-one vote, asking voters to give her both the candidate and party votes. Pokere-Phillips asked voters to support the return of her party to Parliament.
Te Aho: "I’ve been really impressed with Donna’s challenging on key issues and identifying policy issues that push the boundaries. She acknowledged Mahuta’s experience, seniority and influence in her party and asked, if Labour were put back into a position of power, what transformation change will she lead. As an example she outlined some of the gains made by Shane Jones with the Provincial Growth Fund"
Mahuta responded saying, “It’s really important that we build the resilience of the Māori economy and we can do that domestically through stronger partnerships with iwi. It’s about investing to accelerate regional growth. Some have put their hand up and said housing.”
Wikaira described tonight’s debate as a David and Goliath debate, which he said made it interesting because the first two other debates had been polite. He said Pokere-Phillips brought a fight, which had forced Mahuta to respond.
Pokere-Phillips asked voters to focus on party policies saying, “As part of our Te Tiriti policy we’re trying to reform the act because they’re asking us to get 5%, which is 120,000 party votes and we’ve only got 250,000 in the Māori electorate rohe so that’s asking for 50%.”
Wikaira said it was clear why the Māori Party had chosen Pokere-Phillips, “She has brought a good fight, she’s been well informed, has very good statistics, she has exuded confidence and talked about what she will do as an MP.”
For Te Aho the debate was very engaging, “What I really like about Pokere-Phillips and the Māori party is how they’re putting out these policy ideas that are quite transformational and aspirational. I hear what Nanaia said about not wanting to impose her ideas on the electorate but I do think that there has to be some kind of leadership in putting for some transformational ideas.”
Watch our debate for more commentary.