Labour's Rurawhe's defence too strong for Māori Party hopeful Howie Tamati

Māori Party candidate for the Te Tai Hauāruru electorate, Howie Tamati, has come up short in his bid to unseat Labour Party incumbent MP Adrian Rurawhe.

Before the election Tamati was being touted as a possible kingmaker in a new Government.

With all election night votes counted, Rurawhe had a 1135 majority over Tamati.

Of the 17,910 votes counted, Rurawhe had 8038 to Tamati's 6903 - a 58.1 per cent lead to Labour, with the Māori Party on 14.9 per cent.

250,000 people voted early on Friday, bringing total well over a million 
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Tamati was with supporters at Mururaupatu Marae, Te Arei Rd, Bell Block, near New Plymouth, watching results come in.

The mood was bouyant with singing and music but reality was kicking in amongst supporters that Tamati would miss out becoming an MP.

"I know I have done my best and my team have done their best to win," he said.

Tamati said he had never been in an election race before and it was all new to him.

"I can't tackle anyone, I can't run past anyone, I can't score a try, I've just got to sit back and let the spectators make the decision," he said.

 "It's been a fantastic campaign. My wife and I decided we would enjoy ourselves.

"We just went around and got into the debates."

The former Kiwi rugby league representative, and NZ Rugby League president, had been strongly touted to take the seat.

Tamati, of Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa, and Ngai Tahu affiliation, was attempting to regain the seat for the Māori Party after it was lost to Rurawhe in the 2014 election.

Māori Party leader Dame Tariana Turia had held the seat for the party from 2004 until she retired in 2014.

Turia previously held the seat for Labour between 1996-2004.

The electorate includes the iwi of Taranaki, Whanganui, Horowhenua, Manawatu, the Kapiti Coast and Porirua, along with Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Maniapoto.

Tamati had polled ahead of Rurawhe, of Ngati Apa, who was party spokesman on Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, in the lead up to the election. 

Tamati covered more than 10,000 kilometres campaigning in the vast electorate, which extended along the west coast of the North Island from Kawhia to Porirua.

New Zealand needed the Māori Party's voice in parliament, he said.

"If we don't get to parliament we will be run by pakeha parties.

"We put our lives in theirs then, with the Māōri Party we are there to represent Māori and that's a good thing."

During the campaign he had called on supporters to vote for the candidate they wanted in parliament, and for the Māori Party.

He said he had entered the election race because he could make a difference.

Getting people in the electorate out to vote had been his aim since being chosen to represent the Māori Party.

Māori were "politically savvy" group but the participation did not always translate to votes on election day, he said.

"The key thing was to try and get them to vote."

There were 32,557 enrolled on the Maori roll in Te Tai Hauauru in 2014, and 66 per cent of those enrolled voted in that election.

Rurawhe campaigned on two key issues of housing and youth unemployment, as well as education and health.



 - Taranaki Daily News