Labour’s Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe says he’s not fazed by his new Māori Party competitor for the seat, Howie Tamati.
Mr Tamati, who’s currently the chief executive of Sport Taranaki and a former New Zealand Kiwi rugby league player, was chosen by the Māori Party at the weekend to win back the electorate from Labour.
He told Te Karere that his main focus was to reinvigorate the western Māori seat.
“The electorate area has basically gone to sleep since the last elections. It's only been centred in and around the electoral office which has been in Whanganui. So for me it's to go out and try and revitalise the electorate.”
But the incumbent MP Adrian Rurawhe said he was confident he will retain his constituency.
“It's going to be an uphill battle for the Māori Party because the voters are telling me they've had enough of the relationship between the Māori Party and the National Government - and they want to change the government.”
However, Mr Tamati said he wants to try and convince those voters who chose the Māori Party before to come back to them.
“I want to try and reconnect with all those people who voted for us last time, set up new branches, and one of the things I've found whenever I've got into a new enterprise is actually - know your area.”
But while Mr Tamati is staking out the electorate, Adrian Rurawhe has already started campaigning in the vast electorate that stretches from Tokoroa in the north to Porirua in the south.
“I've got a very experienced campaign team they know how to do the hard yards and last time my team and I did over six thousand voter contacts and we will do a lot more this time, and we've already started on that.”
Howie Tamati who has links to Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāi Tahu admits that his biggest challenge will be attracting the Rātana faithful who are loyal to Labour.
“I've got the greatest respect for the people of Rātana and the followers of the faith. My key thing is that I've got to go there and meet with them.”
Ngāti Apa man Adrian Rurawhe who is a member of the Rātana Church said if people vote for the Māori Party that's the same as voting for National.
“Voters are going to have a clear choice either change or more of the same, and if they vote for the Māori Party they're going to end up with a National Government.”
The only thing the pair could agree on was introducing online voting to attract the younger generation who would otherwise be disengaged from the casting their ballots.
Tamati eyes up the Corrections portfolio
While Howie Tamati is currently the chief executive at Sport Taranaki and was last year recognised by Sport NZ with a lifetime achievement award, he told Te Karere that his goal was not to become the Minister of Sports and Recreation.
As a New Plymouth District councillor he has championed issues including Māori representation in local government, and kaupapa Māori based programmes to integrate prisoners back into society.
“I’m interested also in prisoner rehabilitation. I was chairman of a trust called Te Ihi Tū which took long term recidivist offenders and put them on a three month programme which gave them the skills to be able to handle the world outside.
“People go to jail and I accept that sometimes they do things wrong and there are far too many Māori who’ve been incarcerated.”
Mr Tamati said too much money was being spent on building prisons instead of trying to rehabilitate offenders to live and work back in society and make a positive contribution to the community.