NZ2020: Maori Party list-candidate attributes and “burning bridges”

The New Zealand Maori Party has introduced its party list for the 2020 election, now set for 17 October. The press release boasts of the backgrounds of the candidates, including some sports celebrities and experienced local officeholders. Interestingly, one of the co-leaders has adopted a “burning bridges” strategy–being placed too low on the list (7th) to be elected if he does not win his district (electorate) under New Zealand’s mixed-member proportional (MMP) system. (In some past elections, the party has won only district seats; it did not win any seats at all in 2017.)

The press release says, in part:

In our list we have champion athletes: the founder of Iron Māori (Heather Te Au Skipworth); a coordinator for the diploma in sport and recreation- and a crossfit trainer (Fallyn Flavell); a fourth dan black belt in aikido (Mariameno Kapa-Kingi) and competitive rower (Tumanako Silveria).

We have candidates with vast expertise and experience in local government (Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Elijah Pue, John Tamihere, Rangi Mclean, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer); a former Cabinet Minister Hon Tamihere; two past youth MPs (Eru Kapa-Kingi and Elijah Pue); and former candidates for the Māori Party, Mana Motuhake, Alliance Labour, and the Christian Heritage Party.

It also has this lovely nugget:

“We are campaigning on the mantra of MMP: More Māori in Parliament” said Che Wilson [party president].

Regarding co-leader John Tamihere, Waatea News quotes him as explaining his taking such a low list position:

This is the Māori thing to do and I could not go back to Parliament if I didn’t have the mandate of the people on the street… My six fellow candidates have put themselves and their whānau up for this challenge and this is my way of showing my support for their sacrifice.

In 2017, the party was within five percentages points in only one of the Maori set-aside electorates, Te Tai Hauāuru. Labour won all seven of them. Back to 2014, the party won two of the electorates, plus one list seat (which I believe is the only list seat it has ever won).

I have not seen polling of the Maori electorates. Perhaps someone reading this has. But with Labour currently running so far ahead of its 2017 showing in national polls, it would seem the Maori candidates have their work cut out for them if the party is to recover.

(The idea of candidates in mixed-member systems “burning bridges” by not taking an electable list rank comes from Krauss, Nemoto, and Pakennen, 2011.)

8 thoughts on “NZ2020: Maori Party list-candidate attributes and “burning bridges”

  1. Kia ora Matthew. While you’re probably correct that the Māori Party candidates likely have their work cut out for them, it’s worth reflecting that the Māori electorate seats have a very different dynamic to NZ’s general electorates. Party affiliation is much less important in those competitions, with connection/contribution to iwi and hapū politics and communities being more so.
    They will still have to work hard, but it’s a much more candidate-centric race, albeit with higher-level consequences for the party system.


    • Kia ora! I thought that might be the case, but have never read about the importance of party vs. candidate there.

      Still, even if party swings are only some modest proportion of vote swings in these electorates, that looks like a hard upstream row!


  2. Polling for Maori electorates is especially expensive, as they cover such large areas and voters are ~10% of adults spread unevenly through the population. There isn’t much (public anyway) electorate-level polling, as most are effectively irrelevant, so you can’t get a useful sample as a by-product of polling General Electorates.


    • I imagine doorknocking for Maori-enrolled voters would be tricky. Would the clipboard workers have a copy of the roll with them (or on their iPad) and just say “Skip this entire street, the next one’s number #37 around the corner”? Trying every address and trying to guess by looking at the person who answered the door could be… tricky. I mean, Russell Crowe is legally entitled to vote for the Maori seats if he chose.
      Neville Bonner made a similar point in opposition to “overlaid” Aboriginal/ Torres Strait Islander electorates for Australia – that an Indigenous voter in Sydney would approach their local MP about the school parking situation but be told, “No, you should talk to your Aboriginal MP, and they live in Far North Queensland”.
      That said, Australian indigenous seats would represent (assume maximum take-up of voluntary enrollment) at most 3 or 4 divisions (out of 150+) covering a huge continent, whereas Maori seats typically represent nearly 10% of the 71 districts in a much smaller area. Not to be ignored here is that all Maori speak mutually-intelligible dialects of the same language, whereas Australia’s Indigenous peoples speak 300 languages of 28 different types.


      • MMP definitely helps when it comes to finding an MP to take up your cause, if the local General MP doesn’t want to know (because they don’t think party HQ evaluates the supplied List votes per polling location?), then a opposing major party will have a List MP assigned to listen to you.


  3. Will voters on the Maori roll split their votes by voting for the Maori party in the riding seats, but vote for Labour on the Party List? Could this create an overhang?


    • Rob, that certainly has happened. It is how the parliament had 122 seats one time.

      For one example, see Te Tai Tokerau in 2008. Note that the Maori candidate won almost double the votes of the Maori party list, while Labour won many more list than nominal votes.


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