Swap to Māori roll popular in hot Te Tai Hauāuru race
With just days left for Māori voters to change electoral rolls, Te Tai Hauāuru electorate has the second-highest rate of voters swapping to the Māori roll, outnumbering those switching to the general roll.
The electorate is likely to be a tight-fought contest between Te Pāti Māori and Labour in October's election, and that may be enticing more voters to the Māori roll.
The latest figures show 985 voters have moved from the general to the Māori roll in Te Tai Hauāuru, with 713 switching the other way from the Māori to the general roll - a ratio second only to Tāmaki Makaurau.
The chance to change electoral rolls ends at midnight on Thursday.
Māori voters previously could only switch rolls once every five years but the law changed at the end of March to allow roll-switching any time except the three months before elections.
Last year, Tuteri Rangihaeata was elected by Māori roll voters as the new councillor for Te Tai Tonga, one of the two new Māori wards of South Taranaki District Council.
He said the new wards are creating real change with the mayor, councillors and senior managers keen to expand relationships with Māori.
"What does a relationship really look like with whānau, hapū and iwi?"
Rangihaeata said it was helping persuade voters that being on the Māori roll was a step towards reclaiming tino rangatiratanga.
"I think a lot of the shift is about trust, trusting that a shift to the Māori roll is a good thing."
"Taranaki has been hit hard by colonisation … We've been suppressed for so long that we'll always go to where we think it's safe - which has [previously] been the general roll."
Rangihaeta, who was endorsed by Te Pāti Māori, said the party's potential role in this year's election was changing minds.
"There's more talk about Te Pāti Māori and what it means to possibly be the decision-maker in terms of the next prime minister - that's huge."
New enrolments in Te Tai Hauāuru are not showing the same strength: 127 new voters have signed up, the lowest of the seven Māori electorates since 31 March.
But those new registrations do not face the Thursday cut-off, as new voters of Māori descent can enrol on the Māori or general roll right up to voting day.
Rangihaeata said leaders were working on the ground to influence younger voters.
"Our rangatahi need to understand their voice really matters - it has an authentic engagement and mana moving into the future of politics."
Te Tai Hauāuru has been equally shared between the Labour Party and Te Pāti Māori since taking its current form in 2002.
Dame Tariana Turia won it for Labour that year, then four more times as co-leader of Te Pāti Māori, before Adrian Rurawhe won it back for Labour in 2014.
Last election, Rurawhe beat Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer by just over 1000 votes but she also entered Parliament on the party list.
Rurawhe has since been made Speaker of the House in Parliament and this year is standing only on Labour's party list, as is typical for Speakers.
His cousin, Soraya Peke-Mason, who shares his links to the Rātana Church, will stand for Te Tai Hauāuru.
The National Party returns to the contest for Māori seats with former Whanganui now list-MP Harete Hipango as its Te Tai Hauāuru candidate. National won less than three percent of party votes in the electorate in 2020.
The electoral commission sent letters to over half a million voters who had identified as being of Māori descent, confirming which roll they were on and offering the chance to change via post.
Voters can also switch rolls online at vote.nz with a driver licence, passport or RealMe government verified online identity.
Even without that ID, voters can fill in a form online and have it emailed to sign and upload.
Help is available on 0800 36 76 56.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air