Mental health and housing among hot topics for Te Tai Hauāuru Māori electorate
Mental health, suicide and seabed mining are hot topics among the candidates in the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate. Georgia Forrester reports.
Once a Māori Party stronghold, but lately back with Labour, Te Tai Hauāuru is an electorate both parties will be backing themselves to win.
Incumbent MP Adrian Rurawhe, of Labour, is again vying for the seat, but this year he has some fierce competition in the sprawling electorate.
It used to be called Western Māori and runs down that side of the North Island, from King Country to Wellington's northern suburbs and including Rātana, home of the influential Māori religious movement.
Māori Party candidate and former rugby league international Howie Tamati topped the Māori Television/Reid Research poll in August.
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Tamati came in with 52 per cent, Rurawhe 39 per cent and Green Party candidate Jack McDonald 9.1 per cent.
Despite the poll result, Tamati said he wasn't going to relax. And similar polling in 2014 put Rurawhe in second place, before he went on to win the seat.
This year is the first time Tamati has entered the rugged world of central government politics, after spending 15 years as a New Plymouth District councillor.
"I just believe I can make a difference," he said.
New Zealand's terrible youth suicide rate is one problem he wants to tackle.
In the past six months alone, Tamati has heard of about 10 suspected suicides in Taranaki.
Suicide was "devastating for families" and it was a problem that needed to be dealt with.
Tamati supports placing counsellors into New Zealand schools to help catch and deal with mental health problems.
He is also worried seabed mining for ironsand in South Taranaki could affect the environment.
In August, Trans Tasman Resources was granted marine consent by the Environmental Protection Authority to mine 66 square kilometres of seabed in the South Taranaki Bight.
The consent allows 55 million tonnes of ironsand to be mined annually for 35 years.
The mining is also a key concern for McDonald. The candidate for the Green Party said the mining could cause massive damage to the coastline of the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate.
McDonald supports the Green Party's proposal to create the country's largest marine mammal sanctuary on the Taranaki coast.
Under the South Taranaki Whale Sanctuary, existing petroleum wells would be allowed to operate until their permits expired. However, it would prohibit new prospecting, exploration and mining for minerals, and stop ironsand mining.
The Green Party candidate affiliates with Taranaki, Te Whakatōhea, Te Āti Awa iwi groups.
This is the third time McDonald has stood in Te Tai Hauāuru, after first running in 2011.
McDonald also said suicide rates were "shocking".
"We know there is a mental health crisis. We have seen this in the shocking rates of suicide."
The number of young people not in employment, education or training was too high, he said.
Rurawhe, a former negotiator for the Ngāti Apa iwi took the seat for Labour in 2014 after Tariana Turia, the Māori Party founder, retired.
Rurawhe said housing was a problem in the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate, in particular.
He said rental accommodation was hard to come by, and he had heard of people moving to live in Marton when they worked in Palmerston North, because of the shortage of housing stock.
When checking the Trade Me website recently, there was just one house available to rent in the Rangītikei area, he said.
Rurawhe also said mental health, including the mental health of Māori, needed to be made a priority. He said some families were "at their wits' end" when trying to get help for their family members.
The number of people who committed suicide in New Zealand – 606 last year – was far too high, he said.
"About 130 of them are Māori – more than two Māori a week are taking their lives."
Many factors could affect a person's mental wellbeing, including job loss and drug addiction.
These underlying mental health problems needed to be dealt with addressed and better services were also needed, he said.
Because of the large geography of the electorate, Rurawhe said he had four offices across it to make sure the area was covered.
The candidates: The Māori Party - Howie Tamati; The Labour Party - Adrian Rurawhe; The Green Party - Jack McDonald; Independent - Wikitoria Waitai-Rapana.
Te Tai Hauāuru: The electorate extends from Putaruru and Tokoroa in the north, to Porirua in the south, with a coastal boundary from just south of Mokau to the Porirua inlet.
Candidates in 2014: Adrian Rurawhe (Labour) - 41.34 per cent, a majority of 8089 votes
Chris McKenzie (Māori Party) - 33.4 per cent, with 6535 votes
Jack McDonald (Green Party) - 15.35 per cent, with 3004 votes
Jordan Winiata (Mana Party) - 9.91 per cent, with 1940 votes
Estimated eligible voting population: 32,697 people enrolled to vote (Electoral Commission). Largest age group of those enrolled in the electorate are 18- to 24-year-olds, with 4385.