Ikaroa-Rawhiti goes to the vote

Last updated 22:16 29/06/2013
David Shearer and Meka Whaitiri
DIANNA DOBSON

Meka Whaitiri is congratulated by Labour leader David Shearer after winning the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.

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Labour has retained the seat of Ikaroa-Rawhiti with a solid win in Saturday’s by-election.

The party’s candidate, Meka Whaitiri, won the contest with a majority of 1761 votes from the Mana Party's Te Hamoa Nikora's.

The Maori Party's Na Raihania was third while the Green Party's Marama Davidson was fourth.

Whaitiri said tonight that the victory was a ‘‘relief’’. She believed she had campaigned as well as she could.

‘‘It’s a big relief and a big excitement that we’ve concluded the by-election and I’ve been given the mandate for the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti.

Labour leader David Shearer, at Labour's by-election party at the Manutuke Marae near Gisborne, offered his congratulations.

''Once again the Labour Party has demonstrated just what a formidable campaign machine it has,'' Shearer said in a statement.

The by-election was forced by the death of Parekura Horomia at the end of April.

"Meka has big shoes to fill, but I know she will continue the hard work and legacy of Parekura Horomia,'' Shearer said.

''She will be a strong voice for the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti, and is a great addition to our Labour caucus.''

Shearer said the contest was a great platform for Labour's battle to win back the Maori seats in next year's general election.

''Only Labour has the sort of policies on jobs, housing and the cost of living that will make a real difference to the lives of voters on the Maori and General Roll alike.''

Voting  in Ikaroa-Rawhiti, a seat which stretches the entire length of the East Coast of the North Island, closed at 7pm.

Turnout for the contest was low, with just over 36 per cent of the electorate’s roughly 34,000 registered voters getting out to vote.Labour has held the seat since it was formed in 1999, although rivals have claimed this reflected the popularity of Horomia.

Former Alliance Party president Matt McCarten said the real winner of the contest was Mana, who beat the Maori Party into third.

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