Political parties bank on diverse lineups

Election candidates in eastern Christchurch and the hinterland have parachuted in from afar, raising the odds of the first Maori person winning a general electorate seat in Christchurch.

A breakthrough began last year with Labour's Poto Williams, an Auckland-based social worker of Cook Island-Maori descent who won the Christchurch East by-election.

She had been involved with both the Auckland and Christchurch Living Wage Campaigns before entering Parliament but the seat she carried has been Labour's for a century.

Williams' challenge from National will be from Joanne Hayes, a list MP from iwi in the North Island. Hayes stood for Dunedin South in 2011.

Neighbouring Port Hills is represented by longtime Labour incumbent, Ruth Dyson. Her National opponent will be Nuk Kurako, whose tribal affiliations are Ngai Tahu.

People of Maori descent winning general electorate seats anywhere is novel, Fairfax research indicates.

In Waimakariri the major runoff is likely to be between between Labour's Clayton Cosgrove and National's Matthew Doocey - a member of the Carter family dynasty who grew up in Christchurch and had his first tilt at an electorate seat last year in Christchurch East.

Kaikoura, ranging from Amberley to the Marlborough Sounds, has been thrown open after National's three-term MP Colin King was ousted in the party's pre-selection process by Marlborough grapegrower, Stuart Smith.

Labour's candidate, Janette Walker, has moved to Blenheim from Feilding, Manawatu.

The most familiar names to voters in the upper South Island are probably in West Coast/Tasman, where Labour's Damien O'Connor will stump up against National's Maureen Pugh, a former mayor of Westland District.

In Nelson, National's Nick Smith will defend his long-held turf against Labour's Maryan Street, whose website biography says: "I was born and raised in New Plymouth so am really a 'Naki girl. But I learned to become an Aucklander after 27 years of working life there and now I'm a Nelsonian!"

Outsiders like Walker, a Wairarapa farmer turned farming adviser, haven't had to wait long before hearing the term "carpet-bagger". She objects to the term - rural seats like Kaikoura have been National's for decades - and said she had been considering a run at an electorate since late last year. Originally she was eyeing her local Rangitikei seat but that wasn't available.

A less contestable element in upper South Island campaigning will be the iwi factor.

Kurako, in Port Hills, runs a tourism consultancy but also has a range of tribal commitments, including the Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu Board (governance arm) and Ngai Tahu Corporation Board (commercial arm).

In Christchurch East, Hayes' North Island iwi background is Ngati Porou, Ati Haunui A Paparangi and Rangitane ki Wairarapa.

Before entering Parliament on the party list at the start of this year she had most recently been an executive director at UCOL tertiary institute in Whanganui.

Of the remaining city seats, the major runners for Christchurch Central are National incumbent Nicky Wagner and Labour's Tony Milne, both of whom are Cantabrians.

Ilam has National's Gerry Brownlee against Labour's blogger candidate, James Dann. In Wigram it will be Labour MP Megan Woods against National's Karl Varley.

The Green Party candidates are Christchurch East, Mojo Mathers; Christchurch Central David Moorhouse; Port Hills, Eugenie Sage, Ilam; John Kelcher; Wigram; Richard Wesley; Waimakariri; Reuben Hunt; Steffan Browning, Kaikoura and Kevin Hague; West Coast/Tasman. All of the Greens are Pakeha, including Browning who calls himself Ngati Pakeha.

Among other parties, the Internet Party backed by Kim Dotcom will stand 23-year-old Beverley Ballantine in the Ilam electorate and Lois McClintock. 28, in Wigram. Ballantine is higher ranked, at fifth on the party's list. Both choices are Pakeha.

National Party Canterbury Westland regional chairman Roger Bridge couldn't be contacted for comment on party selections, while New Zealand First was finalising its choices.


Elected Maori Members of Parliament in NZ, excluding Maori electorates

1993: Sandra Rose Te Hakamatua Lee-Vercoe,  Auckland Central; Winston Peters, Tauranga

1996: Winston Peters, Tauranga

1999: Georgina Beyer, Wairarapa; Winston Peters, Tauranga

2002: Winston Peters, Tauranga

2008: Paula Lee Bennett, Waitakere.

2011: Paula Lee Bennett, Waitakere; Louisa Hareruia Wall, Manurewa


Political parties want more diversity in electorate seats so they can pick up more party votes, a researcher of Maori voting patterns says.

Lawyer Jeremy Sparrow wrote The Truth About Maori Seats for his honours degree. He found that between 2002 and 2008 the number of Maori MPs in Parliament exceeded the relative national population of Maori. He attributed the continuing trend to the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system, which allocates seats in Parliament based on the share of party vote.

Parties believed voters would reward them for a diverse, multicultural party list, he said.

"The theory goes that people vote, based on the that list, so people vote according to who they identify with."

That could mean a voter of Maori, Indian or Asian descent in Hamilton could be persuaded to vote National, for example, because the party had gone the extra mile to select candidates from their ethnicity in Christchurch.

"National and Labour are going to want to have a more diversified list so they can appeal to a wide variety of voters."

This transformation could also occur naturally. "As we grow into a more multicultural country year by year, the theory is that we're going to have more Maori, Asian and Pacific Island representation."

But whether parties made this happen was a different story, Sparrow said.

The Press