Marama Fox vows the Māori Party will fight on, after Labour's clean sweep of Māori seats
A determined Marama Fox has vowed she'll continue to fight for her people after she and the Māori Party lost their place in Parliament.
Fox, who lost to Labour's incumbent Meka Whaitiri in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, said losing was a blow, but she was more disappointed that voters in Waiariki failed to vote for Te Ururoa Flavell, who lost to Labour's Tamati Coffey.
In Te Tai Hauāuru, Labour incumbent Adrian Rurawhe retained his seat, despite high hopes for the Māori Party's Howie Tamati.
Fox believed the Māori Party's demise came down to people wanting a change. Working with National had meant her party had lost favour with those it represented.
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"We've been tarred by the same brush, by sitting at the same table."
She was now concerned about what kingmaker Winston Peters would do.
He wanted to remove references to the Treaty of Waitangi from legislation such as the Resource Management Act, and get rid of the Māori seats – "the only guaranteed place for a Māori voice", Fox said.
"I think Māori will be regretting moves they've made, if that turns out to be the case.
"We'll continue to fight on the ground … we'll have to build a grassroots movement up again, as those who've gone before us did. We're resilient, we'll thrive, we'll rise up."
Meanwhile Whaitiri, who won Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by more than 3500 votes, said she was tired, relieved and humbled to be returned to Parliament.
She was still holding out hope she might be part of a change of government, and wanted to bring a focus back to people living in the regions, who she said had been overlooked.
Rurawhe, who won Te Tai Hauāuru by just 1135 votes – the smallest margin of all the Māori electorates – said on Sunday: "Really pleased that the voters have chosen to give me another three years as their MP."
He criticised the polling run by Māori TV and said Tamati's strong showing was due to what he described as inaccurate polling.
"I put that down to the Māori TV poll that had me 13 percentage points behind. That poll really hurt me in the electorate."
He said Labour had returned more MPs this time and, with all the Māori electorate seats and 13 Māori representatives, Labour "clearly have a mandate from Māori to represent their interests."
He said negotiating Treaty settlements was his key focus for his electorate, and housing, poverty and inequality were key concerns for Māori.
In Te Tai Tonga, incumbent Rino Tirikatene saw a small fall in his candidate vote, but a huge lift for Labour in the party vote.
"I think we benefited from a swing to Labour and Jacinda," he said on Sunday. "Unlike up north, we ran a clean, respectful campaign.
"I'm excited by the fact Labour has 13 Maori MPs. I'm going to be welcoming the new ones to Parliament tomorrow."