It looks like South versus West Auckland in the battle for Tāmaki Makaurau electorate.
Labour’s Peeni Henare has held the seat for two terms, winning last election with 48.8 per cent of the 19,777 votes cast.
However, his two high-profile rivals, the Māori Party’s John Tamihere and the Green Party’s Marama Davidson, are backed by solid voter bases in West and South Auckland respectively.
People were already queuing this week to cast advance votes at Manurewa library, the polling booth that gave Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare more votes than any other in 2017.
Mark Adams, 54, from the Hokianga was there voting for the first time ever, and gave two ticks to Labour.
“Seeing what Jacinda’s done in the last 12 months with White Island, the shooting and now having to deal with Covid… if she can make a difference as she has, I don’t care what anyone says,” Adams said.
“I know there are a lot of people out there that put her down for what she’s done, but I’m alive because of her, my whānau are alive because of her and the things that her and her government have put in place.”
Green co-leader Marama Davidson cast her vote at the same time, with one in 10 of the votes she received at the last election from Manurewa.
Davidson said previously she had only fought for the party vote, but this year she was pushing for two ticks.
“Especially if we are standing our female, wahine Māori co-leader in an electorate seat, I personally did not think that we were doing the seat justice by not asking for the candidate vote.”
Davidson hoped people would support her because of her stance on stopping the state removing tamariki Māori from their whānau, on returning land at Ihumātao to mana whenua, and the Green Party policy on constitutional reform, which would action the Matike Mai report.
“The reason why far too many Māori are missing out on an affordable, healthy home is because we haven’t designed our decision-making in a way that upholds Te Tiriti and that is key to Matike Mai,” Davidson said.
Across the city in Henderson, Māori Party candidate John Tamihere has delivered social services through the Māori urban authority, Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust, for decades.
He stood as a candidate for Auckland’s mayoralty and is no stranger to the Tāmaki Makaurau seat, which he held from 1999 to 2005.
Tamihere said his campaign crew was recruiting new voters at markets and through “carkois”.
“We put all the flags on the cars and then you’ve got all your loud speaker systems and then you drive into all the Māori hoods… and then we bomb major arterial routes so all our Māori party flags, so you’re out there just lifting presence,” Tamihere said.
Despite the online backlash, Tamihere said he had no regrets about his party’s policy of curbing immigration to free up housing.
Waipareira Trust had just finished construction of 120 houses and less than 10 percent had been allocated to his people, he said.
“You think that makes us happy, and my people happy when they see people that’ve arrived in the country five minutes ago take the best houses, brand new houses, and they’re still in caravans and in cars – it’s unacceptable,” Tamihere said.
“So it’s not about immigration; it’s about the indigenous people having a chance in their own country.”
He hoped his contacts with Māori social service providers in Tāmaki, who regularly meet as the collective, Te Pae Herenga o Tāmaki, would secure him votes from outside West Auckland.
Māori warden co-ordinator at the Waipareira Covid-19 testing station, Bumpa, said he was giving two ticks to the Māori party because “we’ve got to support Māori.”
“My wife’s family [are] part-relations with the Peeni, so there’s a conflict there, but we make sure we keep the kaupapa straight.” Bumpa said.
The campaign crew for Peeni Henare is based at Te Māhurehure marae in Point Chevalier. The marae’s founders, Christine and John Panapa, have backed Henare for his last two campaigns.
People, especially kaumātua and kuia, often connected Peeni Henare with his grandfather, the late Sir James Henare, Christine Panapa said.
Henare said he used his strong Ngāpuhi whakapapa to reach his voters, as 74 percent of those from the northern tribe live in Auckland.
As Minister of Civil Defence, he said it had not always been easy to be present in his electorate.
“I was there at Whakaari, I was there at the floods, the droughts, the everything, and some people have said to me, ‘well you can’t be serving us if you’re elsewhere’, and that’s just one of the honours and privileges of being a Minister, you’re responsible for the entire country.”
To those who might criticise him for not being present at Ihumātao, he said he was in the boardroom, trying to fix the problem.
“I might not be standing on the frontline like my tuahine [Marama Davidson], but we were focused on what a positive outcome could be and we still are.”