Labour retains Ikaroa-Rāwhiti in NZ by-election

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Voters in the New Zealand electorate of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti went to the polls yesterday to elect an MP after the death of Labour MP Parekura Horomia.

Labour retained the seat despite a significant swing against them.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti is a Māori electorate covering the west coast of the North Island from the outskirts of Wellington to Gisborne and the northwestern corner of the island.

As a Māori electorate, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti covers part or all of seven other ‘general’ electorate, with only those Māori voters who choose to be on the Maori roll in that geographic area.

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Meka WhaitiriLabour4,36841.73-18.98
Te Hāmua NikoraMana2,60724.90+10.62
Na Rongowhakaata RaihaniaMaori2,10420.10-3.00
Marama DavidsonGreen1,18811.35+11.35
Michael ApplebyLegalise Cannabis1611.54+1.54
Maurice WairauIndependent270.26-1.65
Adam HollandIndependent130.12+0.12

The election result was a reasonable result for Labour: the Labour vote dropped substantially, but this was understandable in the context of a popular sitting MP’s personal vote being lost, and with a stronger field of opponents. Labour will be pleased to have won the seat, and with a comfortable 16.8% margin over the second-placed candidate.

The Mana Party is likely to also be pleased with a 24.9% vote, which is a significant increase compared to 2011. The result was also solid for the Green Party, which has traditionally stayed away from seriously contesting Māori seats.

The Māori Party should be very disappointed with the result. The party holds a number of Māori seats and would have been hoping to expand their representation. A third-place result is a long way short of what they wanted. They will be particularly disappointed to have fallen behind the rival Mana Party, which was a breakaway from the Māori Party in the lead-up to the 2011 election. If the Mana and Māori votes were combined behind a single candidate, they would have defeated Labour.

The results also indicate a serious problem with low voter turnout in the Māori electorates. Māori electorates are meant to cover a similar number of voters to the general electorates. All seventy electorates are estimated to have between 54,000 and 61,000 people who are eligible to vote.

Despite this, there are substantially fewer voters on the roll in each Māori seat than in a general seat, and proportionally even fewer voters who actually cast a vote.

At the time of the 2011 general election, these were the average turnout figures for the 63 general electorates and 7 Māori electorates

 Votes castElectoral rollEligible to voteTurnout
63 general electorates34,02045,04457,34759.32%
7 Māori electorates19,39133,30059,53632.57%

So less than one-third of those eligible to enrol on the Māori roll voted, compared to almost 60% of those eligible to enrol on the general roll.

When you factor in the typical reduced turnout at a by-election, you are looking at a very small number of votes cast. Less than 4,400 votes were cast for the winning Labour candidate yesterday, compared to over 15,000 by the winning candidate in the Auckland Central electorate in 2011.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Low Maori turnout is interesting but may be largely explained by educational levels & class position? Though would those who registered on Maori be expected to be more politically aware & more likely to turnout, or do some have a principled opposition to participation?

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