Wind and rain did little to deter the crowd at Matariki ki Waipareira, the mini-festival in Henderson on Thursday night which acted as a launching pad for Te Pati Māori’s election campaign.
Thousands of people filled out Catherine St for the Matariki event cum political rally.
The campaign launch integrated into the schedule of the free concert, meaning Te Pāti Māori was able to attract far greater crowds compared with other campaign launches so far in the city.
But although it may been Tiki Taane and Katchafire who brought out the lions share of the crowd, enthusiasm was high as Te Pāti Māori candidates hit the stage.
Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer led the crowd in waiata, a reprise of Dave Para’s ‘Magic People’, which Waititi sang in the halls of Parliament upon his election in 2020.
In terms of policy the pair kept it light, telling the crowd that Te Pāti Māori is the only party that “believes in Māori, who believes in tangata tiriti, who believes in tangata moana.
“We make sure we look after everybody, that’s what Te Pāti Māori stands for this year… let’s pōwhiri that in this Matariki time of the year,” Waititi said.
Ngarewa-Packer said the party stands against racism and against Māori “living like second-rate citizens in our own land. We are number one, we’ve always been number one, so we are asking you to believe in you.”
It was a double act between the co-leaders as they tagged in to deliver a few impassioned lines before passing to each other.
Waititi cast the party in a particularly pastoral role, saying Te Pāti Māori will “welcome you, we will feed you, we will house you, we will care for you, we will love you. No other house does that but Te Pati Maori and our Maori marae all over the country”.
The political section of the concert closed with a haka followed by a loud barrage of smoke machines and streamers exploding over the crowd.
It’s all testament to a party that does things like no other in Parliament. Waititi said it himself in a chant he lead the crowd in: “there ain’t no party like a Māori party”.
Te Pāti Māori were able to leverage the immense grassroots support of Te Whānau O Waipareira, the Henderson-based Māori outcomes NGO which organised the mini-festival.
The candidates took to the stage with just a few hours to the deadline for voters to switch to the Māori roll. Te Whānau O Waipareira had a tent set up helping people make the switch, which could also be done via text.
Three months out from any election, voters are frozen onto the roll they have chosen.
It meant there were potentially a number of votes in the crowd that may be out of Te Pāti Māori’s reach if they hadn’t decided to switch over.
Te Ao Māori reported earlier this month that 6662 people had switched from the general to the Māori roll, while 5652 had gone the opposite way.
Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer were joined on stage by their candidates for the other five Māori electorates, which include both fresh and familiar faces.
Running for the first time against Labour stalwart Nanaia Mahuta in Hauraki-Waikato is 20 year old activist Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke. Toppling Mahuta’s whopping 71.56 percent of the Māori vote last time will be no mean feat.
With her on stage was former Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri, who jumped ship from Labour back in May to campaign for Te Pāti Māori. She’ll be running in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti again, which she’s held for Labour since 2013.
This year she’ll find out whether those votes were for her or her party.
Other candidates include health advocate Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, who is running for Te Tai Tokerau for the second time, and Tākuta Ferris, who is also taking his second swing at the South Island electorate of Te Tai Tonga.
Former Manurewa Marae CEO Takutai Moana Kemp will go for Tāmaki Makaurau.
For all three of them, victory will hinge on siphoning votes from Labour MPs who have multiple wins in the electorate in question.