Helping families who are suffering from this year’s Edgecumbe floods sparked a heated debate between the two candidates fighting to win the Māori electorate seat of Waiariki.
During Māori Television’s debate between incumbent Māori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell and Labour’s Tamati Coffey, presenter Oriini Kaipara asked Flavell what he had done to help families affected by the Edgecumbe floods in April.
“I went there and did some mahi for the whole community. I’ve written a letter to the Minister For Disasters and told him that it’s inappropriate to allow people to live in those conditions and they must recognise the influence that Māori play in times of emergency,” says Flavell.
He says he ensured government agencies were given more than $1 million to help Kokohinau Marae and other facilities for relief housing.
But his opponent says the Māori Party has not done enough.
“It’s very nice he wrote a letter but that’s no solace for the people that are out there doing the hard yards and looking for a house,” Coffey says. “Under the Māori Party, they’ve sat by the National Party as they’ve overseen the biggest homelessness crisis we’ve had in New Zealand."
Coffey says he visited Edgecumbe the day after the disaster struck.
“I went there and put on the white overalls and got stuck in,” Coffey says.
Flavell told Coffey it was not a popularity contest and it’s about the people. Flavell promised an extra $3 million to help affected families in the area.