Former league star, Howie Tamati, is defying Labour’s charge on Māori voters.

Māori Television’s exclusive polling of the Māori seats reveals that Tamati has snatched the lead in his western electorate of Te Tai Hauāuru for the Māori Party.

He is the first to score above any Labour Party candidate in any polls to date of the Māori seats with 52% of voters supporting him as the Preferred Candidate.

Labour’s incumbent MP, Adrian Rurawhe, is 13 points behind at 39%.

"You can't rest on your laurels, polls are polls and they do swing, they've been swinging all throughout this election. It's been a fascinating election period to watch,” said Tamati.

Rurawhe said the poll made him even more determined to get Māori to vote.

"We're not going to let anything go. We know that we're in for a fight and that's what I'm concentrating on," said Rurawhe.

Māori Television today released the first of three exclusive polls on the Māori seats. The Reid Research poll canvassed 400 voters in each Māori electorate between July and August with a margin of error of +/- 4.89%.

The polls also reveal former Greens co-leader, Metiria Turei, is facing political wilderness in the southern Māori seat of Te Tai Tonga. Turei’s support is sitting at 20.7% well behind Labour’s Rino Tirikatene who sits on 57.1%.

Turei says polls can be fickle and that her campaign is only now picking up speed,

"Te Tai Tonga whānau know that I fight for them. I fight for their whānau. I fight for their environment and if they want me back in parliament continuing that work then they'll vote for me,” said Turei.

In the eastern seat of Ikaroa Rāwhti, Māori Party co-leader, Marama Fox, is facing the battle for her political life, at 39% she is trailing 16 points behind Labour’s incumbent Meke Whaitiri who is on 55%.

If Fox doesn’t win, she will need to rely on the party vote to get her back to Parliament.

Both Fox and Whaitiri face off in Māori Television’s first debate of the Māori seats tonight at 8pm.

The live broadcast from Victoria University in Wellington will kick off with Tamati and Rurawhe going head to head.