There are mixed reactions by Hauraki-Waikato voters in the heart of the Kiingitanga to King Tuheitia's public endorsement of Rahui Papa for the Māori Party.
Te Kāea hit the streets of Kiingitanga supporter town, Ngāruawāhia, to gauge the thoughts of the locals.
Ngāruawāhia market stall holder and staunch Labour supporter Daphne said, “No it won't sway me. I'll just stay with one person, Nanaia Mahuta, she's always been there for us and the Labour Party, that's who I'll go for."
Local elder Joe Tonga said, “I want to give her (Mahuta) a rest from what she's doing. I would like her to help her cousin and that's our King.”
However, local Nikki Woods says the Māori King’s endorsement will sway her vote.
“Definitely yip. I mean anything to support Kiingitanga I guess and get a good name out there for our people, cause, we're so blamed upon and everything.”
The Kiingitanga head made his political aspirations for the electorate known at the Paaraawera marae poukai recently, stating, “I'm putting the Kiingitanga support behind Rahui ...and if Nanaia wants to stay in Labour, well I know where her loyalties are. If she doesn't come off there, she's with Labour, she's not with the Kiingitanga.”
In an interview on Māori Television's Kawe Korero show, incumbent Hauraki-Waikato MP Mahuta and cousin of King Tuheitia says she won't be deterred from standing at this year's election.
“Since I began in politics till today, the Kiingitanga has not endorsed my stand as a politician,” said Mahuta, “At the time I was instructed that the Kiingitanga is to remain apolitical and stand autonomous on its principles of uniting Māori to deal with any issues outside the political sphere.
Māori Party president Tukuroirangi Morgan says the king's endorsement is a game changer.
“Everything will change by what the King has done, because all marae within the Hauraki-Waikato electorate will adhere to the words of the King,” said Morgan
Tonga believes Papa should continue in his role as a representative for the tribe.
“Rahui's got a lot on his plate now looking after our King and that's all I want him for.”
The Māori King also took issue with the quick ascension of Labours new deputy leader, as opposed to veteran Mahuta.
“…What Labour has done to Nanaia. She's gone right back to the back bench now. To me she's got no mana in there now,” said King Tuheitia.
Papa said, “This is not about dirty politics against each other. My sister is an integral woman and she has kept her integrity. Unlike the leaders within her Party.”
However Mahuta says she hasn’t been demoted as she is a member of Labour’s shadow caucus.
The Māori Party will announce their Hauraki Waikato candidate in the next few weeks, once Papa’s nomination has been ratified by the Party’s council and leadership.