Te Tai Hauāuru MP and Speaker of the House Adrian Rurawhe will not stand for the Māori electorate in October’s general election and will instead move to the Labour Party list.
Rurawhe contested and won Te Tai Hauāuru three times. He was elected as Speaker mid-term in August last year, replacing Trevor Mallard.
Because they must remain politically neutral, Speakers are typically in Parliament as list MPs rather than as representatives of electorates.
“Since taking up the role of Speaker I’ve had to consider what I will do in the future,” Rurawhe said.
“Since MMP, no sitting Speaker has contested a seat. I’ve thought long and hard about whether I should do that or not, and had lots of conversations with friends, family, iwi.”
Rurawhe, the great-grandson of Rātana Church founder Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, announced the news on iwi radio at Rātana Pā this week, saying he wanted to speak first and directly to Te Tai Hauāuru constituents about his decision.
“I’ve been the Speaker for five months. I know the pressures and the time commitment to the role of Speaker and I have to be honest with myself and honest with the constituents of Te Tai Hauāuru.
“I don’t think it’s possible to be both the Speaker and the Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauāuru. My decision is based on that.
“I will not contest the Te Tai Hauāuru seat for the 2023 election. I will be on the Labour Party list only.”
It had been a privilege to serve Te Tai Hauāuru, which spans the west of Te Ika ā Māui from Kāpiti to Waikato, he said.
“By the time of the election I will have served the electorate for nine years, but in order to give the best for the constituents and the whānau of Te Tai Hauāuru, they need a fulltime MP. And as Speaker of the House, I won’t be.
“There are plenty of candidates that the Labour Party could choose as a candidate in the next election and I’ll leave that to them. I think it will be an interesting campaign.”
Having a Māori in the role of Speaker – the country’s third-most important constitutional role – was important for Māoridom, Rurawhe said. He is only the second Māori MP to be elected Speaker.
“I feel honoured and privileged to be able to carry out [the role]. I hope to carry it out again after the election. I’ll certainly put my name forward to be considered for the role.”
Te Pāti Māori announced at the Rātana celebrations this week that its co-leader, list MP Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, would contest the Te Tai Hauāuru seat again.
Party president John Tamihere said Ngarewa-Packer would take back the electorate for Te Pāti Māori and strengthen the movement for equality and rangatiratanga.
Ngarewa-Packer, who was based in South Taranaki, hotly contested Te Tai Hauāuru in 2020, losing to Rurawhe by 1053 votes.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air