The PI vote and political stunts


John Key Embarks On Pacific Islands Visit - Day 3

The mainstream media got quite excited a couple of weeks ago when a number of Pasifika church leaders were photographed at the Manurewa markets wearing blue, Key-people t-shirts. The clergy pictured in those articles said that they had changed allegiance to National as a means of defending their Christian heritage and taking a stand for their families. Only a week later the Conservative Party announced its two candidates to stand in the Labour stronghold seats of Mangere and Manurewa – both of whom are Pasifika. Some will remember the clever politicking on National’s part in the last election, when popular and well-respected community leaders Vaaiga Tuigamala and Michael Jones were photographed with the PM. There’s been enormous comment on facebook, twitter and around church about these stunts, with the underlying question of whether the faithful PI vote to Labour is beginning to erode.

National’s Pacific strategy is built on creating doubt. The kind of doubt that makes Pasifika voters think that it’s the Party that stands for families, Christian ideals and promotes Pasifika talent. This year, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga was appointed Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and while many have criticised his appointment as down-right electioneering, the political analyst in me says it was a brilliant move. He holds the seat of Maungakiekie by just over 3000 votes and will have to work hard this year with the recent boundary changes in Labour’s favour. But for the many people I’ve spoken to at community and church meetings, the government has scored favourably in their eyes for promoting a son of the Pacific. That said, these people will still vote Labour but his appointment has at least softened their view towards National.

The little stunt of taking pictures with National MP’s and PI clergy at the Manurewa Sunday markets – heartland Labour territory – is yet more clever work to merely create doubt. Let’s be clear. Manurewa, Mangere, Manukau East (and Mana) will stay in Labour hands, but there are two pivotal challenges for Labour in these electorates. Firstly, they have to encourage their voters to vote and secondly, they have to grow the Party vote. In 2005, it was the south Auckland vote that gave Clark the opportunity to put a coalition government together and in 2014, the Left will be dependent on that very vote again to form government this time around. But unlike National, it’s going to take more than a few stunts to win their hearts.

Labour’s message has to be clear, inspiring and concise. Just last weekend David Cunliffe addressed more than 3000 people at a conference of the Samoan Assemblies of God church, receiving overwhelming support and endorsement. His message to them was relevant, honest and caring. Some have said that they felt like he had come with the night’s sermon but what’s most important, is that the message he brought connected with them and that’s why he received such a positive response. Unsurprisingly, this event wasn’t covered by the same news agencies who have found political stunt stories by National to be more newsworthy. In Labour’s favour though, their heartland messages are striking the right cords amongst Pasifika voters where it perhaps has the greatest influence: at church.

Labour has the personnel, energy and ideas to mobilise the south Auckland vote. The challenge going forward is to maintain the same level of intensity, inspiration and genuine concern evidenced at the AoG conference going into the September election and beyond.



  1. Well written article Efeso I believe Labour needs to apologise for dawn raids started by Norman Kirk and continued by National and when is labour going to stop unfair quota system on Pacific immigration permitting vast amounts of migrants from Asia or Europe than our pacific neighbours. Why can’t you retire in Samoa with your pension unless you report back to NZ every 6 months but these rules are not imposed on UK migrants living here. Pasifika people’s will continue to look elsewhere maybe not Tory’s in National and conservatives but there are other options on the left.

    • Well Joe, UK immigrants retire here on a UK pension and the UK rules don’t require them to go back to the UK every 6 months. NZ has no jurisdiction over UK law so what is your point with that statement? As for allowing immigrants to come into NZ, they are decided on the skills they will offer NZ and the skill shortage in NZ i.e. Doctors, engineers etc, hence why are large percentage of them come from Europe or Asia.

      • The point is its achievable if the UK can do we can and this copout on a skills shortage there are 1 billion people in China with skills Doctors, Engineers. What is Labour doing for Pacifika migrants not the masses from over populated country’s but our neighbours.

  2. Media reporting is spectacular dross, a good example recently is the flurry of news outlets that reported an angry motorist’s tirade at Cunliffe as headline news.

    A good test to determine media bias would be for someone to have an angry tirade at Key, see if that makes headlines. Or even then, how they portray the incident.

    With poverty related illnesses endemic among Pasifika and rising since this government has been in office. The two-faced Tory strategy of appealing for votes with family and Christian values is no substitute for genuine welfare.

      • Reeks of bias Gosman – it’s an extended Key spiel with no other party comment.

        The egger, the arrested man, the protesting crowd and opposition parties all have things to say that are more important than Key’s “I don’t recall”.

        • Not amongst a certain section of the electorate no. But then again he doesn’t have to win over 100 percent of the electorate does he.

      • Still a discrepancy on TV coverage.

        Prime News: Apocalyptic tidings for Labour over Jones’ departure. Nothing about Key being egged.

        One News: More apocalyptic tidings for Labour over Jones’ departure. Brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it coverage of Key egging.

        Contrast this with the tirade at Cunliffe with extensive TV coverage that made sure the viewers heard every word of the tirade.

  3. As a Pasifika woman, I will not be voting for National or Labour this election. While the church is an important aspect of Pasifika life, it is not the only factor which should determine one’s vote. The National party may be seen as the more favourable party, in this respect, because of their conservatism and stigma as being a party for religious folk – however, there are bigger issues that affect PI living in NZ. In terms of immigration and social equality, I believe that the answer for our PI community lies to the left. I’m concerned about the living conditions in South Auckland that affect our people – the over crowded state houses and lack of support. Im also concerned about the quality of education our children receive. Two major issues where National’s policy fall short for the Pasifika community.
    It’s time to seek a new alliance – and not with parties that are pulling out all their electioneering stunts only to turn their backs once elected. This year I will be voting Green for my community and the future of my community.

  4. “This year, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga was appointed Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and while many have criticised his appointment as down-right electioneering, the political analyst in me says it was a brilliant move. ”

    You mean some people criticised the appointment of a highly competent Pacific Island member of caucus to the role of Minister of Pacific Island Affairs as ‘electioneering’? Who are these people, and what planet do they live on.

    But to the wider issue, Labour have taken the PI vote for ranted for far too long, just as they have with the Maori vote. IMHO the PI vote is now very tenuous for Labour, given Labour’s rainbow connection and a variety of other recent social policies.

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