Labour MP Rino Tirikatene is delighted to have been returned by voters to the vast Maori seat of Ta Tai Tonga, with a majority of 3987.
But Mr Tirikatene noted the loss to Parliament of “one of Dunedin’s own”, former Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, who challenged for the seat.
“It’s tough for her, but it is very humbling for me to have the mandate of the people here,” he said.
Mr Tirikatene was pleased Labour was in negotiations to be forming a government.
“Everything is in play, and we’re obviously in it to win it,” he said.
“From where we came from, I have the utmost admiration for Jacinda [Ardern] – the way she stepped in with just seven weeks to go was absolutely amazing.
“That was the main thrust of my campaign – wherever she went in this vast electorate, I wanted to be there to support her.”
Te Tai Tonga covers all of the South Island/Te Wai Pounamu, along with the area of five electorates in Wellington.
Mr Tirikatene was proud to welcome 17 new colleagues to the Labour caucus.
The return of all seven Maori seats to Labour was a tribute to the efforts of the Maori MPs on behalf of their constituents.
“I’m proud of the fact that we have won all seven Maori seats – ultimately the people are always right.”
Now, the Maori MPs were keen to follow through on their policies “and deliver for our people, in government”, he said.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations with NZ First, Mr Tirikatene’s first priorities would be to re-establish his team across the vast electorate.
“From there I will be supporting as many local events as I can get to, and already the invitations are flowing in for Dunedin events.
“And I will be thanking the people who have supported me.”