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Rotorua candidate Merepeka Raukawa-Tait spent almost $14k on unsuccessful campaign

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An unsuccessful Rotorua electorate candidate who spent almost $14,000 on her campaign but missed out on a seat says campaigning cannot be done on the “smell of an oily rag”.

Te Pāti Māori candidate Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who declared $10,000 in donations and got 2731 votes, said her expenses covered social media promotion, advertising, and billboards because “the face that is seen is remembered”.

Raukawa-Tait’s donations and expenses were revealed in a summary of general election candidates’ expenses and donations, released on the Electoral Commission website. Each candidate’s return was due by February 14.

Under the Electoral Act, candidates are required to report donations over $1500 and expenses after a parliamentary election.

Prior to the election, the former district councillor told the Rotorua Daily Post she was worried the poor were being demonised and Rotorua was becoming a city of two halves: “Those who have and those who don’t.”

In her view, the main political parties had failed Rotorua including by selling off state housing, doing a “shoddy” job of assessing who legitimately needed emergency housing as well as draining police and health resources with too many MIQ hotels, she said.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait stood in the Rotorua electorate for Te Pāti Māori in the 2023 election. Photo / Andrew Warner
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait stood in the Rotorua electorate for Te Pāti Māori in the 2023 election. Photo / Andrew Warner

This week, Raukawa-Tait said if candidates were serious about getting elected, they needed the funds to “mount a half-decent campaign”.

Raukawa-Tait, who spent $13,642.24, said she received help with social media promotion last year which she was “not particularly skilled in”.

“The use of billboards keeps your face out there alongside everyone else.”

“If you haven’t already got a public profile, that just means you have to work harder and smarter to get recognised and your message across.”

Raukawa-Tait said she believed public meetings were “a thing of the past”.

“I would recommend anyone standing for public office needs a good fundraising team because advertising and the extra travel required is not cheap.

“I don’t think you can campaign on the smell of an oily rag and hope to get elected. It takes time and commitment.”

Rotorua MP Todd McClay at Hennesseys Irish bar after winning his seat in the Rotorua electorate. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rotorua MP Todd McClay at Hennesseys Irish bar after winning his seat in the Rotorua electorate. Photo / Andrew Warner

Winning candidate Todd McClay (19,339 votes) received $27,000 in donations during the election last year and spent $22,712.44.

The Rotorua MP told the Rotorua Daily Post said his expenses were “similar to most other elections I’ve been involved in”.

“It’s very much about making sure that you can communicate the ideas clearly of what you’re trying to achieve and what the party is doing with voters.”

McClay said this was considered “quite carefully” and he was “very grateful” for the result.

Labour Party candidate Ben Sandford, (10,416 votes) who declared no donations, spent $8842.70 on his campaign and Independent candidate John Naera, (354 votes) who also declared no donations, spent $1447.96.

NewZeal candidate Kariana Black-Vercoe (1252 votes) declared $3660 in donations and expenses totalling $3240.50.

Act Party candidate Marten Rozeboom (1732 votes) declared zero donations and expenses.

In the neighbouring Bay of Plenty electorate, independent candidate Taupō Wahed spent $27,024 and declared no donations. Wahed got 204 votes.

Megan Wilson is a health and general news reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post. She has been a journalist since 2021.



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