The birth of Destiny’s child
A Destiny Church-Mana mash-up could be on its way, if Hannah Tamaki and Hone Harawira join forces to deliver “politics with teeth”, with the added aim of unseating Kelvin Davis in the process. Laura Walters reckons it could work if the bunch of big personalities don’t implode ahead of election day.
Will it be a case of third time’s the charm for the Tamakis’ political aspirations?
Destiny Church has already had two cracks at gaining entry to the halls of power – Brian Tamaki’s most well-known attempt was in 2004, when he stated his church would “rule New Zealand” by 2008.
And in 2003, former Destiny Church member Richard Lewis also started the Destiny New Zealand party, with Tamaki as its “spiritual advisor”.
The 2003 attempt failed to launch, and the 2004 attempt did not get enough votes to see Brian Tamaki become an MP.
But this time around, the party will be fronted by the more astute, and less divisive, Hannah Tamaki. And some think she just might have what it takes to have a better run at it than her husband.
Brian Tamaki’s wife is known for being an effective operator, who runs matters behind the scenes with an iron fist.
On Thursday, Tamaki announced her party's formation from the executive lounge of the Destiny Church complex - a room with plenty of taxidermy on show.
Tamaki said she was concerned with the direction the country was headed, and discrimination against her husband and Destiny Church meant she had been unable to help her people to the best of her ability.
The party would be named Coalition New Zealand, though the Electoral Commission has not received an application for registration.
If, or when, the party does apply to register there will be a consultation process, which includes looking at the party's name. If it's deemed to be confusing or misleading for voters, it will have to be changed.
Meanwhile, two quick-thinking gay comedians Eli Matthewson and Chris Parker have purchased the domain name coalitionparty.co.nz, which currently redirects to their YouTube channel The Male Gayz.
As well as not being an officially registered party, or having a website, Coalition New Zealand also lacks policy, with Tamaki telling RNZ her priorities were "children, families and prisoners" - at least for now.
That pesky threshold
The country’s 5 percent MMP threshold makes it difficult for new parties to get a foot in the door. This was demonstrated by TOP’s performance in 2017.
But there is wide agreement from Māori and South Auckland MPs that Hannah Tamaki and the Destiny Church ethos will speak to a portion of Kiwis, particularly Māori.
And Newsroom understands Tamaki has a plan to help get in the door, in the form of a Mana-Coalition mash-up.
Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira has long had his heart set on winning back his Tai Tokerau seat in the north.
Like the Tamakis, Harawira has been critical of Labour deputy Kelvin Davis in recent weeks, following a heated exchange over Destiny Church’s Man Up programme.
Harawira says Davis’ comments about Man Up, and unwillingness to allow the programme into prisons, failed to properly serve Māori. Harawira believes he should be the man in the north. He has also posted an endorsement for Hannah Tamaki’s plans in a Facebook post on the Mana Movement page: “When Parliament doesn’t listen – time to go into Parliament,” he wrote.
As Shane Jones put it, ultimately the voters will determine who is “king in the North”, but that doesn’t stop Harawira from thinking he’s the best man for the job.
If Harawira can win back the Tai Tokerau seat, Tamaki wouldn’t need to clear the 5 percent threshold to gain a seat in Parliament.
As leader of Coalition New Zealand she would be first on the party’s list – unless she also decided to stand in a Māori seat – and Newsroom understands former Labour staffer, and self-described lifestyle liberationist Jevan Goulter would come in as number two on the list. At this stage Goulter is managing media inquiries for the party.
The mash-up makes some sense, with both Harawira and the Tamakis angry at the way Davis – in his role as Corrections Minister – has dealt with the Man Up situation. But an alliance could cause policy issues, with Mana sitting far to the left of the Destiny Church ethos.
On Thursday, Harawira refused to comment on the possible pairing, saying he was too busy to talk, but did not rule it out. He later took a shot at Davis on Māori Television, making it clear he planned to run in the seat again next year. "My job here isn't to scare Kelvin, it's to work for my people," he said.
Newsroom also understands the new alliance has been courting rich-listers and trusted names, to add legitimacy to the party. However, it’s not clear if any have agreed to put their name to the party just yet.
Meanwhile, Hannah Tamaki has left the door open to work with National MP Alfred Ngaro, who is exploring the possibility of setting up his own conservative Christian party.
Winston Peters is critical of the two Christian-based parties, quoting song lyrics, which referred to the parties as “cling-ons” of the National party.
“I think that Mr Bridges will be celebrating because now he’s got two cling-ons on the starboard bow: Alfred Ngaro and Brian Tamaki.”
2014 called, it wants its election back
If you think this sounds familiar, you’re not wrong – in 2014 the divisive, but well-known and wealthy Kim Dotcom joined forces with Harawira, to create the Internet-Mana Party.
Similarly, the party had a well-known personality, plenty of funds, and former MPs, including Harawira and Laila Harre.
Internet-Mana didn’t clear the threshold, and there’s a good chance this pairing won’t either.
And while Davis is refusing to say whether he’s worried about his seat – he’s refusing to comment at all - many around Parliament have warned watchers not to discount the party.
The church has a loyal following, displayed by Brian Tamaki’s rallies to Parliament, where thousands have flocked to the forecourt, wearing matching garb with the Destiny logo.
Hannah Tamaki says the party will appeal to everyone, not just those already aligned with the church, or Christians, and not just Māori.
Tamaki did not make herself available to Newsroom for an interview.
Forming alliances with people who have connections and notoriety can be helpful when trying to raise money, and get a political party off the ground, but there’s also a chance the strong personalities, and competing ideals could lead to ructions in the ranks.
It’s wholly possible this party could implode ahead of the 2020 election, becoming another small-party casualty.