Turia had quit both Parliament and the Labour Party in protest over the government's position in the foreshore and seabed controversy. She contested the by-election as a member of the new Māori Party, which she played a leading role in establishing. None of the major parties contested the by-election, and Turia was always the overwhelming favourite to win. Perhaps due to the apparent inevitability of a win for Turia, only around 32% of Te Tai Hauauru voters cast ballots.
Nominations for the by-election closed on 15 June 2004. Candidates were:
Tahu Nepia, who stood as an independent, but represented the Ratana movement, with the intent of establishing an Independent Ratana Party to contest the next general election.
Rusty Kane, an independent who campaigned on the platform that Māori seats should be abolished.
David Bolton, independent.
If no candidates had been put forward to oppose Turia, she would have been declared the winner without a vote - this initially appeared possible, and given the cost of a by-election (estimated at almost NZ$500,000), many hoped that a vote could be avoided.
The holding of a by-election was criticised by a number other parties. The Labour Party, which Turia was originally a member of (and which has traditionally dominated the Māori seats) has called the by-election "a waste of time and money", and a "sideshow". Labour contested the seat in the 2005 election, losing to Turia.