Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are expected to face internal opposition at the party conference in Hastings today to the bill replacing the Foreshore and Seabed Act, amid growing activism against it by MP Hone Harawira.
Mr Harawira's opposition took a new twist this week when he issued a statement criticising his caucus colleagues for supposedly dumping him from the Maori Affairs select committee to hear the bill.
He said people were urging him not to "sell out", implying that his colleagues had.
He issued it late on Thursday, then again yesterday morning on the day that Mrs Turia was being feted in Porirua at a milestone in the introduction of the Whanau Ora social service policy - the naming of 25 service providers throughout the country.
His statement followed a public letter issued the day before by colleague Te Ururoa Flavell setting out reasons he believed the bill should be supported.
Mr Harawira said he had been gutted that his colleagues had pulled him from the select committee and had been very disappointed they didn't see it his way. "Sure I put on the party face but it cut all the same," he said.
The Weekend Herald understands that when the decision was made more than a month ago, Mr Harawira had no problem agreeing to it, and this week told others in the party that he had no problems not sitting on the committee.
The fact that he is now virtually campaigning against the bill is causing some concern in the party, and is a marked change from simply deciding to vote against it.
But Mr Harawira appears to be gaining ground: party stalwart and Ngati Kahungunu leader Ngahiwi Tomoana will reportedly also speak against the bill at the conference.
Mr Harawira's camp wants the foreshore and seabed, currently in Crown ownership, vested directly in Maori ownership without having to go through the tests proposed in the new Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill to get a limited form of ownership.