Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia will not stand for Parliament again in 2014, saying she will finally go ahead with plans to retire and could step down as party co-leader by the middle of next year.
Mrs Turia will stay on as a minister until the 2014 election but said she would not stand again - believing both the Maori Party and her treasured Whanau Ora policy were now robust enough to survive the change to a new leader.
However, fellow co-leader Pita Sharples will stand again to try to stagger the leadership changeover rather than replace both of its most public faces at once.
Both Dr Sharples, 71, and Mrs Turia, 68, originally intended to retire in 2011 but changed their minds to see through new policy initiatives such as Whanau Ora and try to keep the party stable after Hone Harawira left to set up the Mana Party.
Mrs Turia said it had been difficult to leave at that point but the time had come.
"By 2014, I will definitely be leaving at the election. I won't stand again. I think that is positive. To be honest, I think there's a real danger in building parties around personalities, as we have seen with other political parties."
The Maori Party hoped to select candidates for all the Maori seats and some general seats by May next year, at which point it was possible she would stand down as leader to make way for her successor.
"We have discussed that, and I'm okay with that."
Dr Sharples said while he would be sad to see Mrs Turia go, she deserved to spend more time with her mokopuna.
"Tari and I have been a team, we have steered this waka together for the last eight years and it will be a huge change to lose my mate. She will be leaving a legacy of opportunity for Maori that she has built up even prior to the days of the Maori Party."
The party has previously considered changing its leadership structure to allow only one leader or two of the same sex. Mrs Turia said she would like to see both a male and female position retained.
"I think it's important to keep the gender balance. I believe women bring quite a different perspective into this environment. We have a major Whanau Ora platform that is the basis of everything we stand for, and it's more important than ever now that we have a female sitting alongside any male who is leading."
On current polling, the Maori Party could be the kingmaker if it retains its three current electorate seats - meaning both Labour and National will need its support to form a Government.
Mrs Turia hoped the Maori Party would hold on to the Te Hauauru seat, where she has been MP since 1996 - first as a Labour MP before forming the Maori Party in 2004. She said voters there had shown "intense loyalty" to her and she would campaign with the next candidate to encourage people to transfer that loyalty over.
Te Ururoa Flavell was relatively safe in his Waiariki seat, but Labour's Shane Jones had eaten into Dr Sharples' majority in Tamaki Makaurau in 2011.By Claire Trevett @CTrevettNZH Email Claire