Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Turia: Sharples' time is up

Heir apparent might not stand for House again if he's not made party leader

Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are at odds over a leadership handover. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are at odds over a leadership handover. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has called on her fellow co-leader, Pita Sharples, to step down and hand over the reins to MP Te Ururoa Flavell, despite Dr Sharples' plans to stand again in 2014.

And Mr Flavell is considering not standing again in 2014 if Dr Sharples does not give up the leadership, saying he is not sure whether he wants to wait around until 2017.

Although Mrs Turia will retire in 2014, Dr Sharples has said he will stand again.

Mrs Turia will stay on as a minister but is open to handing over the co-leadership earlier. This week she told Waatea News Dr Sharples should follow suit to make way for Mr Flavell - the natural successor for the leadership, who had been expected to take over by 2014 until Dr Sharples decided to stay on.

"The leadership role is not about being a minister," Mrs Turia said. "Being the leader of a political movement is something quite different. There is absolutely nothing stopping Pita from continuing to be the minister."

Asked if Dr Sharples' decision affected his own plans for 2014, Mr Flavell said he was "considering my options."

"If Pete is standing again, he will be in for another three years. That doesn't provide us with succession planning, because I hadn't planned on making Parliament a career at all. So I'm just considering it."

Mr Flavell indicated he was unwilling to wait until 2017 because he had never intended to be a career politician. He was also concerned he would be seen as too much of an old face to take over beyond 2014.

He has previously said he will not directly challenge Dr Sharples and will seek the leadership only if Dr Sharples steps down voluntarily.

He said he expected to decide by April next year, when the Maori Party candidate nominations were due.

Mr Flavell, 57, has been MP for Waiariki since 2005 - the Maori Party's first election.

Yesterday, Dr Sharples acknowledged the leadership was under discussion - including whether the party would break from its current structure of a male and female leader and whether it should stagger the leadership handover.

"All members of the Maori Party, including Tariana, have their own views on what this should look like, but ultimately any decisions will be worked out amongst the collective."

It is not the first time Dr Sharples has faced pressure to step down for Mr Flavell. In the lead-up to the regular leadership vote after the 2011 election, party president Pem Bird and Mrs Turia said the party had to address its succession before 2014 and indicated it was time for Mr Flavell to step up. Dr Sharples and Mrs Turia were reappointed for three years in December 2011.

- NZ Herald

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