Claire Trevett

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

Maori Party leadership challenge confirmed

Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell in 2008. File photo / NZPA
Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell in 2008. File photo / NZPA

Prime Minister John Key says he is confident that a potential change of leadership for the Maori Party will not derail National's confidence and supply agreement with the party.

Mr Key said it was not appropriate for him to give a view on whether Dr Pita Sharples should stand down to make way for Te Ururoa Flavell.

However, he said the Maori Party had worked well with National for four years.

"They made a strong commitment to come as part of our Government and to provide good stable Government for New Zealand and I think they'll honour their commitment and if there's a change of leadership I don't anticipate changes in the way that we operate."

Dr Pita Sharples is Minister of Maori Affairs and wants to stay on as minister even if he hands over the leadership. Mr Key said he would discuss it with the leaders if there was a change.

"If there was a change in leadership then they may well have a view on the makeup of the ministerial warrants, and who should have those.

I've been indicating there will be two for the Maori Party, so I think that would be up for discussion."

The Maori Party are meeting today to discuss the leadership, but did not know whether final decisions would be reached.

Outgoing Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she hoped there would be some indication of the way forward by tomorrow morning, but did not know if that included a leadership change.

She also poured cold water on a proposal for Mana leader Hone Harawira to lead the Maori Party, saying it was governed by the people "not some kind of dictatorship".

She was also dismissive of any suggestion the two parties should work together more closely or merge, saying the two had already tried working together but it had not worked out.

"I am leaving so in the end, who knows what the future may hold for them? But I go on go on past experience and am really honest about it, it was a horrendous experience and not one I personally would want to repeat."

Mr Harawira said Maori Party members had asked him to return to lead the Maori Party, which he described as "dying".

He also suggested a merger between the two - and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he was open to working more closely with Harawira, but was unlikely to merge or form a coalition.

Mr Harawira was kicked out of the Maori Party in February 2011 after repeatedly criticising the party for its agreement with the National Party.

Prime Minister John Key said his views on Mr Harawira's proposal were irrelevant, given Mr Harawira had ruled out working with National: "I think Hone Harawira has made his position clear when it comes to the National Party - and it's mutual."

- NZ Herald

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