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

Maori Party President signs off

Maori Party President Pem Bird has made his final speech as leader.Photo / File
Maori Party President Pem Bird has made his final speech as leader.Photo / File

Maori Party President Pem Bird has delivered his last speech as party President at the party's annual conference which will today elect a new President and a new male co-leader.

About 150 people have gathered for today's conference which follows a bruising and uncertain period for the party as it tries to deal with the retirement of its co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia.

Speaking this morning, Mr Bird paid tribute to the party's founding co-leaders and scoffed at critics who claimed their retirements would result in the end of the Party.
He said there was a "morbid fascination" in the party and claims "that we are a bunch of has-beens and on our last legs. Whatever." He said he accepted some culpability for the party's failings in some areas, including the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection result. However, he said that did not mean the party was on its way out.

Mr Bird also raised the issues the party is considering, such as talks with Mana and its relationship with National. He said it was up to the party to consider what position the party ultimately took, but it should not simply buckle under critics' claims.

Mr Bird said while on the surface of things, a relationship with Mana might make sense, it was not as simple as that.

He said such a relationship was also about reprocity and mutual respect, yet Mana had already set out conditions and its leader Hone Harawira had mounted a personal attack on Mr Flavell.

"A marriage made in heaven?"

He also raised the question of whether the party should "jump ship" and leave National.

"I couldn't care less what people from other parties or critics say. We didn't get it wrong. What we need to get better at is communication about our gains."

He said the Maori Part needed to reaffirm its position that it was neither pro National or pro Labour. "We are pro-Maori."

Mr Bird's successor will be elected later today from two nominees: Naida Glavish and George Ngatai.

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