Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox and Mana leader Hone Harawira have come to an informal agreement for a ceasefire in the run up to the 2017 election as they try to win back the Maori seats from the Labour Party.
The Maori Party will have its annual conference tomorrow [Saturday] and Fox said it was likely the Mana Party would be discussed. She had met informally with Harawira recently.
"There is still no appetite amongst either party for a formal agreement at this stage but what we don't want to do is have scraps in the media over things, because we basically want the same thing for our people. We cannot afford to split the Maori vote. "
Harawira said he caught up with Fox when they were both in Auckland recently. "We just had a coffee and said in terms of where things go in 2017 let's not get too caught up in all the policy or personality issues. Just very much flagging the possibility of not getting into any s***fights with one another between now and the election, perhaps. We'll see how it goes."
In 2014, Labour won two of the Maori Party's three electorates and Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau electorate -- seats that had been held by the Maori Party and Mana since 2005. Harawira announced last month he would stand in 2017 to try to win back the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.
Fox said there had not been discussion about strategic deals in seats yet but would not rule it out. The party's candidate selection had just begun and it did intend to stand in more general seats to try to push up its party vote. High profile former league player Howie Tamati, a New Plymouth District Councillor, was seeking the nomination for Te Tai Hauauru which Labour's Adrian Rurawhe won after the retirement of Dame Tariana Turia.
At its annual hui in Auckland, the Maori Party will also vote on the role of President. Incumbent Naida Glavish is up against former NZ First MP and Tainui spokesman Tukoroirangi Morgan and George Ngatai. "I think it's healthy to have some competition over the role. The conversations we are having are positive about making sure we grow and we get those seats back."
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell still holds the Waiariki electorate but Fox is a List MP.
Maori Party support has eroded over the eight years it has been a support party in the National Government. Despite that, Fox said the party would not set out in advance of the election whether it would choose Labour or National if it was in a kingmaker position. "We will work with whichever party is prepared to support our policies, those decisions will be made at that time." The party's decision to join the Labour-Green Homelessness Inquiry showed it was willing to work on a cross party basis.
The loss of the Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru electorates followed the retirements of Maori Party founders Sir Pita Sharples and Dame Tariana Turia. Te Tai Tokerau went to Labour's Kelvin Davis after Harawira's controversial decision to merge Mana with Kim Dotcom's internet Party.