Tariana Turia believes it was Parekura Horomia who stopped other Labour MPs from crossing the floor during the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Bill debate in 2004.
Mrs Turia left Labour because of the issue, which led to the birth of the Maori Party. Yesterday, at her close friend's tangi, she said the Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP was the force that kept others from leaving with her.
For him, that judgment would have been an extremely tough call, she said.
"Originally they all said they would leave. So I think he probably was very influential in all of them staying ... That was probably a very hurtful time for me because I knew if Parekura had walked then, it would begin a new era for us as a people in this land, and in the end they were able to sway him to stay which I think was sad."
But the pair's friendship of decades withstood the test.
"Well, you know, you love someone despite [that] and that's how it was with him and me. We could disagree, we could have the biggest mega-row about something and know that at the end of the day there were so many things that bound us together."