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

Maori Party 'open to Labour'

Te Ururoa Flavell says his party is aware that its supporters are not comfortable with National.
Te Ururoa Flavell says his party is aware that its supporters are not comfortable with National.

The Maori Party has used the annual Ratana anniversary to send a message to Labour not to rule it out as a potential coalition partner.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the party was looking at all options. It would do as it had in the past and talk to its supporters after the election results were known.

"We have generally got the message that our people are not comfortable with the relationship with National.

"So it's important we open up that discussion again with our people to get it right. Three years is a long time and with the possibility of a different coalition, it's important we take it seriously and don't just follow the same pattern."

Maori Party MP Pita Sharples also said Labour was a viable option and supported some of the Maori Party policies that National did not.

Several recent polls have put the Maori Party in the position of kingmaker if it can hold two or three electorate seats.

Asked if he would be happy to work with the Maori Party, Labour leader David Cunliffe said it was a post-election decision.

"I have not closed my door to an approach from the Maori Party, but I'm not going to be having negotiations before the election."

He said Labour intended to contest all the Maori electorates and, as yet, had no plans to do a deal with Mana leader Hone Harawira to help him hold his seat while increasing Labour's chances of winning others back.

"There's no prospect of that at this stage," Mr Cunliffe said.

Labour's Maori affairs spokesman, Shane Jones, said the party's target was to win all seven Maori electorates - and he did not believe the Maori Party would side with Labour, saying Mr Flavell "can't be trusted" after six years at National's side.

Prime Minister John Key dismissed the Maori Party's comments as election-year positioning and did not believe it was a sign the party was dissatisfied with National.

"Every small party in the history of MMP has struggled under the cloak of the major parties, so coming into election year, they do tend to distance themselves a bit."

- NZ Herald

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