The Maori Party has started on the long road to try to rebuild by 2020, preparing to appoint a new male co-leader within two months with well-known Kaitaia doctor Lance O'Sullivan a likely frontrunner.

The party was booted out of Parliament after yesterday's election and Te Ururoa Flavell said he will step down as co-leader after losing his Waiariki seat to Labour's Tamati Coffey.

That will leave the party to choose another male co-leader when it has its AGM in six weeks' time.

One of those in the mix is understood to be Dr O'Sullivan - a prominent, highly respected doctor from Kaitaia - who had intended to stand as a Maori Party candidate in 2020.

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O'Sullivan has not yet returned calls, but former co-leader Tariana Turia said Flavell has signalled he had expected to retire after the 2017 term anyway and O'Sullivan expressed interest in taking over.

He may now be called on to do that a few years earlier to help rebuild the party from outside Parliament.

Other possibilities for leadership include former broadcaster Shane Taurima and - if he decides he has the appetite - Mana leader Hone Harawira could also return to the fold to try for the leadership. He could not be contacted today.

Turia, the party's founding co-leader and first MP in 2004 - has also leaped back into action to try to salvage the party, saying she spent today in talks with other party members.

"I'm a bit gutted, but already planning for the next election and also planning what we think we should be doing without having any voices inside Parliament."

Turia said she would now get more heavily involved with the party again - but ruled out a leadership or standing for Parliament again, saying at 72 she had done her dash.

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ROTORUA DAILY POST
25 Sep, 2017 6:31am
3 minutes to read

Today was an emotional day for Flavell and his co-leader Marama Fox, both of whom got teary in interviews.

Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell shows his emotions at Waiteti Marae in Rotorua where he watched with supporters as the results of the election came in. Photo / Alan Gibson
Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell shows his emotions at Waiteti Marae in Rotorua where he watched with supporters as the results of the election came in. Photo / Alan Gibson

Fox said she was determined to turn the party's fortunes around again.

"I'd like to see us contest the next election, regroup and take stock and understand what it is our people wanted from us that we didn't give.

The people spoke, they chose a different pathway and so we have to take responsibility for that."

The party had once held five seats but Labour had gradually won them all back - partly because the Maori Party governed under National.

She planned to talk to Harawira soon and did not know whether he would be interested in standing again or re-joining the Maori Party.

Fox believed Labour MPs were helped by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's appeal and the rise in Labour's fortunes - as well as the Labour Maori MPs taking themselves off the list.

Ardern said she had respect for Flavell and Fox but Maori voters had made a clear choice.

"Voters would have looked at outcomes for Maori over the period the Maori Party have been in support of the National Party. We could have done so much better on behalf of Maori communities and Maori voters."

Labour's Maori campaign director Willie Jackson had also fought hard against the Maori Party, despite efforts by Fox and the party president Tukoroirangi Morgan to persuade voters it could favour a Labour government if it had the balance of power.

Fox's job will also come up for a vote and Turia said while it was up to the members to decide, she believed Fox had done a good job and was "courageous and completely unafraid."

Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell is comforted by his wife Erana at Waiteti Marae in Rotorua where he watched with supporters as the results of yesterday's election came in. Photo / Alan Gibson
Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell is comforted by his wife Erana at Waiteti Marae in Rotorua where he watched with supporters as the results of yesterday's election came in. Photo / Alan Gibson

The party will also hold a post mortem of the election - under Morgan, the party ran a more aggressive campaign than usual - recruiting candidates such as Waikato-Tainui leader Rahui Papa and getting and endorsement from the Maori King - a tactic which appeared to backfire after Labour's Nanaia Mahuta held her seat convincingly.

Turia said it was up to Morgan to justify his strategies, but she had always believed the party should be organised by grass roots members rather than "the hands of a few."

She said one of her main concerns was that NZ First leader Winston Peters would dismantle the Maori Party's work in areas such as Whanau Ora because it played to his constituency.

Flavell believed a term "in the wilderness" could even help the Maori Party.

"Maybe it's good that we stay out of the road for three years because then people will know 'actually what we had in our hand is now gone."

The downfall of the party's MPs was regretted by fellow politicians across the spectrum - from Green leader James Shaw to National MP Judith Collins and even the party's arch nemesis Winston Peters.

Peters said he did not agree with the party's policies, but Flavell was "the classic person you need in this country a million fold."

Flavell believed a term "in the wilderness" could even help the Maori Party.

"Maybe it's good that we stay out of the road for three years because then people will know 'actually what we had in our hand is now gone."

The downfall of the party's MPs was regretted by fellow politicians across the spectrum - from Green leader James Shaw to National MP Judith Collins and even the party's arch nemesis Winston Peters.

Peters said he did not agree with the party's policies, but Flavell was "the classic person you need in this country a million fold."