Te Heuheu stripped of Maori affairs role

1.15pm

National leader Don Brash has stripped his only Maori MP of her Maori affairs portfolio after she criticised a controversial speech he made on race relations.

A spokesman for Dr Brash confirmed Georgina te Heuheu had been "relieved" of that role after the pair met today.

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee would take over the Maori affairs portfolio, the spokesman told NZPA.

Mrs te Heuheu also loses her speaking roles on constitutional and Treaty of Waitangi issues but retains the broadcasting portfolio.

"Consideration is being given to what other portfolio responsibilities she might have," the spokesman said.

Mrs te Heuheu had spoken today about still being a part of the National Party and had said she would continue to advocate and provide a voice for Maori within the caucus, the spokesman said.

Dr Brash had been expected to move today to end the stand-off with Mrs te Heuheu after she showed no signs of supporting the leader's controversial Maori policy as outlined in his speech last week.

Dr Brash has pledged that a National-led government would end preferential treatment for Maori and stop race-based funding.

In his speech he called for the Maori seats in Parliament to be abolished, and references to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi removed from legislation.

Mrs te Heuheu refused to endorse the policy, and also questioned whether it was actually confirmed policy.

Dr Brash said that if Mrs te Heuheu could not support the policy of the party, "she clearly cannot be spokesperson for that role".

Mrs te Heuheu said yesterday her portfolio was about helping Maori move forward.

"I'm not sure (National's policy) would help Maori move forward," she said.

Dr Brash said previously the matter would be resolved during the party's three-day caucus in Whangarei.

The announcement that Mrs te Heuheu was losing the Maori affairs portfolio came after she met with Dr Brash, and a lengthy caucus discussion on treaty and seabed and foreshore issues.


- NZPA

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