Key Points:

Labour won't entrench the Maori seats but it says it will continue to support the Maori Electoral Option which controls the number of those electorates.

Helen Clark was at Otamatea Marae on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour in Northland to launch the party's Maori policy yesterday at the Ratana Church's celebration of 70 years of their reo, or church bands.

The electoral option, decided every five years and introduced in 1975, determines the number of Maori seats around the country by the number of Maori who choose to vote from either the Maori or general roll.

Though the National Party plans to scrap the seats once historical treaty issues are settled, the Maori Party has described the entrenchment of the seats as a "bottom line".

Labour wanted to keep the status quo because the seats gave voice to some tangata whenua concerns that Maori in general seats could not necessarily represent, Helen Clark said.

"Ever since the Maori electoral option was introduced, which could have seen the number of seats go down or up, they've gone up. That tells us Maori want the choice and it should never be taken away from them.

"I've given an absolute commitment that a Labour government isn't going to touch those seats."

But that support doesn't extend to entrenchment.

"Well, there's obviously no need to entrench them with a Labour government because we're absolutely committed to the seats staying," she said.

The PM contrasted her approach on the Maori seats with National leader John Key's. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said Key had told him the seats would not be abolished unless Maori agreed.

"I will say that in front of any audience in the land, I won't go to one audience like someone else and say [we'll abolish them] and then in a private discussion with another party say 'oh, ka pai'," she said.

In a statement Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said Labour supporting the electoral option meant very little practically.

"Until the seats are entrenched, a simple majority in Parliament can abolish them, and Maori have very little say."

Labour's policy also includes keeping the date for resolving historic settlements at 2020, a review of the Te Ture Whenua Act to look at Maori land's economic potential, a three- pronged approach to increasing the provision of housing projects, a range of industry training and apprenticeships, and plans to address gangs.

Many of the initiatives in the policy are not new, but Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said they were about building on things the Government had done well.

Church minister Tapihana Shelford, the mokopuna of Paraire Paikea the first Northern Maori Labour/Ratana MP elected in 1938, said though there had been strong support for Labour over decades, the nature of the support was changing.

"A lot of Maori people have drifted over the years to Maori Party but the one constant my people will tell me ... [is that] they're still committed to giving us [Labour] the party vote."