Marama Fox will tomorrow take over from Tariana Turia as the Maori Party co-leader and the first thing both would admit to having in common is that they can be headstrong.
Yesterday the mother of nine called for a new national anthem to replace God Defend New Zealand.
In her first fortnight in Parliament she has already taken issue with the Parliamentary oath, voted for fellow Wairarapan NZ First's Ron Mark over David Carter as Speaker and almost voted no-confidence in the Government - albeit accidentally. The near miss on the vote of no-confidence was the result of a muddle up while casting the Maori Party votes in Parliament. She quickly tweeted a self-deprecating mea culpa:
Ms Turia will step down tomorrow at the party's AGM in her hometown of Whanganui. For Ms Fox, being co-leader will have practical benefits, including allowing her to sit in on the regular meetings the Maori Party leaders have with National's leadership team. She says she does not intend to try to be like Turia.
"The party would not be a party without Tariana Turia. If people expect me to be the new Tariana, you're setting yourself up to fail because she was amazing. I need to carve my own path."
Ms Fox does not swear or blaspheme. Her cuss word is "jingoes". "I'm a badge wearing Mormon, so we don't do the JC word. We do jingoes."
But she has strong views and is not afraid to voice them. Ms Turia has been described as stubborn and Ms Fox is too. "I'm very headstrong. I make no bones about that at all. If I believe in something I will not budge and I will continue to fight for it."
One is a suggestion of a new national anthem, saying New Zealand's was not as stirring as other countries. "We can discuss the flag, why not the anthem?" To illustrate she belts out Advance Australia Fair "and we hate it because we hear it so often, but don't they love it?"
She follows up with an exaggerated dirge-like version of God Defend NZ. "If we're going to sing a national anthem, let's sing one that makes us go 'woo."' She has chosen a members' bill topic and will follow in co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell's steps by trying, yet again, to have the Treaty of Waitangi recognised in the Parliamentary oath. She at least wants those issue debated. She wants a flag that shows the bicultural nature of the country. And she means bicultural rather than multicultural which she describes as "a distribution of power."
But one of her priorities has to be rebuilding the Maori Party which is now relying for its existence solely on Te Ururoa Flavell's Waiariki electorate.
Ms Fox says the relationship with National had hurt the party and she had seriously considered whether the Maori Party would have been better to sit on the cross-benches this term. "I thought seriously about that. I saw benefits in perhaps sitting and standing up strongly for what we oppose."
However, she said she was convinced the relationship did allow the Maori Party to oppose other than on confidence and supply. "That's quite an astounding arrangement."
She won't give a personal preference between National or Labour, saying that would be up to the people. "I wouldn't ever decide for them." However, she acknowledges most Maori prefer Labour. "I think in our hearts we are left-leaning liberals maybe."
"That's what we've known. And that's what in this case Maori have always fallen back on. What they've known. When they are in a place of despair, you go back to your safety net. And Maori people still think the Labour Party are their safety net. We need to change that thinking, because we need to believe in ourselves."
As for Ron Mark, she says she told him if he had actually had any chance of beating David Carter as Speaker she probably would not have voted for him.