Renegade MP Meka Whaitiri has lifted the lid on why she left Labour and joined Te Pāti Māori.
In a lengthy interview with Te Pāti President John Tamihere on Radio Waatea 603 last night, Whaitiri reveals the change in leadership of the Labour Party - from Jacinda Ardern to Chris Hipkins - made her rethink her own political agenda.
Asked by Tamihere if there was a specific moment or a catalyst that made her jump to Te Pāti Māori, Whaitiri said: “I guess it was over time that started with the change in leadership at the beginning of the year.
“The last prime minister (Jacinda Ardern) had a completely different style, but I felt the voice of Māori members of Labour were actually canvassed and were given time.
“The current leadership has a different style, obviously concerned around the up and coming election to win back the middle vote.
“I could see that being played out at the beginning of the year when the changes first happened. I bided my time, I contributed as I normally would do, but I could see an erosion of things we had built up.”
Whaitiri announced her departure from the Labour Party in early May on her marae in Hastings.
The resignation created huge political ripples as it came out of the blue and announced while Hipkins was in the UK attending the King Charles Coronation.
Whaitiri said while some of her former colleagues and political opponents may taint that decision and the timing to leave as deceitful, she said there was nothing sinister and she is finally being true to herself.
“Our people know exactly what I have done,” Whaitiri said.
“And returning to a calling, that is who you are as a Māori, that is your whakapapa and your puku are calling you back there. Our people get that.
“I did it on my marae with my people and they understood the reason. It’s not my job to educate the ignorant in this country.”
“They want some drama. No it was my time and was always going to be my time to make that decision and that’s what happened.”
The 58-year-old said her departure had to be kept a secret.
“There would have been some allegation, and I would have got sacked,” Whaitiri told Tamihere.
“Simple as that. I don’t reconcile from the processes I followed but having said that, I did the right thing and let the president of the party know that I had resigned.
“So those people who said I had some something dastardly are incorrect.
“I did officially inform the party president and that was done before we made the public announcement.”
Whaitiri said her Ikaroa Rawhiti electorate, like most other communities in Aotearoa, are struggling with the cost of living and the Cyclone Gabrielle disaster.
“From what I could see from the inside, with the change, with the style and the with the suffering and the ten-year anniversary of when I came in.
“When I came into this job in 2013, I said on the record I would do this job for 10 years.”
Whaitiri said the thinking behind that statement was not because the role only deserved 10 years but “if you can’t effect change in that 10 years, you should kick yourself out.
“But the passion to represent the electorate just remains but the vehicle that voice and those needs were listened to and followed, which is why I took the steps that I took to come back to my whakapapa.”
Whaitiri said the reception she got from the Te Pāti Māori executive was the final encouragement she needed to make the move.
Whaitiri’s former Labour colleagues, while upset at her defection, have wished her well.