Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia publicly apologised to MP Hone Harawira this morning for not standing by him over the white turmoil.

The episode over emails threw the party into crisis last year and raised questions of whether Harawira should become an independent MP.

She gave her public apology in a speech at the party conference at Omahu marae near Hastings.

Harawira said she had given him a personal one privately a few months ago.

Turia's apology was a small part of a forceful speech she was making in response to concerns expressed over the foreshore and seabed repeal bill over which Harawira is leading opposition in the party.

But the speeches from Turia and co-leader Pita Sharples went beyond the foreshore and seabed issues to one of unity within the party and the caucus.

Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana and lawyer and activist Annette Sykes spoke out strongly against the bill and implicitly the Maori Party's decision to vote for it.

Turia told the hui that at no stage had the party said it agreed with everything in the bill.

"I can put my hand on my heart and say I have not sold out," Turia said.

"I don't want to sit there and think we roll over on issues. We do not. We do not," she said.

There was a day that went by that the party wasn't involved in some stoush with National over policy.

People had to decide whether the party wanted to part of the political process or not.

Sharples said the party had to remember it was a "minority party with a Maori kaupapa in a right wing Government."

He pleaded for the membership to support the MPs when they "take a hit."

He said they did not have "kotahitanga" in the caucus and that was distressing.

MP Te Ururoa Flavell said "our hearts are as one, our minds are as one; our strategies might differ."