Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia is celebrating retaining Te Tai Hauauru but lamenting the loss of Te Tai Tonga MP Rahui Katene.

Labour's Rino Tirikatene has taken the South Island electorate from incumbent Ms Katene, and Mrs Turia tonight said it appeared the electorate was sending the Maori Party a message.

"And it may well be ... that they haven't liked the relationship with National.

"I think the really disappointing thing for me is that Rahui Katene has worked harder than any Te Tai Tonga member that I can think of.''


She was saddened Ms Katene would not return to Parliament and said she had been an "incredibly hard worker'' through the Christchurch earthquakes and the Pike River disaster.

"She was there on the ground organising people door to door,'' Mrs Turia said.

"The Maori community were left until last and she really worked hard to raise those issues.''

Polling had not showed strong opposition to the party's relationship with National but asked whether she was prepared to pledge the support of its three returned MPs - herself, co-leader Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell - to National, she said she was not.

"We're not prepared to pledge anything at this point,'' she said.

"We've always been very clear. We'll be talking about this tomorrow in Auckland.

"We will go back to our constituency to see what they have to say to us.

"They may well say to us that we need to rebuild, go back into opposition and get down and do the hard work over the next three years.''

The Maori Party had made considerable gains for its people by being a support party to National, Mrs Turia said.

"But part of the problem is people listen to ... the rhetoric of people like (New Zealand First leader) Winston (Peters) and the Mana Party, and in the end they gain votes at our expense.

"It's a sad moment to lose one seat. The fact is we still have three and we will fight on forever.''

Mrs Turia won her electorate with 7466 votes, ahead of Soraya Peke-Mason on 4706.

However, she said she was disappointed with the low voter turnout; only 16,176 of the about 32,000 eligible voters voted.

"It does make me question myself whether I have represented the people well enough,'' she said.

Mrs Turia entered Parliament in 1996 at number 20 on the Labour Party list and was returned at number 16 in 1999.

In 2002 she contested and won Te Tai Hauauru for the first time and became Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector - a position she held until leaving Labour over the foreshore and seabed legislation in 2004.

She formed the Maori Party and retained the electorate in a byelection, holding it again in the 2008 election with about 70 percent of the vote.

She has been Associate Health Minister - outside cabinet - in the National-led government.