Tariana Turia invoked the revolutionary spirit of Che Guevara when she wore a black beret in a showdown with Prime Minister John Key.

The Maori Party co-leader's headwear prompted a storm of commentary this week, and saw her labelled "Te Beret" and "Chur Guevara".

But Turia said she thought she had lost her cosy woollen hat that she bought in a market in Porirua over a decade ago.

"The funny thing about it is I thought I lost it, then the other day when I was getting ready to go out to the hui I was looking for a hat to wear and all of a sudden in amongst my hats there it was."


The now famous black beret with its striking tino rangatiratanga symbol left its mark on last week's meeting of the Waitangi Tribunal over water ownership.

Turia said wearing her beret to that meeting "was a wonderful opportunity to show the depth of feeling" over the issue.

But anyone wanting to emulate Turia's look might be out of luck.

The tino rangatiratanga emblem comes from a flag designed in 1989 by artists Hiraina Marsden, Jan Smith and Linda Munn. Only Munn is still alive and she did not know who had produced the hats or whether they were still available.

"She looked really cool. She wore it really well," said Munn who still held the copyright but admitted she had not been vigilant about protecting it.