Tariana Turia arrived in Parliament with a fearsome reputation after leading the occupation of Pakaitore (Moutoa Gardens) in Wanganui. She leaves to the sorts of accolades reserved for few.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has described her as his favourite politician - "utterly principled and a very decent woman."

"The Foreshore and Seabed Act is Helen Clark's legacy to New Zealand; its repeal is Tariana Turia's and I have to say that Mrs Turia is by far the greater politician."

"In this place folks say that it takes a lot of courage to stand up to one's enemies. Well it takes a lot more courage to stand up to one's friends. That is what Mrs Turia did 10 years ago and she won."


Helen Clark recognized the advantages of bringing such leaders into Parliament and Mrs Turia began parliamentary life as a list MP, then won Te Tai Hauauru, before parting with Labour in 2004 and founding the Maori Party.

She retired this election but is still co-leader of the Maori Party, for the time being, and a minister until she surrenders her warrant next week.

Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell is travelling the country seeking a mandate from Maori Party members for the third confidence and supply agreement with the National Party - none of which were or are needed for National to govern.

She describes Mr Flavell as "incredibly trustworthy and he's careful."

"He will never ever do anything that is going to have a huge impact on our people."

The election 10 days ago whittled down Maori Party representation to just one electorate seat, Mr Flavell's, and one list place, well down from its five in 2008.

"Six years ago we had been in Opposition and we gained a seat. And this time we get $2.9 billion spent to make a difference for Maori families and we lose."

She believes there is some resistance in Maoridom to accepting a positive message.


"Three years ago we sent out a sheet detailing everything the Maori Party had achieved and some people contacted us said we got your 'skite sheet.' It blew us away. There is this attitude amongst our people that they really don't like you talking about what you've done.

"The other message they may not have liked has been the message I have driven through whanau ora - that we should not depend on the state to do things for us, that we should be a much more independent people and relying on one another, relying on our families first and coming together as family to make a difference rather than popping down the road to a service provider.

"I don't think that resonated well."

Having worked with Natonal for six years, Mrs Turia developed her favourites.

"I've really like Bill English. I have admired his capacity to understand and to think about things. I think he has quite a strong social justice attitude about things. Chester Borrows is another one. Quite a strong social justice leaning. And I've always like Nikki Kaye. She's got a mind of her own and at cabinet committee, she basically gives expression to it and I like that and she's young."

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / NZME.

She also admired Education Minister Hekia Parata and hoped she would get to keep Education in the new cabinet.


It hasn't all been skittles however.

Mrs Turia said the most difficult time of their relationship was when National announced it was going to raise gst from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent part way through the first term and that it would be a confidence and supply vote.

"I was devastated. If I had had my way I would have voted against them. But of course we had signed up and so had to be disciplined.

We were very much opposed to it."

The leaders were told in one of their regular meetings with Prime Minister John Key and Mr English "and if I recall I think I walked out and said we needed to talk about it ourselves. I said we were not going to talk about it in front of them."

"I felt resentful, very resentful that we hadn't been told at the initial thing of our relationship that they were going to do that."


In the end the Maori Party had to either vote for it or end the whole confidence and supply agreement - upon which repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act was based - and they voted for it.

Mrs Turia is renowned for her calmness and control, however, something she learned from her Uncle Frosty.

"I was lucky I had a very good uncle who taught us when we were quite young that if you lose your temper, if you lose your cool, if you don't remain calm you lose perspective and you lose the argument.

"Without realizing it, he had a huge influence on me and his sisters, both his sisters, after my grandmother died and my aunt died who looked after me when I was a kid, they took me in.

"They were my mother's cousins and because they lived right door to one another they brought you up, both families and have hugely influenced me right through my life."
Mrs Turia's patience was tested by Mana leader Hone Harawira when he was part of the Maori Party and began criticizing the relationship with National.

She said he had always wanted to go with National when given the chance.

He pointed to things up in the north that happened under a National Government. He knew that all the health and social services, kura, kohanga reo, waananga, all grew out of National Government and he wanted to go with them.


"The issue for Hone is that Hone is not a team player. He has to be the leader. At that time, that was the problem.

"Friends of his spoke to us and said could we give him more responsibility. There was no way National was going to give us another ministerial [post].

"But in the end if I'm being really honest, he wasn't disciplined, he wasn't reliable."

Asked about the decision last week by the controversial New Plymouth District Council to create a Maori ward, she applauded the move.

"Communities need to understand why these things need to happen. And if you can't build a community of inclusion where people feel that they are part and parcel, that they are engaged, of course you are going to get division and people feeling like that."

"When I think about all our resources at a local level, if I think about Maori resources, that's where all our resources are. That's where our people need to be having a say, they need to be engaged, they need to be proactive, if they want things to happen that are important. "


It puts her in mind of the long-running controversy in Wanganui and whether there should be an H in it and the bitter opposition of many Pakeha to having an H "even though it's a Maori name and 'Wanganui' means nothing."

"I've had a person refuse to sell me a book when his wife had offered to sell it to me - and he didn't want her to sell it to me because of the H in Whanganui."

Yet once the Whangnaui iwi signed its deed of settlement this year with the Crown, it was a different story.

"I was hurt and outraged that all those years that that community has ignored our iwi, have opposed things actively, that at the market, these people came up to me and Ken [Mair] to say that some of the Wanganui businesses are not doing so well and could we invest some of the money we got from [the settlement].

"It blew me away to think that the moment our people got settlement and had money, they were worth talking to. I don't like that."

She said she wanted people to be to be valued for the contribution that they could make to the community, to work alongside each other.


"That's why I support the New Plymouth thing. The more we engage with one another, the more we will understand each other and the more we will be able to do things that are collectively good for all of us."

Tariana Turia and the Maori Party
2004 Tariana Turia resigns as a Labour MP & is re-elected in a byelection as a Maori Party MP. Becomes co-leader with Pita Sharples.
2005 election, wins four electorate seats (Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau; Pita Sharples in Tamaki Makaurau; Te Ururoa Flavell in Waiariki; and co-Tariana Turia in Te Tai Hauauru). Party vote 2.12 per cent. No list MPs
2008 election, wins five electorate seats (as above plus Rahui Katene in Te Tai Tonga). Party vote 2.39 per cent. No list MPs. Hone Harawira resigned from the Maori Party in 2011 and was re-elected in a byelection as a Mana MPs.
2011 election, three electorate seats won by Tariana Turia, Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell. Party Vote 1.43 per cent, no list MPs. Turia and Sharples retire at next election.
2014 election, one electorate seat held, Te Ururoa Flavell in Waiariki. Party Vote 1.29. One list MP, Marama Fox.