The Maori Party will hold its annual conference on Saturday in a time Maori Party President Naida Glavish says it is crucial for it to rebuild after its poorest polling result ever.
The Maori Party conference will be held in Huntly as the party focuses on trying to recapture the voters it had after it was founded in 2004.
In last year's election it lost the two electorate seats its former co-leaders Dame Tariana Turia and Sir Pita Sharples had held - Te Tai Hauauru and Tamaki Makaurau, both of which went back to Labour. The party's small 1.32 per cent party vote was enough to get co-leader Marama Fox into Parliament as a list MP on the coattails of Te Ururoa Flavell who held on to his Waiariki seat.
However, the result was widely seen as because of concern about the Maori Party's two terms in support of the National Government. Despite that, Mr Flavell continued to defend the decision to work with National again, saying it had helped secure an extra $49.8 million for Whanau Ora. Ms Fox said the Maori Party was also instrumental in the Budget announcement to lift the base benefit rate and $790 million package for vulnerable families.
"We have been criticised by some for supporting a National-led Government but we are at the table so we can continue to build on the gains we've already made for our people."
The party is now trying to rebuild its voter base - something that could be helped by the failure of Hone Harawira's Mana Party to get back into Parliament after a deal with Kim Dotcom's Internet Party. Despite talk of a merger between Mana and the Maori Party - something Mr Harawira has repeatedly claimed he is open to - there is a remit at the Maori Party conference to rule out any alliance with Mana. The party will also consider standing candidates in local body elections and a remit to make Maori representation on local councils a bottom line for any future coalition arrangements.
The conference will include a panel which features former Act MP Donna Awatere-Huata and former National and NZ First MP Tau Henare.