The Maori Party's president Tukoroirangi Morgan and Mana leader Hone Harawira have held further talks about cooperating to win back the Maori seats but the Maori Party continues to rule out a formal alliance or merger.
Morgan was elected president of the Maori Party on Saturday at the party's AGM. Today he met with Harawira in Auckland and after the meeting said a more strategic relationship between them could help win back Maori seats from Labour.
It follows informal talks between Harawira and Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox recently after which Fox said they had agreed not to try to undermine each other but to focus on winning seats back from Labour.
Both parties are understood to be considering whether to come to a deal in some of the Maori seats to enhance the chances. That could include the Maori Party helping Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau by standing a candidate to attract party votes but signalling their supporters should give the electorate vote to Harawira. In return, Mana could do the same in Tamaki Makaurau - a seat the Maori Party lost to Labour in 2014.
Harawira told the Herald last week that if that happened he could not guarantee he could reciprocate - that would be up to the Mana Party to decide at its AGM later this month.
After the meeting Māori Party Co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Fox said there was still "no appetite" for a formal alliance between the two parties. "But there is an openness to a more cohesive relationship."
Morgan's actions in meeting with Harawira have been seen by some as undermining the role of the party leadership. Howeve Fox said she was pleased Morgan had met with Harawira to follow up her own earlier meeting with him. "[Morgan's] efforts have helped to advance what could be a very important relationship in the lead up to the next election."
Flavell and Harawira have some bad blood between them after Harawira's split from the Maori Party, but Flavell said he could work with any party in the best interests of Māori and the nation.
"The beauty of MMP is parties can work together while remaining fully independent of each other. Hone has managed to get important issues on the agenda as has the Māori Party. The value of that shouldn't be underestimated.
"We want the same thing for our people and we cannot afford to split the Māori vote."