Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has warned Maori voters not to let MP Hone Harawira derail the party and ruin the "last chance" of a strong Maori-based party in Parliament.

After three weeks of refraining to comment on Mr Harawira's behaviour and the complaint laid against him, Dr Sharples fought back over Waitangi weekend.

He said yesterday that Mr Harawira "will have to go" if he refuses to bow to caucus discipline.

The division was putting the party at risk of falling to the fate of other Maori-based parties such as Mana Motuhake that quickly failed.

"Now we have this last chance. I believe if this doesn't work, if the Maori Party cannot establish itself as a bona fide credible partner in a government, then our chance is gone and probably there will never be another Maori party. So there's a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.

"If we fail, we may have closed the door on a strong Maori voice in Parliament forever."

The Maori Party's disciplinary committee is due to meet Mr Harawira on Wednesday to try to resolve the issue. Dr Sharples said he did not want to pre-empt that and his wish was for the MP to fall into line. But his comments seemed to strengthen the possibility that Mr Harawira will be ejected.

Dr Sharples said if Mr Harawira continued to buck caucus discipline, there was little choice but to dump him. "It's up to Hone. If he wants to be a free spirit, perhaps that's what he should be. Cut himself loose and be the free spirit that he wants to be."

Although Dr Sharples faced heckling from Mr Harawira's supporters at Waitangi, he said he was confident the party would retain the Tai Tokerau seat even if the MP left the party.

"I feel Tai Tokerau feel like I do, that a Maori Party ... this is their time and it's too important for one person."

He told the audience at Prime Minister John Key's Waitangi breakfast yesterday that many Maori instinctively distrusted the Government.

"They see a relationship, an intimate relationship, with the Government as selling-out of their people [but] in the field of Parliament and Government it is the only relationship which can yield power and opportunity for Maori by Maori."

Dr Sharples said he saw Mr Harawira's "state of the Maori nation" address, presented an hour before Dr Sharples' own, as a challenge to him.

Yesterday, Mr Harawira denied his speech was a challenge. He had no issue with Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia as the party's confirmed leaders.

He said he had a right "as the electorate MP of Tai Tokerau, here at Waitangi in the heart of my electorate, to speak out on what I consider to be the issues confronting the Maori nation".

Mr Key backed Dr Sharples over the issue, saying he believed he was doing a good job.

"These things are always very difficult. It's not like a corporate relationship ... where you can simply terminate an agreement."


If the potential for violence on the marae is not enough to put Prime Minister John Key off visiting Waitangi every year, the mickey-taking he gets while there could do the trick.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples revealed one of the flaws in his relationship with Mr Key when introducing the now-annual Prime Minister's address.

Dr Sharples said he enjoyed Mr Key's company, but noted he was easily distracted.

"When you're on a trip with him, you're in a deep conversation and he just walks away. He picks up some kid or something and starts talking to the kid instead of my deep topic I'm discussing with him."

He also recalled a trip to Tonga when Mr Key started chatting to a group of schoolchildren.

"He's talking away with them and asking them questions, and his wife, dear Bronagh, says to me, 'He'll realise soon that they don't speak English'."

Dr Sharples said he appreciated Mr Key's enthusiasm for the tangata whenua of the places he visited.

"I'm not too sure about tribal jokes, though. They're all right behind closed doors, but to go out and repeat them in public ..."

This was a reference to Mr Key's "joke" that if he had dined with Tuhoe, he could have ended up as the dinner, after ruling out a handover of Te Urewera National Park to the iwi.