The Mana Party's new candidate for Tamaki Makaurau is a Ratana Church minister who once praised Prime Minister John Key as "a person who should be admired" - and still thinks Mr Key has done a good job.

Kereama Pene was confirmed as Mana's candidate in the Tamaki Makaurau seat currently held by the Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples.

Last year, while welcoming Labour leader Phil Goff to the annual Ratana celebrations, Mr Pene praised Mr Key as "a brilliant speaker" and "a person who should be admired".

Yesterday, Mr Pene said he stood by his comments about the PM.


"We're in a recession right now, and I've got to think like the rest of the country that he has done a pretty good job."

Asked what Mana leader Hone Harawira would think of his view, given that he had walked away from the Maori Party because of his dislike of National, Mr Pene said: "National is actually the group that have done most of the great things for Maoridom over the last 20 years. You've got to give praise where it's due."

He said the Treaty settlements process, the Waitangi Tribunal and kohanga reo were all implemented under National.

Mr Pene has previously criticised Labour, including at the 2010 Ratana celebrations, where he accused Mr Goff of taking the church for granted by not fielding Ratanas as candidates.

He said he was standing in the Tamaki Makaurau seat partly because the Labour Party list MP Shane Jones had challenged him at that same meeting to stick to ministering rather than politicking.

A land rights and Treaty of Waitangi activist since the 1970s, Mr Pene said both Labour and the Maori Party had failed to live up to their promises to Ratana and about the Treaty.

Mr Harawira did not return calls yesterday.

Asked about Mr Pene's apparent endorsement of Mr Key, Mr Jones said he did not think Mr Harawira would be enamoured of his views.


"But then Hone knows what Kelly [Kereama] is like and he's a rhetorician.

"Most of us Maori politicians are into rhetoric and we hope that the God of Wind blows a lot of rhetoric away."

During the June byelection in Te Tai Tokerau, Mr Pene led a "car-koi" to show support for Mr Harawira.

He also likened Mr Harawira to the prophet the Ratana Church's founder, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, envisaged rising up from the North carrying the Treaty.

Mr Jones said that while it was possible Mr Pene would pick up some of the votes of "morehu" [Ratana followers], he was confident he could better Mr Pene in public debates.

Both he and Dr Sharples pointed to Mr Pene's involvement with numerous parties in the past.

Dr Sharples said he had known Mr Pene "through his support of Mana Motuhake, Labour, Destiny and Maori parties before joining Mana".

"I'm glad there is interest in the seat of Tamaki Makaurau, but I am confident that I will keep my seat."

Also yesterday, Mana announced Auckland-based candidates Dr Richard Shortland Cooper in Manurewa, Barry Tumai in Otahuhu, Pat O'Dea in Epsom and James Papali'i in Mangere.

Others already confirmed include John Minto in Manukau East and Sue Bradford in Waitakere.