The Maori Party kicked off its AGM at a dinner last night by celebrating the few good points in the election but will today have to buckle down to the business of trying to rebuild after its dire election result.

The party survived with just one electorate seat and co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell told about 200 people gathered at Whangaehu Marae near Whanganui yesterday that he needed their support to try to turn that around.

"We are only as strong as the party and we need your support. I am feeling the burden ... but we have to kick on. We have to kick on to the next phase and look to the future."
Senior party officials met behind closed doors in Whanganui yesterday for a day long post mortem of what had gone wrong in the election - a meeting described as "challenging" afterward.

Mr Flavell also had a message for Maori. "One issue that comes up as criticism of the Maori Party is that we have given up on our people, have turned our backs on our people. How on earth can people come to that conclusion?"


He pointed to the ongoing role Maori rights campaigners such as Tame Iti, Ken Mair and Naida Glavish played with the party. "Maori people: we haven't given up on you at all. In fact, we're going harder than ever."

However, there was an upbeat mood at last night's dinner to acknowledge the contributions of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, although Dr Sharples could not attend because his wife was ill.

The dinner was on Tariana Turia's home marae, and Mr Flavell said it symbolised the Maori Party returning Mrs Turia home to her people, back to the place it all started. "She will go down as one of the icons of our people, forever and a day."

He had worked alongside Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples for the past nine years.

"The place is totally different without you and Pete being around. I'm stuck in the old office. I did a wee karakia [prayer] before I went in. And everything's nice and smooth. But your spirit will never be gone from that place. Never. So I acknowledge you tonight."

The upbeat mood was helped by the MC, Tariana Turia's son Pahia Turia, who proved to be quite the comedian. There was also an enthusiastic singer with a keyboard who launched into celebratory music at regular points.

That happened so often it prompted Pahia to say that the marae's neighbours would think they were hosting an Amway conference.

He also joked that his mother had been at such a loose end since leaving Parliament he had begged Bill English to find her a job so she stopped calling Pahia every morning to check on the wellbeing of the iwi. He then told Mr Flavell that in his new role as Minister of Maori Affairs he would discover he had millions of friend he never he had - all of whom would have voted for Labour.


To much laughter he then drew on the Karate Kid to rally the audience after the election result, saying he knew an old Chinese proverb. "Do not look at the opportunity lost, but the wisdom gained, Grasshopper."

Tame Iti, a long-term Maori Party supporter who had stood on the list to try to bolster the party's vote, also urged party members not to lose heart. He said it had always been hard to push for what was right and the next three years provided the opportunity to rebuild and push for 'revolution' from around the table.

An emotional Mrs Turia also gave a farewell, saying Maori did not need to be in Parliament to be political. "I'll be as political outside Parliament as I was even before I went there." She said Hone Harawira was also proof of that. What she had admired about him was that she knew he stood for something.