There are Members of Parliament leaving this month who you would hardly know were ever there. I presume they made up the numbers and probably did the best they could.

With 120 MPs, the majority remaining for most of the time on the back benches, it would be hard to make an impact, get noticed and promoted. Some of these MPs have been effective in their own electorates but a memorable presence and contribution New Zealand wide, that would be debatable.

Ministers Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, co-leaders of the Maori Party, since its formation are another matter entirely.

They are retiring on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Maori Party. And for six of those years they have been alongside the National Government helping them govern. Could you ever have thought of such unlikely bedfellows? Only recently on TV One, I heard Tariana say when asked "in your time in parliament, who was the MP, from any party, that impressed you most?" Without hesitation she answered: "Deputy Prime Minister Bill English."


He made a similar comment here in Rotorua recently. He said he would miss working with Tariana and admitted she "was no pushover". I got the impression that might have been an understatement.

So how is it these two parties from opposite sides of the political spectrum can work constructively together and get along with one another? I think it comes down to a respectful relationship and honest and open communication. You can disagree with each other but you don't have to be disagreeable to each other. It has been an unusual alliance to observe over the years. Not how the game is usually played.

Our Westminster parliamentary model encourages parties to be confrontational. Scrap it out and don't support any other party's policies and visionary ideas, no matter how good they might be. "If we didn't think them up, why would we support the party that is likely to get kudos from them?"

Mud slinging is an occupational hazard too as an MP. Get the dirt on each other, and when enough is thrown hopefully some will stick.

We are so used to seeing this type of behaviour that we take it for granted that anyone entering parliament will have to have "some mongrel in them".

There must have been times during their six-year relationship that the Maori Party and the National Party would have probably liked to call it a day. But they didn't. They worked through their differences and still honoured the Relationship Accord they signed together.

Sadly, Tariana and Pita take knowledge and insight into the true state of New Zealand families at this time, with them when they leave parliament.

Their understanding comes from their backgrounds and prior work experience that is unmatched by any other politician in parliament. They went into parliament in an attempt to create "a level playing field" for Maori so that their issues would be given equal consideration to those of Pakeha. Leaving it up to government agencies, who have created much of the social disconnect that Maori experience today, to come up with workable solutions, is frankly bizarre.

Positive outcomes for Maori, in just about all areas, still remains some way off in the distant future. But Tariana and Pita have made sure that the National Government understands that it must insist on outcomes that make a difference. The poor, long-suffering taxpayers should demand it too.

The co-leaders also know that Pakeha families are struggling too to achieve the "good life" in New Zealand today. As ministers, their travels up and down our country have exposed them to thousands of New Zealanders who "lo and behold" don't find them scary after all.

Fear and condemnation only raises its head, when people fail to understand why people think, do and say the things they do. And for some people, they will always choose to remain uninformed. It's easier that way.

I have heard Tariana and Pita speak in person and on TV.

Their faces light up when they talk about the unlimited potential of iwi Maori. Tariana in particular. She has this unshakeable belief that Maori must live healthy lifestyles, be well educated, undertake good training and work preparation and obtain well-paid jobs to support their families. She wants the government, and all future government out of Maori lives, as soon as can be managed.

It was to foster strong, self-managing families, in control of their own lives that Tariana and Pita battled for. Their political pathways might be different but this doesn't sound too dissimilar to the National Government's aspirations for all New Zealanders. No wonder there was mutual respect.

The National Government has been privileged to learn from these two passionate Maori Party leaders.

Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.