The Maori Party has been challenged to choose between "mana and money" and walk away from its support deal with National over comments by Prime Minister John Key.
Maori Council spokesman Maanu Paul said it was "crunch time" for the party and co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, who have argued they need to stay at the Cabinet table to make a difference.
Mr Key had suggested the Government would ignore Waitangi Tribunal recommendations from an urgent hearing into water rights.
"You either have mana or you have money," Mr Paul said yesterday
The Maori Party seemed more interested in money.
He called on the co-leaders to "act like Maori" and said they did not represent all Maori but rather a select few party faithful.
Mr Paul said Labour did not want the Maori Party.
"I'm not too sure about whether Green or NZ First would want them . . . and so for them their political life is almost at the OK Corral stage. They're virtually useless at that table."
Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples have refused to commit to staying with National and are due to discuss the issue with Mr Key midweek.
Mr Key said it might be that the two sides had a "permanent disagreement" and agreed to disagree.
He said National and the Maori Party had a good working relationship and it would be unusual to leave the governing relationship simply because he as prime minister had stated the Crown's position.
"We don't believe anyone owns water; we always with good faith look at the rulings from the Waitangi Tribunal but no government in the past has been bound by them," he said.
He said there was a "high probability" of court action following the tribunal hearing.
And he could not rule out a delay to the sale of 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, set down for later this year.
"But certainly we would hope it's not delayed."
The urgent hearing into Maori rights over water will wrap up this week at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt.
The tribunal will make an interim decision on whether National's partial sale of state-owned energy companies should be halted while the matter is clarified, but its findings are not binding.
Meanwhile, lawyer and Mana Party president Annette Sykes yesterday said Mr Key should either get a law degree or stay out of the debate.
Ms Sykes also had some advice for Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples.
"I beg Tariana, who I've got the hugest respect for, to sit back and reflect and in the spirit of Che Guevara . . . position herself for . . . the rights of our people rather than to take money as a prime minister's friend at the table."
- The Dominion Post
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