Maori Party members support leadership talks

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:23 24/01/2013

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Six of the Maori Party's seven electorate committees have supported holding a special meeting to discuss Te Ururoa Flavell's leadership bid, co-leader Tariana Turia says.

Meanwhile, opposition parties gathered at Ratana Pa, near Whanganui, for annual celebrations of the Maori church are already talking up the party's demise.

Maori Party president Pem Bird said there would not be an immediate change in leadership following the meeting last night.

However, MP Te Ururoa Flavell had formally challenged co-leader Pita Sharples for the role.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has also appealed to his old colleagues to merge with his party.

A meeting in the next few months would establish a process for dealing with a leadership challenge, Bird said.

This morning, Flavell and Bird refused to comment further.

Turia said a decision was made last night not to talk about the meeting in detail.

Six of the party's seven electorate committees had voted in support of holding a special general meeting on the leadership in the next few months.

"You don't decide these issues urgently, they're significant and serious issues and we want to give it the gravitas that its required," Turia said.

The party's constitution was only a guideline and the people would make the real decisions, she said.

The party's leadership has been an issue since the election, she said.

"I feel really positive about it... We need to be brave enough and courageous enough to talk these issues through."

Turia had not suggested anyone to take over from her as female co-leader.

All the opposition parties were "standing in line" hoping to pick up Maori Party votes, she said.

But Labour leader David Shearer said the party's problems meant trouble for National and Prime Minister John Key.

"He's running out of friends to form any sort of coalition... The big problem is for the government in making sure there is a stable government for the next two years."

Shearer said he had never ruled out working with Harawira, nor anyone else.

Labour was told it will be the next Government in coalition with the Greens at Ratana today.

Ratana speaker Ruia Aperehama also told the Mana and Maori parties to stop fighting and come together.

"Never take the Maori vote for granted," he told politicians during animpassioned speech.

"Mr Shearer, I hope that in 12 months time that you and yourgovernment will be successful with a coalition."

NZ First leader Winston Peters laughed at the idea of a Mana-Maori Party merger.

"I think it would be very damaging to both of them."

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He said the Maori Party could not survive this "unseemly" battle.

But National did not need the Maori Party to govern, Peter said.

He hinted that NZ First was instead focused on bringing down ACT leader John Banks.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the Maori Party's issues were their own problem but she was glad she didn't have to sort it out.

Turei is hoping to break with tradition and be one of be few women allowed to speak at the welcoming ceremony.

Labour, Greens, NZ First and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis parties are due to be welcomed onto Ratana marae this morning.

National are arriving at 1pm.

- The Dominion Post

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