Party aims for all seven Maori seats

The Maori Party has launched its election campaign with farewells to its founders, an injection of new blood and by outlining its ambition to win all seven Maori seats.

The party revealed it would campaign on policies including lifting the minimum wage to the living wage of $18.80, extending free doctors visits to children up to 18 and free public transport for all low income whānau, children aged 18 years and under, and students.

It also wants to invest in trades training, train teachers to better understand cultural needs and help low income families into homes.

The policies were revealed at the launch of the party’s election campaign in Rotorua tonight, an event which doubled as a celebration of the party’s tenth birthday.

The party put on an upbeat face, buoyed by the new faces, and defiantly rejected claims it was facing ruin in September’s election.

“There are some among our people who accuse us of having sold out to the National Party. They need to open their eyes and [get] their ears tested, and wake to wake themselves up to the realities of political life,” party president Naida Glavish told the 300 members who turned out for the dinner.

The Maori Party is aiming to win all seven Maori electorates but faces a number of challenges.

Co-founders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, who hold two of the party’s three seats, are retiring at the election, while Mana’s Annette Sykes, buoyed by Mana’s merger with the Internet Party and what she describes as disillusionment with the Maori Party, is again gunning for co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell’s Waiariki seat.

The party polled at 0.7 per cent in the latest poll but Flavell said they had defied the odds and naysayers before and would do so again.

Flavell said the party, which he described as the latest attempt by Maori to consolidate a space in the national political arena, had matured, were no longer “political novices [and] are serious contenders for a piece of political pie with very healthy appetites, thank you very much”.

“We’ve walked the talk, motivated by one of the most radical walks in political history,” he said in a lengthy speech.

“We pushed the door of Government wide open, we have been the party to say to our whānau, hapu, iwi… We have brought you all with us.”

Flavell reiterated that it was not just about the gains they made but also “about stopping what we can, putting our Māori voice forward on every issue, and when things go south – it’s about being in the right position to at least try to make a difference”.

He said they would work with either of the parties after the election but refused to say what their bottom lines would be.

New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O’Sullivan told the crowd it was not always possible to do what was right and also be popular.

“Sometimes we do need to have the courage and the vision and the wisdom… to say well this is what we need to do for our people,” said.

He said they could be “comfortable with the fact that in partnerships there will be things that we can gain and things that we can lose” but that they were working to benefit Maori.

Flavell also paid tribute to the Turia and Sharples who will retire in September.

Of Turia he said “we started because of you. You were to be the sharp edge of the axe, you were the one who lit the fire, you lifted the hearts of the many, both Maori and Pakeha under the cloak of unity”.

He praised Sharples as a “father figure” and “fierce warrior”.

“It was all of you who pulled us all together and here we are today. Your names will be written into history, to my chiefly ones, we thank you.” 

Fairfax Media