Politics part of Maori life, says likely leader

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014
Ngaire Button
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
IN THE RACE: Ngaire Button.

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One of the women vying to replace retiring Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the fact all three contenders are new to national politics will not undermine the party because politics is "innate" in Maori life.

While the party will not elect a woman to lead alongside Te Ururoa Flavell until after September's election, it is likely to be one of the three candidates introduced by the party at the weekend.

They are former Christchurch deputy mayor Ngaire Button, entrepreneur Susan Cullen and educationalist Marama Fox who are standing in Te Tai Tonga, Hauraki-Waikato and Ikaroa-Rawhiti respectively.

All three seats currently held by Labour.

While all three women said their focus was solely on winning those seats, Fox said she was interested in the leadership, saying it would be an "absolute honour" to be chosen.

All three are new to the national political arena but Fox did not believe that would hold them back.

"We live a political life as Maori, it's innate in what we do . . . everything we do is political and just living in the kaupapa Maori world ensures that you are engaged in that type of environment."

Fox said the most important thing for a leader was to bring people with you, because it was "not about the person, it's about the good of our people and making a difference for our people".

Turia has been an "astounding" leader who brought people with her because they knew she cared, she said.

Fox did not feel there needed to be a fresh leadership style in the party given Turia had held the mantle for 10 years, but said it would come anyway with a new leader.

Button said the thought of filling Turia's shoes was daunting.

"The three of us, certainly I am, are in awe of her and of her leadership and of her political style, the way she has led the party, her conviction, and, I think this nation, and particularly the Maori people need leaders with the courage of their convictions."

Cullen, who made millions developing programmes for Te Wananga O Aotearoa and plans to donate her salary to charity if elected, said the party should not rush a decision. If any or all of the women were elected, they should be allowed time to prove themselves in Parliament, she said.

Maori Party president Naida Glavish said they would choose the new leader at the party's AGM in October, saying it was their preference to have the co-leader in Parliament.

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