The Maori King shuns Labour, talks up Maori and Mana parties
The Maori King has shut the door on the Labour Party, despite the Kingitanga supposedly being apolitical.
During celebrations in his honour, King Tuheitia spoke positively of the Maori Party and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, while claiming he would not be voting for Labour again.
"It really hurt me when the leader of the Labour Party said he couldn't work with the Maori Party, you know I'm not voting for them any more," he said.
Even though a Maori-Mana partnership was hinted at by King Tuheitia, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said no formal arrangements had been made since a "meet-and-greet" with Harawira last month.
"He thought that would be a good idea, he admired Hone (Harawira) for a long time and counts him as a friend and values the strength that he thinks Hone brings," Fox said.
"I think let things lie and just take baby steps forward, and see where where things have landed at the end of the year."
A former advisor and spokesperson for the Maori King, Tukuroirangi (Tuku) Morgan was recruited last month to take up the helm as President of the Maori Party. Morgan has made it his mission to win all Maori seats from the Labour Party, and has reached out to Harawira to help achieve his goal.
However, Fox said there were distinct differences between Maori and Mana - a big one being that the Maori Party are willing to work with any other party, including National.
"That makes it difficult for any formal alliance but certainly what we can agree on is that we shouldn't be fighting with each other. We should focus on the issues that are in front of us."
Nanaia Mahuta, King Tuheitia's close relation and Labour MP for the Hauraki-Waikato, said the King hasn't been a fan of her party for some time.
"Of course, Foreshore and Seabed is the point of reference where opinion started to turn," she said. "And I believe that it's important that Labour learn from that lesson and ensure that we never repeat that."
If Labour was clear it had learnt from the 2004 issue, the relationship could be repaired in Mahuta's view.
She said it was acknowledged Labour had done some good things in Government, and there was support for Helen Clark's bid for United Nations secretary-general.
Labour hold six of the seven Maori seats. The Labour MP for Tamaki Makaurau, Peeni Henare, last year became an adviser to King Tuheitia filling the void left by his late father.
"Things might change if the Mana and the Maori parties can work together, but my understanding is that's quite a big challenge," Mahuta said.
"All the pressure is on Tuku Morgan to make something happen."
Fox said Mahuta was an "awesome representative" in her seat, and respected her knowledge and experience.
"But I suspect, if it were me, I would be frustrated at the way Labour treat their Maori caucus. Nanaia was pivotal in Andrew (Little) taking the leadership role, and I'm not sure that loyalty has been reciprocated."
King Tuheitia was criticised by NZ First leader Winston Peters for entering the political fray, declaring predecessor Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu would never have done that as there was a range of political views within the Kingitanga.
Audio courtesy of RNZ