Flavell named new Maori Party co-leader

NEW CO-LEADER: Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell will replace long time co-leader Pita Sharples.
NEW CO-LEADER: Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell will replace long time co-leader Pita Sharples.

Te Ururoa Flavell has been elected co-leader of the Maori Party, replacing long time leader Pita Sharples.

No-one voted against Flavell in a vote at the Maori Party's annual conference in Whakatane today.

An MP for Waiariki since 2005, Flavell was the only person nominiated in the vote, which took place at the annual conference in Whakatane today.

MOVING ON: Pem Bird is not standing for re-election as Maori Party president.
MOVING ON: Pem Bird is not standing for re-election as Maori Party president.

An emotional Flavell fought back tears as he thanked about 300 party members for electing him.

"I want you to know that i am up for this...I will give it my all."

Flavell had been engaged in a long running powers struggle with Sharples, who announced earlier this month that he would stand down as party co-leader at this weekend's conference.

Naida Glavish has also been elected president of the party, replacing Pem Bird, who announced recently that he would not stand for re-election.

An advisor to the Auckland and Waitemata district health boards and the New Zealand Police, she is a former commissioner of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. She is chair of Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua.

Glavish earned fame as the "kia ora lady" when in 1984 working as a phone operator at New Zealand Post she was demoted for answering the phone with the now widely used phrase. After controvercy she was returned to the role and allowed to continue to answer the phone with kia ora.

Glavish beat George Ngatai to the role. An Auckalnd business consltant with links to the Destiny Church, Ngatai had claimed that he represented the future of the party.

Outgoing president Bird called on the party not to quit its agreement with National ahead of next year's election, saying breaking the deal could damage its mana.

Bird opened his address by saying there was a "morbid fascination" with the party's struggles, with repeated predictions that the party was dead, including from other political parties.

However, this was far from the case.

"We're alive, well and kicking, and we're on our way back," Bird said.

The party's troubles have been back in the headlines after they were beaten - coming third - in the recent Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election, which was won by Labour, with the Mana Party coming a clear second.

Bird said he accepted "without qualification" responsibility that the party had not made the impact it wanted in the contest.

However he urged the party not to quit its alliance with National, despite claims that this amounted to a "betrayal" of its people, which has hurt its election chances.

He accepted that the Maori Party had agreed more often with Labour than with National, however the union should not be broken in the hope that it would help the party's election chances.

The agreement had been willingly signed with the party, which had been clearly elected by the rest of New Zealand, Bird told delegates, and it mattered that the Maori party was seen to be able to keep a promise.

"Our word is our mana and our mana is our word."

Instead there should be an "emphatic reaffirmation" that the party was neither pro-National or pro-Labour and would work with either side if they demonstrated they could work with the Maori Party.

Bird also raised the subject of whether the Maori Party could work with Mana, whose leader Hone Harawira was expelled from the Maori Party caucus in 2011.

Harawira has called for a union of "Mana-Maori" and said that the recent by-election result showed the partnership with National was a "death sentence" in the Maori seats.

Bird said Maori liked the idea of the parties working together, however there was a need for mutual reciprocity from the Mana party.

Instead, Harawira had already "dissed" Flavell in recent media interviews.

Harawira should "lower his weapons" before talks about a partnership could be properly considered, Bird said, however it was a matter for the party to decide.