Shane Jones denies being at odds with Winston Peters over Maori seats referendum
NZ First's Whangarei candidate, Shane Jones, says he's not at odds with his leader Winston Peters over whether there's a place in Parliament for the Maori seats.
In an interview with The Hui earlier this month, two days after he was announced as a candidate, Jones said the Maori seats would continue as long as Maori people "remain on them and want them to continue".
But Jones says that was taken from NZ First's 2014 manifesto and it was the party, and Peters' position, that has changed.
On Sunday, Peters announced a bottom-line policy to hold a referendum in the middle of the next election term that asked the public whether they wanted Maori seats abolished.
The policy has pricked the ears of anti-separatist campaign group, Hobson's Pledge, which is fronted by former National leader Don Brash, who was so impressed by Peters' speech that he's considering donating money to NZ First's campaign.
The decision to hold a referendum on whether to abolish the Maori seats sits comfortably with Jones, he said.
"Up in Whangarei I've found no one to date who is hot and bothered by the referendum, that's on the Maori side of town.
"The referendum is an essential part of our election strategy and it's going to make NZ First the essential part of a future government."
Jones said he was "proud" of his Maori "language and legacy" but he's "long gone off that notion that the (Maori seats) is the exclusive group that Maori participates in in national politics".
"Many of the iwi have now got a whole host of resources and assets and you don't need the Maori seats to perpetuate Maori identity in national politics because each iwi is slowly but surely growing. The problem with the iwi-centred focus that the Maori Party has had is they've overlooked matters to do with industry and jobs."
He said the Maori seats have been "discredited" since the Maori Party have had them.
"That's a view that I know isn't accepted by other iwi so I myself have not a slither of doubt or concern about the wisdom of this referendum."
He said the Maori seats offered voters limited options.
"They can either vote for Metiria's greenery, Hone's militancy, Labour's cultural wars or the Maori Party iwi-centrism, so that's why Maori in my view have gone onto the general roll."