17 Nov 2008

Maori Party drops push to entrench Maori seats

5:27 pm on 17 November 2008

The Maori Party has dropped its push to entrench the Maori seats as part of its confidence and supply agreement with the National Party.

In return, National will not abolish the seats, saying that will only happen if Maori give their approval.

Incoming Prime Minister John Key says the abolition of the Maori seats will not take place unless Maori give their approval for that to happen.

"That is not a position that we're going to change going into the 2011 election.

It's a basis of a relationship of good faith, and it would be a complete lack of good faith if I'm going to agree to this today, and change the position going into the 2011 election."

Mr Key also says National will ensure all New Zealanders have access to the coastline if the Foreshore and Seabed Act is repealed.

He says both National and the Maori Party voted against the legislation, and National has always said if there was a better alternative, it would look at it.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has been appointed minister of Maori affairs outside Cabinet and fellow co-leader Tariana Turia will become minister for the community and voluntary sector.

Ms Turia says it was decided not to pursue entrenchment of the Maori seats after it was found that it could be overturned by 51% of the House, not 75% as previously thought.

"It seemed that if we went down that track, we would be misleading our people into thinking that with entrenchment the seats would be safe."

She said the party agreed that going through a constitutional review might be a better way of dealing with the matter.

Meanwhile, Dover Samuels says the pace and willingness of the Maori Party to strike a deal should set alarm bells ringing.

The former Labour MP says the party may live to regret its decision to team up with National.

He says the consultation hui fell short of what the Maori Party promised before the election, and has left many Maori questioning what is being done in their name.

The ACT Party says scrutinising the expenditure of certain ministries immediately - particularly Maori Development - would not be a good way to build a relationship with the Maori Party.

ACT leader Rodney Hide told Morning Report on Monday that it was up to National to resolve the question with the Maori Party.