16 Oct 2015

Māori Party looks to 2017 election

6:23 am on 16 October 2015

The Māori Party is calling for its supporters to 'come home' as it gears up for its annual meeting in Huntly this weekend.

Marama Fox (L) and Tariana Turia ahead of the Maori Party co-leader election

Marama Fox (L) and Tariana Turia ahead of the Māori Party co-leader election in November 2014. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

The party recorded its worst result at last year's election and has only two MPs in Parliament.

The party's co-leader, Marama Fox, who took over from the party's founder Tariana Turia last year, said she felt optimistic about the party's future despite it currently polling about 1 percent.

"I feel like there is a buzz going on around the Māori Party and in fact it's time to put out the call for Māori to come home to the party," she said.

The party was in a position to exert influence on government policy, she said.

"The Labour Party have the unions, the National Party have the business roundtable, the Māori Party should have the support of all iwi because that's all we do - is support them to realise their aspirations, their goals," she said.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Her fellow co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell, said the key challenge was to get more MPs into Parliament at the next election.

"That's got to be the goal and we've got to look at issues of candidate selection... infrastructure, fundraising...

"Those must be front and centre now because now we've only got two years to build until the next election," he said.

The party's president, Naida Glavish, rejected any suggestion that the party was in trouble.

"The party accepts that there is some work ahead of us. We accept that and we're not unaccustomed to putting our shoulder to the grindstone," she said.

Political commentator Morgan Godfery said the party was in a rebuilding phase after losing two high-profile leaders.

"There was a big loss of confidence after the two former co-leaders, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, left at the last election because they really anchored that party - not just politically but also personally.

"They had a lot of mana and they were guides for the party," he said.

The real challenge for the Māori Party would be coming up against a resurgent Labour Party in the Māori electorates, he said.