29 Oct 2010

Maori Party to debate new foreshore legislation

10:19 pm on 29 October 2010

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has warned the ACT Party's push to amend the new foreshore and seabed bill is undermining support for the legislation.

The Maori Party's position on the Marine and Coastal Areas Bill is set to be debated at the party's annual conference on Saturday.

Maori Party member began meeting at Omahu Marae near Hastings on Friday night.

But the real debate will happen on Saturday with some party members, including Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira, opposed to the new bill.

Dr Sharples says there is a risk ACT's push to insert the word "free" into the bill will harden Maori opposition to it.

He says there will be wide debate this weekend, but it will not reach a final decision on the Maori Party's position.

Earlier this week, the Maori Party pulled Mr Harawira from the select committee considering the new bill because he opposes it.

Mr Harawira has released a statement saying he is disappointed he was removed, but that won't stop growing Maori opposition to the bill.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell was put on the select committee instead and says if his party does not support the new legislation, the Foreshore and Seabed Act would be left in place.

Mr Harawira's position within the party is also expected to be debated at the meeting.

New president elected

The Maori Party on Friday elected Pem Bird as its new president.

Mr Bird is principal of the kura kaupapa in Murupara and has been a member of the Maori Party since its establishment in 2004.