6 Feb 2011

Harawira brushes off challenge from Sharples

9:59 pm on 6 February 2011

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira's brushing off a challenge from his co-leader Pita Sharples to either follow caucus rules or cut himself loose from the party.

Dr Sharples made the comment after attending the dawn service at Waitangi on Sunday morning, as the rift in the party deepened.

It followed a state of the nation speech by Mr Harawira which said leadership that let things slip should be replaced with people with more courage and vigour.

Dr Sharples says he views that as a direct challenge to his leadership.

But Mr Harawira says he's an electorate MP and has the right to speak out on behalf of Maori.

He says "I am at Waitangi, which is in the heart of my electorate, and I will certainly be speaking as strongly as I can about the interests of Maori in my electorate, and other parts of the country."

Dr Sharples has defended the party's coalition deal with National.

He said working outside of Government had done little for Maori, and people do not understand the benefits of working with the National Party as part of Government.

Dr Sharples says there is grassroots support for the party's position on the foreshore and seabed bill, which he says is simply better than the current law.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key says he believes the Maori Party leadership is dealing well with what is a difficult situation.

He says tensions at Waitangi this year have stemmed partly from the ongoing tensions between Mr Harawira and his party, and security has been tightened as a result.

Mr Key says it's unfortunate Waitangi is now so closely associated with protest.