11 Mar 2011

Harawira, Maori Party agreement collapsing

2:53 pm on 11 March 2011

An agreement between Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira and his former party has all but collapsed.

When Mr Harawira left the Maori Party after months of in-fighting, both parties struck a deal that they would focus on the issues, and not publicly criticise each other.

Mr Harawira says the party has reneged on that.

But party whip Te Ururoa Flavell says Mr Harawira has also acted outside their agreement.

Asked whether the relationship has become acrimonious, Mr Flavell said Mr Harawira's recent speech on the Marine and Coastal Area Bill was not a good starting point.

Mr Flavell says the now independent MP criticised individuals and the party over its stand at the first possible opportunity, at the bill's second reading, when that was not a part of the agreement.

May yet run against Maori Party

Mr Harawira also hinted his planned new political party may field candidates against those from the Maori Party, despite the agreement not to.

He says the Maori Party has already broken its agreement with him by not providing sufficient office space or a suitable seat in the House, and by publicly criticising him over forgetting to vote.

On his website Mr Harawira says the Maori Party tried to remove him from the Maori Affairs Select Committee.

He says he understands Parliament's Business Committee turned down the request, but says it looks to him like a mean-spirited and spiteful move.

Mr Flavell says, however, that the party was merely trying to find out what place it would have on the committee, now that its former representative has become an independent MP.

First meeting on new party

About 20 people turned up in Auckland on Friday morning to a public meeting called by Mr Harawira to discuss his plan for a new political party.

It's the first of a dozen meetings throughout the country planned by Mr Harawira, who says he will have the new party up and running within the month.

He says the massive support he has had since he split with the Maori Party in February makes him confident his party will be a major player at the next election.

He says there is intense interest from non-Maori as well as Maori in the party, which would be Maori-led and Maori-focused but not specifically defined by the foreshore and seabed issue.

The MP told Morning Report he has been talking to former MPs such as Willie Jackson, John Tamihere, Sandra Lee and Donna Awatere-Huata about the party, though at this stage it's uncertain whether former Green MP Sue Bradford will be part of it.

Poll shows support for independence

Meanwhile, a poll of more than 1000 Maori around the country over the past three days shows they would prefer Mr Harawira to remain an independent rather than form a new party.

The Horizon Research poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%, shows that only 11.5% support his forming a new party, while more than twice as many - 28% - want him to remain an independent.

Research principal Graeme Colman told Waatea News the poll shows that fewer than 9% of those who voted for the Maori Party at the last election want Mr Harawira to form a new party.