9 May 2011

Maori Party to stand candidate against Harawira

10:03 pm on 9 May 2011

The Maori Party has confirmed it will challenge Hone Harawira for the Te Tai Tokerau electorate despite earlier agreeing not to do so.

The party on Sunday held two hui in the electorate - at Waitangi Marae in Northland and Waitakere in Auckland - to gauge support.

A Te Tai Tokerau by-election will be triggered if Mr Harawira, a former Maori Party MP, resigns to seek a mandate for his new Mana Party.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the will of the meetings was for the Maori Party to stand against Mr Harawira, and it will contest any by-election. He said the party needed to start by establishing a branch in the region.

Party president Pem Bird told Morning Report the party will be able to marshal strong resources in the seat, where he says there's a silent majority that will stand by it.

Harawira disappointed by decision

Mr Harawira says the Maori Party's decision to stand against him is disappointing. He says it breaches the party's agreement with him, effectively making their deal redundant.

He says he has resisted pressure to stand candidates against the Maori Party's MPs, because of the promise he made when he left the party, but the Mana Party will now consider whether to contest other Maori electorates.

Mr Harawira says he looks forward to the by-election and debating issues and highlighting differences between the Maori and Mana parties.

Verbal attack dismissed

At the Waitangi meeting, Mr Harawira's mother Titewhai and sister Hinewhare harangued the Maori Party MPs during discussions on the party's future in the electorate, calling them snakes and accusing them of selling out their people.

Radio New Zealand's reporter says several guests left the meeting in distress, saying they had never heard such abuse in a meeting-house.

Dr Sharples has shrugged off Mrs Harawira's insults, saying that's her way and you can't take too much notice of it.

Mrs Harawira says only about 20 Ngapuhi people went to the hui, proving there's virtually no support for the Maori Party in Te Tai Tokerau.

Mr Bird says many more than that attended and they represented diverse whanau and interest groups.

Waitangi elder Kingi Taurua says he believes the Maori Party will fail to attract major support from Ngapuhi in re-activating its branches in Te Tai Tokerau. He says Mr Harawira has huge support among the many young voters.

Apologising for how visitors at the meeting were treated, Mr Taurua told Waatea News he had considered having Titewhai and Hinewhare Harawira removed for their behaviour but feared it could lead to greater problems.