22 Aug 2016

Māori King gives nod to Mana/Māori parties

6:40 am on 22 August 2016

The Māori King has signed off his 10th commemoration with a whimsical political speech that gave a royal affirmation to the Māori and Mana parties but delivered a blow to the Labour Party.

Māori King Kiingi Tuheitia makes his annual speech at Turangawaewae.

Kiingi Tuheitia giving his annual speech at Turangawaewae. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

The riverside at Turangawaewae was abuzz yesterday afternoon as nearly 1000 gathered to hear the Māori King deliver his annual speech.

Kiingi Tuheitia told the hui: "I'm not elected - I can stand here and say what I like".

And he did. Kiingi Tuheitia delivered his prepared speech, then paused and warned the audience he was going to get a little political.

He took aim at the Labour Party leadership - though his close relative Nanaia Mahuta is Labour MP for Waikato-Hauraki.

"It really hurt me when the leader of the Labour Party said he couldn't work with the Māori Party, you know I'm not voting for them any more, " said Kiingi Tuheita.

He offered his thoughts on the perfect political union, and made no secret of his support for Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

"Hone has the strength to fight what he wants for, he's got the loyalty of the people he represents," he said.

Those spoken to by RNZ said they were happy with the King's vision.

Those spoken to by RNZ said they were happy with the King's vision. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox was in the crowd and saw the speech as the king's nod of approval.

"It was as close as I think an endorsement was going to be and I appreciate his words."

So how did Nanaia Mahuta take the king's comments? "If that's the intention of the Māori Party certainly under Tuku's presidency then that could be a very different landscape."

Māori Party chairman Tukoroirangi Morgan has been in the role for less than a month and is on record as pledging to win all the Māori seats at the 2017 election including Hauraki Waikato.

"It's as I said, it's a momentous occasion it's not often that the King would make that kind of announcement here in front of the motu."

Nanaia Mahuta

Nanaia Mahuta Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

Waikato has had a long relationship with the Labour Party and Ms Mahuta has held the seat for 17 years, but that relationship is well and truly severed with the king saying he'd no longer vote for Labour.

Ms Fox said the message was about togetherness, and she believed the Māori Party could achieve that.

"To listen to him today was actually quite humbling. He recognises that as Māori we need to come together and hei kotahitangi if we could be together as one we could accomplish all things, and he recognises that, and that's his challenge to us."

But the king warned the Māori Party would need to find good candidates if it was to win the seats from Labour.

Mr Morgan said that was exactly right.

"We're got to have great people. There is no doubt that we have to find the most skilled, experienced, capable people men and women to secure those Māori seats away from Labour - that is the objective," he said.

Asked if she could work with the Mana/Māori arrangement the king talked about, Ms Mahuta said she had had a constructive political relationship with people across the spectrum and would work in the best interest of the electorate.

"I'm confident voters will continue to see that and whoever I need to work with to achieve the outcomes that are important for this electorate then I've shown over time that I've been able to do that."

It is an unusual move for the Māori Monarch to personally back a political movement, but those RNZ spoke to that attended said they enjoyed the speech and were happy with the king's vision.