16 Apr 2020

New Maori Party co-leaders a 'missed opportunity' - Sandra Lee

12:07 pm on 16 April 2020

The newly announced co-leaders of the Māori Party is a missed opportunity, according the political commentator and former cabinet minister Sandra Lee.

John Tamihere and Debbie NgarewaJohn

Former Labour Cabinet Minister John Tamihere and iwi leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo: Supplied

Former Labour Cabinet Minister John Tamihere and iwi leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer will head the party after it was ousted in the 2017 election.

Tamihere, the chief executive of the Waipareira Trust who campaigned unsuccessfully for the Auckland mayoralty last year, will stand against the Labour incumbent Peeni Henare in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Ngarewa-Packer, who heads Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui and has been at the forefront of seabed mining protests in Taranaki, will stand in Te Tai Hauāuru.

Political commentator Sandra Lee said it was a missed opportunity not having new and young Māori leaders take those roles.

"I don't think the Māori Party is being very politically strategic and this is an opportunity loss for them," she said.

"When the Māori Party exited parliament after the last election, not long after they stated that they would be showcasing the face of young Māori leadership in order to rebuild the political movement and, quite frankly, with John Tamihere in particular, he does not represent the face of young Māori leadership.

"He entered parliament for Labour over a quarter of a century ago, he voted for the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the resistance to it was the cornerstone of the founding of the Māori Party.

"I do believe it's an opportunity lost and peculiar in that ordinarily with any political party, you see the grey beards that are the presidents and the executives ushering in the new face of new leadership, for example, [Helen] Clarke in her day, Simon Bridges, Jacinda Ardern."

She said the Māori Party should have thought more long-term, but praised Ngarewa Packer's leadership.

"I see Debbie Ngarewa Packer as a different kettle of fish. She's got strong credentials, she's been a tireless iwi worker.

"I think that they really needed to take a longer term view and look at building for the long term in order to get back in the house."

Yesterday when the announcement was made, Māori Party president Che Wilson said party members were united in agreement that both candidates brought outstanding mana and leadership to the leadership positions.

Wilson said the co-leaders were chosen so that they could represent the people during this difficult time.