15 May 2023

Te Pāti Māori and National have 'nothing in common' - Ngarewa-Packer

12:16 pm on 15 May 2023
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says poll results showing support for the party has risen prove it is 'heading in the right direction'. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Te Pāti Māori says the shock defection of Labour MP Meka Whaitiri to its ranks is not the only reason for its recent surge in popularity.

The party has almost doubled in points from 1.8 percent to 3.5 percent in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, suggesting it could play kingmaker this election.

The poll comes less than a fortnight after Whaitiri announced she was switching teams.

But Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told Morning Report the numbers also reflected that the party was "heading in the right direction".

"We've been really strong on pushing GST off food which I think, particularly during this crisis of cost of living, people can relate to."

She said the party had also shown its commitment to the environment with its opposition to seabed mining and Whaitiri "coming across" and "consolidating Ikaroa-Rāwhiti" had helped to it to grow.

"I think if anything, this pivotal position we find ourselves in has been about confirming that we're heading in the right direction, not only with our actions, but with our philosophies as well."

The two main parties are nail-bitingly close in the poll, with Labour sitting at 35.9 percent, and National on 35.3 percent.

Te Pāti Māori focused on its own waka in election year

Ngarewa-Packer said the party's focus was on delivering a "Tiriti-centric Aotearoa" and it had always been transparent about that.

She would not be drawn on whether the party would prefer to be part of a coalition government or not following the general election, but said National had "absolutely nothing in common" with Te Pāti Māori.

"Our preference is to be able to work with those who are focused on those critical factors - our people, our environment and the transformational change that we believe our nation needs, certainly from tangata whenua's perspective."

National's leader Christopher Luxon has ruled out working with Te Pāti Māori post-election.

Ngarewa-Packer said National had "chosen to sort of go down a chaotic line and look at the potential of working with Winston Peters".

"Chris Luxon's now polling even lower than Judith Collins; we had nothing in common with that leadership as well so I think we just have to keep focused on our waka and what it is that we're here to contribute to the nation."

No regrets on ruling out Te Pāti Māori - Luxon

National's leader Christopher Luxon told reporters on Monday afternoon he had no regrets about ruling out working with the Māori Party after the October election.

"Absolutely not," he said. "It's going to be a very tight election, there's no doubt about it. This country is heading in the wrong direction, but the only poll that I'm focused on is October the 14th.

"That is the one that matters the most and that's when New Zealanders get to choose: Do you want the coalition of chaos, or do you want strong stable government?"

Luxon's preferred prime minister rating in last night's poll, at 16.4 percent, was his lowest result yet.

He rejected the suggestion his leadership was holding the party back, and expressed absolute confidence over being able to win New Zealanders over.

"I'm up and down and around this country each and every week getting a chance to meet with everyday Kiwis, and they tell me their concerns, and they know they can trust me to be able to get things done for them to get this country turned around and get it back on track," he said.

Ruling out coalition arrangements 'pretty premature' - Hipkins

Hipkins said people should not think about Te Pāti Māori as part of a left bloc with Labour and the Greens.

"Not at all, I think people should vote for the party that they want to be in government, that's the nature of an MMP election.

"I'm out there campaigning for every vote that I can get for the Labour Party and in terms of what the voters dish up in terms of governing possibilities after the election that's ultimately a matter for the voters."

He said Labour would be clearer on where they saw common ground "closer to the election, once parties have set out what their platforms for the election are".

"There are areas where we have some shared views with the Māori Party. So in some of the social policy areas for example, some of the things that we are trying to achieve as a government."

However, as the election neared there could be other policy areas they did not agree over, he said, "where there are some things that we take off the table, and saying 'that's not something we would not be willing to consider'."

"But we're still in the very early stages yet, parties haven't set out their manifestos ... I think it's pretty premature."

He would be clear about those areas Labour considered "no go" once parties had released their policies, he said.

One of Te Pāti Māori's campaigns has been to support a petition calling for New Zealand to become a republic. Hipkins refused to commit to that.

"A decision on whether or not New Zealand became a republic is ultimately one for the New Zealand public, so it would have to be by way of a referendum. It's not something that I am proposing."

"Cup of tea" electorate accommodations were not something Labour had done in the past, Hipkins said, and he had not considered it.

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