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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, June 27, 2011

Offer of detente in Maori seats

A member of the Mana's interim leadership group says there is a prospect Hone Harawira's new party won't stand candidates against sitting Maori Party MPs in November's general election.

Mana supporters gathered in Whangarei yesterday to celebrate Mr Harawira's 867-vote by-election victory over Labour's Kelvin Davis and lay the foundations for a first party conference within the next six weeks.

Annette Sykes says as well as agreeing to field candidates in the general seats, the hui gave Mr Harawira a month to hold talks with the Maori Party about the Maori seats.

“I think it is really important that Maori as a whole remain united. What has become evident over this election is that The Labour Party and the National Party and the New Zealand First Party and the ACT Party all combined together to eliminate a contest of ideas built on kaupapa Maori,” Ms Sykes says.

ELECTION LOSS SPELLS MORE WORK FOR MAORI PARTY

Maori Party president Pem Bird says the severe spanking his party got in Saturday's Te Tai Tokerau by-election means it will have to work harder and smarter in the general election in November.

Mr Bird says Hone Harawira ran a very good campaign to retain the seat he previously held for the Maori Party.

He says the Maori Party was always on the back foot because of a need to rebuild its infrastructure in the north, but by-elections can follow their own rules.

“The voters have said they want Hone, so that’s clear. So respect the issues of the voters, that’s the first thing. Having said that, 11,000 voters, last election it was 20-something thousand, so it was a very small turn-out,” Mr Bird says.

He's keen to see what comes out of talks with Hone Harawira about the parties working together.

LABOUR RELISHING NOVEMBER CONTEST

Meanwhile, Labour Party MP Shane Jones says continued bad blood between the Mana and Maori parties will open up all the Maori seats to be retaken by Labour.

The Northland-based list MP says the narrowness of Hone Harawira's win in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election indicates Labour can further consolidate its support within the electorate.

“The Maori Party looked as if it were a ghost ship in this particular election so they’ve got major issues to contend with. I do think if Hone Harawira does decide to run candidates against Te Ururoa Flavell and Dr Sharples, then the Maori seats are definitely in play,” Mr Jones says.

DAVIS LOOKS AT IMPROVED PROSPECTS AND STATUS

Defeated Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis says the by-election was a great boost to his hopes of taking the seat in November.

The Labour list MP cut Mr Harawira's majority from over 6000 to just 867.

He says the cult of personality around the Mana leader has given him a stronger platform to push the interests of Maori voters within the Labour caucus.

“His only argument was vote for Hone and you get Hone and Kelvin. It’s raised the status of list MPs. We’ve always been made to feel like second rate cousins. It’s an acknowledgement that list MPs are just as important and just as influential as electorate MPs.” Mr Davis says.

The by-election was a good test of Labour's campaign systems which should stand it in good stead come November.

CAMPAIGN LATE OUT OF STARTING BLOCKS

Former Mana Motuhake leader Sandra Lee says Labour's delay in deciding it would contest the te tai Tokerau by-election may have cost Kelvin Davis a win.

Ms Lee says the two for the price of one argument run against Mr Davis by both Hone Harawira and Maori Party candidate Solomon Tipene is hard for list MPs to counter, as she discovered herself when trying to retain Auckland Central against Labour challenger Judith Tizard.

But she says Mr Davis may have been ankle-tapped labour's leadership.

“He was very late out of the starter’s gate in my opinion. He lost a good 10 days campaigning in the early stages when Hone announced he was calling a by-election because the Labour leadership or maybe the Labour Party seemed to be vacillating about whether they wanted to run in that by election or not,” Mrs Lee says.

She says the by-election should be seen as a rejection by Maori voters of the positions the Maori Party has taken in supporting the National-led Government, such as tax cuts for the rich and its caving in on the replacement for the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

HAMMERHEAD SHARK LOOK FOR SILVER FERNS

The Silver Ferns may look more of a threat when they compete in next month's world netball championships in Singapore.

Whakatane artist Rangi Kipa has designed the team a new look match dress.

He worked with senior netballers to come up with a pattern based on the hammerhead shark, that denotes ideas around speed, strength, stealth and tenacity.

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