Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia will not stand for
Parliament again in 2014, saying she will finally go ahead
with plans to retire and could step down as party co-leader
by the middle of next year.
Mrs Turia will stay on as a minister until the 2014 election
but said she would not stand again - believing both the Maori
Party and her treasured Whanau Ora policy were now robust
enough to survive the change to a new leader.
However, fellow co-leader Pita Sharples will stand again to
try to stagger the leadership changeover rather than replace
both of its most public faces at once.
Both Dr Sharples, 71, and Mrs Turia, 68, originally intended
to retire in 2011 but changed their minds to see through new
policy initiatives such as Whanau Ora and try to keep the
party stable after Hone Harawira left to set up the Mana
Mrs Turia said it had been difficult to leave at that point
but the time had come.
"By 2014, I will definitely be leaving at the election. I
won't stand again. I think that is positive. To be honest, I
think there's a real danger in building parties around
personalities, as we have seen with other political parties."
The Maori Party hoped to select candidates for all the Maori
seats and some general seats by May next year, at which point
it was possible she would stand down as leader to make way
for her successor.
"We have discussed that, and I'm okay with that."
Dr Sharples said while he would be sad to see Mrs Turia go,
she deserved to spend more time with her mokopuna.
"Tari and I have been a team, we have steered this waka
together for the last eight years and it will be a huge
change to lose my mate. She will be leaving a legacy of
opportunity for Maori that she has built up even prior to the
days of the Maori Party."
The party has previously considered changing its leadership
structure to allow only one leader or two of the same sex.
Mrs Turia said she would like to see both a male and female
"I think it's important to keep the gender balance. I believe
women bring quite a different perspective into this
environment. We have a major Whanau Ora platform that is the
basis of everything we stand for, and it's more important
than ever now that we have a female sitting alongside any
male who is leading."
On current polling, the Maori Party could be the kingmaker if
it retains its three current electorate seats - meaning both
Labour and National will need its support to form a
Mrs Turia hoped the Maori Party would hold on to the Te
Hauauru seat, where she has been MP since 1996 - first as a
Labour MP before forming the Maori Party in 2004. She said
voters there had shown "intense loyalty" to her and she would
campaign with the next candidate to encourage people to
transfer that loyalty over.
Te Ururoa Flavell was relatively safe in his Waiariki seat,
but Labour's Shane Jones had eaten into Dr Sharples' majority
in Tamaki Makaurau in 2011.
- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald