'Hikois from Hell' if Maori seats dropped

Prime Minister John Key said abolishing the Maori seats would rip the country apart and attract "hikois from hell".

Speaking to the Herald before the release of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics, he said that while it remained National Party policy to abolish the seats, he would abolish them only with the agreement of Maori.

"It would divide the nation," he said. "Despite the fact that a lot of people say they don't like it and they were there for a particular reason, actually it would be an incredibly divisive thing to do to New Zealand and New Zealanders.

"Do you really want to rip a country apart? I'll tell you what would happen - hikois from hell."

Mr Key made his comments in the Herald's Hot Seat interviews for herald.co.nz which finish today, although all interviews will remain on the website.

While abolishing the seats has been long-standing policy for National, Act and United Future, the Maori Party's confidence and supply agreement with National saw it parked as an active issue.

But even if the Maori Party were not in the next Parliament, Mr Key has effectively protected them.

He also indicated he would be receptive to the flexi-superannuation proposal of United Future leader Peter Dunne in any third term.

Flexi-super would allow people to take super earlier than 65 but at a lower rate or wait longer for it and get more.

But it would not alter the cost to the taxpayer and Mr Key said it would not affect his 2008 pledge to resign if the age of superannuation was raised above 65. That pledge would remain for any third term or even any fourth term, he said.

He also believed superannuation was still affordable in its present form.

"The scheme at its maximum cost runs out to about 7 per cent or 7.5 per cent of GDP. That's still below almost all the countries that are raising their age of super. I am not so convinced it is this massive issue we all think."

Mr Key also discussed his next Cabinet, should he be returned to power. Deputy Prime Minister Bill English would remain Finance Minister as long as he wanted it.

He indicated Paula Bennett would change after six years as Minister of Social Development, possibly to a more commercially focused post.

- by Audrey Young, NZ Herald

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