Leadership challenge in Maori Party

Pita Sharples. Photo Getty
Pita Sharples. Photo Getty
The Maori Party council will meet today to discuss a call for co-leader Pita Sharples to stand down.

Dr Sharples confirmed today on his arrival at Ratana Pa near Wanganui that Te Ururoa Flavell was vying for a leadership role.

He said he would not voluntarily step down and would wait for the council to decide but said his electorate was backing him.

"At this stage I have quite a lot of support to stay on.''

Dr Sharples said both he and Mr Flavell wanted the council to make a decision.

"Whether I carry on and keep continuity and my contacts, which are many, or whether I step down now and allow for a new person to come in - both have benefits.''

He wanted to stay on as Minister of Maori Affairs in the National-led Government.

A decision is expected to be announced this week at Ratana celebrations, with a replacement for party co-leader Tariana Turia also to be revealed.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira issued a statement this morning saying he would be open to the idea of working with the Maori Party to reinvigorate its leadership, which he described as "old and tired''.

"Maoridom deserves the strong and vibrant leadership that Mana can provide''.

He said he would work with the party on the condition it cut ties with the National Party.

Dr Sharples said the parties operated on a different platform, with the Maori Party making gains for Maori in Government and the Mana Party making gains through political activism.

He said it was too soon to be talking about a coalition between the Maori Party and Mana but said a discussion was likely.

"It's a bit silly to have two kind of Maori parties. If there is a relationship it has to be talked through, but it probably won't be as one party,'' he said.

Politicians began arriving at Ratana today for its annual gathering.

Prime Minister John Key, government ministers and the Labour and Greens leaders will also attend the celebrations.

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