8 Apr 2009

Maori Party leader defends relationship with National

5:16 pm on 8 April 2009

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples on Wednesday mounted a spirited defence in Parliament regarding his party's relationship with the National Government.

Opposition MPs have been looking to exploit any suggestion of dissent between the parties over the issue of Maori seats on the new Auckland council.

Dr Sharples, a co-leader of the Maori Party, has disassociated himself from Cabinet decisions over plans to make Auckland a super-city after the Government rejected calls for three Maori seats.

Labour MPs taunted Dr Sharples about the disagreement on Wednesday, saying it proves the deal with National is not in fact "mana-enhancing" as claimed by the Maori Party.

Dr Sharples responded, saying the deal enables both parties to agree to disagree.

Prime Minister John Key says he is comfortable with the stance being taken and the issue has not damaged the relationship between the parties.