27 Oct 2012

Sharples will stand again at next election

4:29 pm on 27 October 2012

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has confirmed he will put himself forward as the candidate for the Maori seat of Tamaki-Makaurau at the 2014 election.

At the party's annual hui last year, Dr Sharples said he was unlikely to stand again. But at this year's hui, at Papawai Marae in Greytown, he said his electorate had asked him to stand again and he had agreed to do so.

He says they were worried that the party would not do well without both him and fellow co-leader Tariana Turia to lead it.

Dr Sharples has represented the Auckland-based electorate since 2005.

The hui ended on Saturday afternoon with members keen to ensure the party fares better next time than in 2011, when it won 1.43% of the vote.

It intends to make a push for the party vote and stand more candidates in general seats.

Ms Turia said in 2005 the party stood candidates in general seats, but since then it has focussed on the Maori seats and now it needs to broaden its constituency.

"I do think it's a wise move," she said. "It's not as if we've ever said the Maori Party is only for Maori people - we've never said that. And in fact in that time we've had a number of Pakeha people stand for us, as well as Pacific people."

Support arrangement defended

Earlier, Ms Turia defended the party's continued support arrangement with the National Party, saying it can make much greater gains in government than in opposition.

Also addressing the hui, president Pem Bird said the party is punching above its weight, and while the support arrangement is a double-edged sword, staying in it is an absolute no-brainer.

He said the party must learn serious lessons from its underperformance at the last election, and while he didn't want to be a doom-and-gloom merchant, some stark realities must be faced ahead of the next election.

Ms Turia and Dr Sharples were re-elected unopposed, as were Mr Bird and co-vice-presidents Ken Mair and Donna Gardiner.