'Tiriti-centric' - Te Pāti Māori on its coalition aspirations

Sun, Mar 19

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says the party may not seek a traditional support agreement if it holds the balance of power after this year's election.


A number of opinion polls have shown Te Pāti Māori as the kingmaker for the next government, with a tight election campaign anticipated in the next six months.

Last week's 1News Kantar Public Poll suggested the party would secure 3% of the party vote — meaning around three seats in Parliament, assuming it wins an electorate seat.

Speaking with Q+A, the co-leader said the party was still in the process of working through its bottom lines for potential coalition negotiations. But Ngarewa-Packer believed that both major parties have been "back-pedalling" in the past few months.

"You know, it's a long time between now and October 14, and what we have seen is a real back-pedalling between the two large parties on whether they are this or are that," she said.

"It's really too soon for us to identify what it is that some of them stand for.

"There's some simple things. If you were to look at us, our members' bills are there. They're out there for everyone to see that we've always supported, that we would like to see that in relationships."

The party's co-leaders, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer have previously said they couldn't enter negotiations with parties that opposed Te Aka Whai Ora — the Māori Health Authority. National and ACT have strenuously opposed setting up the new agency.

"I think the question has to be, has anything changed from them as far as a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa," Ngarewa-Packer told Q+A.

"There is no way that we would be able to be in a relationship with anyone that's opposed to any of the policies that are pretty much… undo every policy that advances Māori.

"I think you alluded to the fact what would need to be bottom lines. It would be about values and commitment to a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa, and we've always said that."

When asked, the co-leader added she had no intentions of becoming a minister through any coalition negotiations: "I didn't come in here to be a career politician," she said.

Ngarewa-Packer also suggested that Te Pāti Māori may enter negotiations seeking to find a different relationship as compared to coalition support partners in the past.

"I think the leverage that we have so far, which is probably evident in the polls, we haven't made a choice of who we would go for, and deliberately, because we may not go into relationships like have been done in the past or which is known," she said.

"It's really important that we don't try and say, 'Hey, we're going to go with this one and that one', that we actually hold pono to our values and our kaupapa, and that we leverage power or influence as we think is best.

"That may be in a relationship. It doesn't mean we have to be ministers."

But she remained tight-lipped about what any specific relationship asks would be.

Party answers on attendance rate

Te Pati Māori's co-leader also responded to questions about the party's attendance rate in Parliament.

On Twitter, the NZ Herald's deputy political editor Thomas Coughlan pointed towards Ngarewa-Packer and Waititi's empty seats during question time earlier in the week.

Ngarewa-Packer defended the party's attendance record and said they were spending their time wisely as Māori MPs.

"I get that we might have a random media... stalker wondering whether we're in the House this night or whether we're in the House this morning or whether we're in the House in Questions. That's actually something we do quite often," Ngarewa-Packer said.

"Here's my question — how many Māori MPs or how many MPs did you see at tangi across the motu? When we're here to serve our people, are you proposing that I can only do that by being in the house at question time when I have no questions?

"It's always 'and/and', and I think you've got to remember, you know, where would our people want me to be?

"Sitting quiet in a house where we have no questions. Or upstairs in the precinct, meeting... with those lobbyists, advocates, whānau, hapū, that don't get to see and have their kaupapa represented."

Party's policies come into focus

With a credible chance of growing its political influence, Te Pāti Māori's election-year policies are expected to take greater focus during the campaign.

Ngarewa-Packer told Q+A that the party was working on a "generation two" of its election manifesto.

"We're a party of two. We've been in Parliament for two years.

"I don't even know how we landed a manifesto for 2020, and at the moment, if you've seen our socials, we've been calling for experts to make sure that we get that advice, and we get the development of a solid manifesto and kaupapa," she said.

Q+A is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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