By Peter Wilson and Dan Satherley
The Maori Party's leadership problems aren't going to be resolved any time soon.
Party president Pem Bird says he wants a consensus solution and until he gets one Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia will stay as co-leaders.
Dr Sharples is being challenged by the party's third MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, but he's in no mood to step down.
"The bottom line is I'm prepared to lead us until I'm dead," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"It's pretty full on but that's politics - we don't hate each other, that's the good part."
Prime Minister John Key says the party's leadership is nothing to do with him and doesn't affect its support agreement with the Government.
Mr Bird says a hui on Sunday was constructive and spent a lot of time discussing what he calls "succession planning".
"While the debate continues the status quo remains: Pita and Tariana will stay on in their roles as co-leaders until this process is finalised."
Dr Sharples confirmed a three-way leadership was being considered.
"It's a long way from being considered," he said.
That would mean all three of the party's MPs being co-leaders, which Mrs Turia thinks would be "a very good solution".
She is standing down at the 2014 election and has said Dr Sharples should hand over to Mr Flavell.
Mr Flavell said on Firstline this morning it was up to the membership to choose who, and how many, would lead the party in the future.
"The co-leader approach has been certainly in the constitution, but we also have working parties around the constitution to consider one leader – not necessarily just having one leader, but the option should that fall our way… I don't necessarily have a preference.
"At the end of the day we obviously need leadership in the Parliamentary environment, and that's pretty much going to be left in the hands of the membership and the national council to make decisions about."
Mr Flavell challenged Dr Sharples for the co-leadership in January. That wasn't resolved because the party's constitution doesn't set out a process for dealing with a leadership challenge outside of the annual general meeting.
The party's constitution says the co-leaders must be a man and a woman, so Mrs Turia can't give her position to Mr Flavell.
Mr Flavell says he doesn't know why the 71-year-old Dr Sharples won't step aside.
"That's an issue you need to take up with him, I'm not exactly sure. He's made his position clear, I've made my position clear."
Dr Sharples has said in the past he would be open to working with Mana Party leader – and former Maori Party MP – Hone Harawira. Mr Flavell, however, isn't so sure.
"I can tell you that I probably wouldn't, but that's a decision that would up for the party as a whole to give consideration to," he said on Firstline.
"I mean, we don't know what the political landscape is going to be into the future, but at this point in time – having worked with the Harawira party in the past – that it's not my preference. But it remains to be seen."
NZN / 3 News