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Maori Party overshadows Ratana events

Thursday 24 Jan 2013 5:49 a.m.

By 3 News online staff and Laura McQuillan

The Maori Party leadership will stay in place for now, despite mounting tensions and a challenge from Te Ururoa Flavell.

Co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia will retain their positions and the party executive will meet again in a few months to discuss leadership matters.

The decision came after late night talks at Ratana, where today the major political parties will converge for the annual celebrations of the church's founder.

Leaders meet on the marae, near Whanganui, annually to mark the birth of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, with the parties also vying to cement the support of the church and the wider Maori population.

The church has historic ties to Labour but those have unravelled over political issues like the controversial foreshore and seabed legislation, which has led it to turn its support toward the Maori Party.

Labour and the Green Party are set to arrive at the marae about 11am today, and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei will announce a new housing policy that includes Crown agreements to help families purchase their first homes.

Prime Minister John Key will be welcomed onto the marae at 1pm, accompanied by Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and other ministers Hekia Parata, Chris Tremain and Chester Borrows, who is the MP for Whanganui.

The Maori Party arrived on Wednesday, accompanied by an indigenous Japanese group with links to the church.

Speculation over the battle for leadership of the Maori Party has so far threatened to divert attention away form the day’s events, as three MPs launched their bid to be leader.

One is current co-leader Dr Sharples, who's resisting pressure to step down alongside Ms Turia at the 2014 election.

The party's third MP, Mr Flavell, has signalled his interest in the leadership, as has Mana Party leader Hone Harawira - despite being kicked out of the Maori Party nearly two years ago.

He says he now wants to reunite the two parties.

Former Maori Party MP Rahui Katene is eyeing up Ms Turia's seat, and her leadership position.

The Maori Party's council met into the night on Wednesday to discuss the party's future, and those discussions were likely to continue on Thursday, potentially overshadowing other events at Ratana.

3 News/NZN

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