National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti says the timing for his party to return to putting up candidates in the Māori electorate seats is ideal.
“I am very excited about this. For a long time we have been lobbied by the Māoricommunity saying ‘we don’t get to choose you, you don’t sit on the menu, you don’t sit on our list of options and we would like that opportunity’.
“There is a range of reasons for doing it now but, fundamentally, the call has become more urgent and so we’ve been able to work with the board – this is a National Party board decision – so we will be supporting that decision.
He says there were a number of factors that came together including the leadership and the will and ambition of the board just now, “certainly the caucus and in fact that’s why the timing is now.”
The timing gives the party enough to prepare for 2022, which is a big factor to establish quality candidates, give the campaigning team time to do that “to get that runway and we’ve got the time to do that.”
“Can I just acknowledge the work of some colleagues? This is the fruition of work of a number of colleagues. Nuk Karoko, Jo Hayes and Harito Te Pungo did a lot of the work in the caucus to get to this announcement and I just want to acknowledge their footprint on this work and thank them.”
Reti says the party has been approached by people who want to stand for the Māori electorates long before this announcement, which was encouraging.
Would he stand? “That’s for the board to decide. I have a commitment to Whangarei. It’s where I live and where my body of work is but the board will decide that.”
Reti recalled that National decided to not put up candidates in Māori seats in 2002.
“It’s taken this long to change because it’s taken this long for things to change both inside and outside the party.
“You have to remember that in 2014, and potentially 2017, we were looking at a strategic alliance with the Maori Party and so it was unlikely we would be standing in those electorates when we had a strategic relationship that worked.”
Asked in National had helped Māori, he said: “I would look back and contend - maybe that’s me putting on my blue lens - but I would say ‘Let’s put up our achievements under National and match them off one on one against any other party.’
“I think our historical record is excellent for Māori but I understand when people say recently ‘It’s hard to see your fingerprints on Maori achievements’ and I understand that.”
Commenting on the Don Brash kiwi, not iwi era he said that time and circumstance were behind National.
“Today we say we value the Māori vote. In fact we have always valued the Māori vote. It’s just that we’re in a position to do something about it to give others the opportunity to say ‘we resonate with the policies you are producing.’”