Waititi welcomes Nats' Māori journey, wary of intentions

By James Perry

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi is welcoming the extra opposition he's likely to come up against for his Waiariki seat at next year's election.

National leader Christopher Luxon confirmed at the weekend the party has been approached by Māori about standing for the centre-right party in Māori electorates.

The party has not done so since 2002.

But Waititi isn't phased by the extra competition.

"That's the beauty of democracy," he told Te Ao Māori News.

However, he said he has doubts about the intentions behind Luxon's comments. 

"He's spoken against Māori issues such as Māori wards, the Three Waters Reform, Māori Health Authority, He Puapua and Matike Mai.

"He was also quiet when Judith Collins attacked Māori issues. He didn't stand up for Māori."

Luxon, who was the party's iwi development spokesperson under previous leader Judith Collins has previously expressed his personal desire to learn Te Reo Māori. 

While National is open again to running candidates in the Māori seats again, Waititi says its recent track record doesn't fill him with confidence. it will find challengers who could pose a serious threat to the seven electorates.

"Who's the dummy who'll put their hand up to support this group that's criticised and marginalised Māori issues? That's the big question," he said.

National does seem to be softening its stance on Māori issues, with former deputy leader Shane Reti telling Te Ao Tapatahi that the caucus is exploring “issues like co-governance, what is a good position to be in that meets most of the needs, wants and aspirations of most people most of the time.”

"It seems as though they're taking a new path," Waititi observed.