Māori Party echoing voters on Clark - Dame Tariana

Helen Clark (Getty)
Helen Clark (Getty)

Māori Party co-founder Dame Tariana Turia says she backs Helen Clark in her bid for the United Nations top job, but understands why the party won't.

The Māori Party has been criticised for its refusal to back Miss Clark for Secretary-General, with Miss Clark's ex-Foreign Minister Winston Peters describing the stance as "treacherous in the extreme".

Labour Party leader Andrew Little says it "stinks", and Acting Prime Minister Gerry Brownlee doesn't agree with National's minor coalition partner "at all".

But Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox is sticking to her guns, saying Miss Clark's the "treacherous" one for "rolling out the soldiers and the army and the police into Tuhoe".

In 2007, the armed police raided properties in Te Urewera and arrested 17 people. Only four ended up going to trial, found guilty on firearms charges. An inquiry later found much of the police force's conduct was "unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable".

Contrary to Ms Fox's claims, the army was not involved.

The Māori Party also cites Miss Clark's passing of the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004, and her failure to sign New Zealand up to the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as evidence she's not fit to run the UN.

"Helen Clark in all of her interviews has said, 'My record stands for itself.' Well, the record obviously needs to include the things she did here in New Zealand in respect to indigenous rights," Ms Fox told Paul Henry on Tuesday.

"The Māori people who have come out strongly and supported our stance want us to make sure that if the person at the top job is going to be there, they must take indigenous rights into account."

But the Māori Party isn't saying which of the other candidates should get the job.

"We're not supporting any one person over another. In fact, I'd be proud to have a Kiwi as the UN Secretary-General and I'd like to be able to give my support to a woman at that," says Ms Fox.

"But in this case we have to say that based on Helen Clark's record, we can't support her bid."

Dame Tariana has heard the same comments made by some Māori and says the party is just voicing its constituents' concerns.

"You can't say that you represent a group of people and when that group of people tells you to vote in a particular was you can't say 'well, no, I'm not going to'. I'm happy with them voting the way they have," she says.

She maintains Miss Clark made a "fatal" mistake on the Foreshore and Seabed legislation which created a great divide with Māori, but she too was listening to her constituents.

The division was so great Dame Tariana left Labour to create the Māori Party.

"I was very disappointed, I was gutted at the time, but I've moved on."

She didn't think the party was being "petty" over their stance.

"I can understand them making the decision they've made, but I just don't share the opinion," she says.

Mr Brownlee said he spent a week reading the speeches from the 12 candidates, and Miss Clark "was head and shoulders above the rest".

"I've obviously been a political opponent of Helen Clark, but I do appreciate her capabilities," he told Paul Henry.

"I think she would do a marvellous job, and it would be a great accolade for New Zealand."

He disagreed with Mr Peters that it was treasonous not to support her however.

"As soon as you start accusing people of treason, it's the thin end of the wedge to destroying the freedom of speech that we enjoy in New Zealand."