Māori King dumps Labour, backs Māori and Mana

The Māori King, Kiingi Tuheitia. (Getty)
The Māori King, Kiingi Tuheitia. (Getty)

Labour's been dealt a blow after the Māori King said during his annual speech that he will no longer vote for the party.

Instead, Kiingi Tuheitia is backing the Māori and Mana parties, saying he would like to see the Māori electoral seats return to Māori control.

He blamed comments by leader Andrew Little that Labour couldn't work with the Māori Party, calling the statements "hurtful".

More than 26,000 people have been through Turangawaewae Marae in Waikato over the last few days to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Kiingi Tuheitia's coronation.

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says this reflects the level of respect and influence the Kīngitanga movement has in Māoridom.

"Obviously we're very happy to have the endorsement of Kiingi Tuheitia. The Māori people are very fond of him and so I think it's a very valuable endorsement."

Ms Fox says it's also a challenge to Māori leaders to share responsibility and work together.

"It needs to be clear that the Kīngitanga movement is apolitical, but [Kiingi Tuheitia] spoke about what he wants to see and that is to bring the seats back. So I do believe that will have some influence."

The blow to Labour is expected to hit home, particularly for Kiingi Tuheitia's relative Nanaia Mahuta, who has held the (formerly Tainui) Hauraki-Waikato seat since 2002.

She told Newshub the Māori King was as free to make political statements as anyone else, but that she has spoken Mr Little about it.

"I've given him a brief of what was said and the context in which it was said. It's up to Andrew in terms of how he chooses to respond."

However, Ms Mahuta wouldn't be drawn on whether Mr Little should retract and apologise for his comments, to heal divisions.

"There is no doubt Andrew will reflect on a whole lot of comments from a whole lot of people."

The Māori King shouldn't be supporting any political party, NZ First leader Winston Peters says.

Mr Peters says the king should be above politics and remain neutral.

"It is disappointing that the Māori King has been used in such a sad way," he said on Monday.

"It is regrettable for the Kingitanga movement and the welfare of Māoridom."

Mr Peters believes King Tuheitia was influenced by Tukoroirangi Morgan, his former advisor and now president of the Māori Party.

"A matter of weeks ago he was talking about Māori and Mana needing to come together, now we see this latest tactic," Mr Peters said.

When he was last month elected Māori Party president, Mr Morgan said his aim was to win all the Māori seats.

There are seven of them, and Labour holds six.

Mr Morgan has also made initial moves to bring the Māori Party and Hone Harawira's Mana Movement together.

Newshub. / NZN