Hone Harawira hits back at NZ First referendum targeting Māori seats

Mana party leader Hone Harawira has come out swinging against plans for a binding referendum targeting the seven Māori seats in parliament. 

Winston Peters says a referendum on the future of the seats is a bottom line for any coalition deals with New Zealand First. But Mr Harawira says the seats ensure Māori politicians are held accountable for Māori issues, and Māori will shun politics if the seats are axed.

Mr Harawira told The AM Show on Tuesday he would love to see the seats entrenched so that the issue is no longer a "political football".

"If there's going to be a referendum, make it a referendum of Māori voters.  If Māori voters choose that they don't want the seats, let them go, but that's not going to happen."

He said to hear Mr Peters talk about getting rid of the seats was "an insult to all those people who have done all the hard work, and an insult to the fight to keep them and also an insult to the process of political representation."

The Mana Party leader says anyone who wants his support will have to take a hard line against the referendum, and Labour was too late in coming out against the proposed referendum.

"It's three days late for Andrew Little - and it's way too late for this election, way too late for the Māori seats. Bye, bye Andrew Little."

"On this particular issue he should have been the first one out. He's the guy who's been talking about how important the Māori seats are to the Labour party, how important his Māori MPs are - come on Andrew Little." 

Mr Harawira said Labour wasn't prepared to step up to the plate like Mana and the Māori Party are, and he wanted to rebuild Māori political representation. 

"The fact of the matter is Mana and the Māori Party are calling for entrenchment of Māori seats- step up to it Andrew or else lose the lot of them."

"We want those seats entrenched and we want every Māori at birth registered to the Māori roll and at 18 let them chose to go to the general roll, if they want".

Mr Little told The AM Show on Tuesday neither he nor his party want a referendum.