NZ election 2020: Judith Collins 'absolutely' keen for electorate deal with Māori Party

New Opposition leader Judith Collins says she's open to cutting a deal with the Māori Party in the Māori electorate seats, as National looks for coalition partners to give it a chance of governing after the election.

But they're not keen.

National has never won a Māori seat, and has in the past had a policy of abolishing them. Under Sir John Key National forged an alliance with the Māori Party, but that ended when the latter failed to make it back into Parliament at the 2017 election.

In June, the Māori Party's current leadership said they'd find it "untenable" to work with then-leader Todd Muller, with co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer calling him a "racist who has no respect for tāngata whenua". 

Muller quit last week and was replaced by Collins, who told The Hui on Sunday "a couple of people" have approached her about standing for National in the Māori seats this September. 

On Thursday, Collins and deputy Gerry Brownlee made the surprise announcement the party was considering having a go, despite only getting about 7 percent of the Māori roll vote in 2017.

"I talked to the president about this after I sort of announced - I just said what I thought," Collins told The Hui.

"I reckon we could do something, and I'm really keen. The question is, can we do this with this very short period of time before the election."

Asked by host Mihingarangi Forbes if she'd be up for a deal with the Māori Party, Collins replied: "Absolutely." 

The Māori Party told Newshub it was not interested.

"No, we would not be working with Collins," leader John Tamihere said.

Forbes and Collins.
Forbes and Collins. Photo credit: The Hui

Earlier in the interview, Forbes asked Collins what was in it for Māori, should they vote for National.

"It's really important that Māori and every other New Zealander understands that the National Party, number one, wants their vote. But also that our vision for New Zealand is about getting people into work, keeping them - not just work, but work there they know they have a chance to get ahead as well. We are about to go into an economic crisis as a country - we're the best people to help us all through that. 

"I really do want to say to all Māori, we're there for you and we're also for all New Zealand."

She then paraphrased former Māori Party leader Tariana Turia. 

"We know that when Māori do well in New Zealand, everyone does well."

Part of that would be to ensure locals in the regions are given jobs when the Government funds big infrastructure projects, such as National plans to do in the north, announcing a $31 billion transport plan this week.

"I hear from contractors they get shut out by the big buys in town, the big end of town, so we've got to address that. I understand that - we will stop that."

As for whether she fears Māori will stand in the way of National's plan to drill tunnels through the Kaimais and the Brynderwyns, Collins said it might be "a problem, but we'll deal with it".

Forbes asked if that meant gutting the Resource Management Act so mana whenua wouldn't get a say in the matter.

"No, not at all. In fact, it's very important that we understand that Māori are part of the economy and not just 'Māori', They're part of the economy like everyone else. When we have people in work, when we have people benefitting from that economy, everyone rises up."