Speaker to make further ruling on Meka Whaitiri, Newshub understands

Newshub understands the Speaker will make a further ruling about Meka Whaitiri in the House on Thursday afternoon.

After the shock announcement from Whaitiri on Wednesday that she would defect from Labour to Te Pāti Māori, questions were raised about whether Whaitiri may have triggered the waka-jumping legislation.

Whaitiri said she had "officially notified the Speaker that I have resigned from the New Zealand Labour Party and have joined Te Pāti Māori effective immediately".

"As the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti sitting MP, I intend to be seated with Te Pāti Māori when we return to Parliament."

It appears that under the so-called waka-jumping legislation, if an MP formally writes to the Speaker telling them they have resigned from the parliamentary party with which they entered Parliament, their seat is vacated.

Speaker to make further ruling on Meka Whaitiri, Newshub understands

In the House hours after the announcement, Speaker Adrian Rurawhe said Whaitiri would be regarded as an independent member for parliamentary purposes, leading to a debate over why the waka-jumping legislation was not being triggered.

The Speaker replied that any MP can say whatever they like outside of the House, but when it comes to the waka-jumping legislation, there are specific events that need to happen before he declares a seat vacant. He says those events have not happened.

Rurawhe said he had received no letter of resignation from Whaitiri, but had received an indication she had withdrawn her vote from Labour for parliamentary purposes.

There has been a suggestion that Whaitiri's correspondence to the Speaker may have been rescinded. There have been calls for the Speaker to release that correspondence.

Te Pāti Māori President John Tamihere said on Wednesday he was working with the Speaker on the issue. 

Acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the Government doesn't feel the need to invoke part of the waka-jumping legislation that allows the leader of the political party the MP is departing from to write to the Speaker to have their seat vacated.

If Whaitiri did have to leave Parliament, politicians would have to vote to not have a by-election. That would require 75 percent support, meaning National could withhold support and force Labour into a contest just months out from the October 14 general election.