National leader and former Prime Minister Bill English admits that the party needs to rethink their approach if they are to get Māori support in the next election and he is keen to get some fresh new Māori talent to do it.
As part of a series of sit-down interviews with the five political leaders in parliament, the National leader tells Te Kāea political reporter Heta Gardiner, “Having got a small proportion of Māori votes we will have to rethink how we achieve that in the future. It’s an important and influential group of voters. We’ll be keen to recruit a new generation of Māori candidates."
He also talks about the relationship he had with the Māori Party, one that he acknowledges was often combative. “It has been a relationship of respect not agreement. We’ve had a lot of tension with the Māori Party over that whole period, and I think the relentless energy they applied to making progress was something they didn’t get credit for in the election.”
But he does not believe National should have done more to help their former government support partner, which is now out of parliament. “In the end, every party has to cut its own way," says English, "They would say they suffered from their association with National.”
He also calls the anti-National sentiment amongst Māori “unfair, but a political reality”.
English believes his party’s approach is aligned with how modern Māori think. “Where we’re aligned is around their personal aspiration and the huge potential I see in the kind of self-reliant forward-looking view that anyone can have if they want to change their lives," says English, "And that’s different from the view that says wait around for the government to fix your problem.
"It’s taking control, it is Tino Rangatiratanga and we will stick to that, even if we didn’t do so well with Māori in the last election.”