Topic: Politics

Maniapoto-Tainui iwi duo new National Party leadership

By Talisa Kupenga

After two ballot rounds, Ngati Maniapoto's Simon Bridges was elected as leader of the National Party and Tainui's Paula Bennett, who had one opponent contesting her position who Bridges would not name, was elected as deputy.

Bridges is the 12th leader of the party but is the first Māori to take the role.  It will be the first time two Māori will be at National's helm leading the charge into the next election. 

Bridges says "I'm really excited about the opportunity I've got ahead, I hope Māori are proud of me, that the National Party has elected its first Māori leader." 

Bennett retains the deputy role, the duo creating a first for Māori and the party leadership, a Tainui-Maniapoto combo.

Bridges says "I hope that Māori who have traditionally been with New Zealand First at times and Labour will give us a second look, will think about us and what we mean and the opportunities we present for Māori.

“I don't think Māori are the same today as they have been in the past. Clearly we are seeing Māori succeed in business both small and large and they are as aspirational as every other New Zealander."   

The government have their own thoughts about Bridges and his stance among Māori.

Minister for Forestry Shane Jones says "I don't think they will like him when it comes to the 2020 election."

Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare says, "Māori want to be better off but I'll tell you from what I can see Māori will not make gains with him taking this role."

Minister of Employment Willie Jackson says, "Māori are looking at this very closely, and are suprised- but it is a big honour for him and for Ngāti Maniapoto."

More than 11,500 voters on the Māori Roll gave their party vote to National at last year's election, beating the Greens, but nearly half gave their candidate vote to the Māori Party.  Bridges was not yet sure how he would approach this moving forward.

He says "I think it's too early to get into that I couldn't give you a strong answer in terms of how we'd approach that.  I'd probably go back to the comments I've made. But we've got two and a half years to think through some of those things.

The party will have a reshuffle of its members over the next fortnight which will combine good strong experience with new talent.

As well as National announcing its new leadership, New Zealand First has elected new Deputy Leader Fletcher Tabuteau who hails from Ngāti Ngararanui, Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Ngāti Whakaue.

He replaces former Deputy Ron Mark.