Bloomberg News

Key Urges Maori, Asset Sale Opponents, to Back N.Z. Government

November 29, 2011

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand’s re-elected prime minister, John Key, is urging the Maori party, an opponent of his asset sales plan, to support the new government to bolster his control of parliament.

“What can they achieve in opposition?” Key told TV3. “They can struggle for a bit of airtime and a few gains for their people, or they can sit around the table and continue to get the genuine gains they got last time.”

Backing from the Maori party will give Key control of 65 votes in the 121-seat New Zealand parliament, strengthening his ability to pass the budget and survive confidence votes. Allies ACT and United Future have pledged their support for a plan to sell as much as 49 percent of four state-owned energy companies, ensuring it can proceed without Maori party votes.

“We will not support asset sales,” Maori co-leader Tariana Turia told reporters yesterday. “I’m not anticipating that as being part of confidence and supply.”

Key’s National party won 60 seats in the parliament after securing 48 percent of the vote at the Nov. 26 election, the party’s best performance since 1951. ACT and United Future won one seat apiece. The Maori party secured three seats.

Key ruled since 2008 with backing from all three parties after offering them ministerial roles outside government and agreeing to adopt some of their policies. The supply and confidence agreements allow allies to vote against the government on matters of disagreement.

Ownership Debate

The Maori Party was formed in 2004 after co-leader Turia resigned from the Labour Party-led government following a debate about the indigenous peoples’ ownership and rights over New Zealand’s coastal areas. The party believes that Maori owned the nation’s foreshore and seabed before British colonization in the 19th century.

In 2008, the party won five seats and voted with National in parliament. Maori co-leader Pita Sharples was appointed Maori Affairs minister and Turia was an associate minister of health and social development.

The party was able to push ahead with policies to foster the Maori language and a strategy to deliver services to Maori people called whanau ora, after the native word for family. Ensuring that strategy remains in place may attract the party to support the government for another term, officials said.

“To make gains you have to be at the table,” party President Pem Bird told Radio New Zealand today. “We’re looking at significant gains.”

For news and related information: Stories on John Key: NSE JOHN KEY ZEALAND <GO> Most read New Zealand stories: MNI NZ BN <GO>

--Editor: Iain Wilson, Chris Bourke

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Bourke at cbourke4@bloomberg.net


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