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Exclusive: National Party to contest Māori electorate seats

The National Party will now contest the Māori electorate seats, 1 NEWS can reveal.

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It’s a major course change for the party, which had long campaigned for the seats to be abolished. Source: 1 NEWS

Previous leaders have ruled out running for the seats, or have called for them to be abolished altogether.

There are currently seven Māori electorate seats, Labour holding six and the Māori Party holds one.

Former National MP Jo Hayes said she and other Māori MPs had pushed the issue without success.

“I think it's a long-time coming… I suffered pushback as you do, but you know being a politician we always get pushed back on things,” Hayes said.

“This is actually a win for Māori. It gives them a voice right across all of the political spectrum.”

National last stood in the Māori electorate seats in 2002. The following year, the party wanted the seats gone, with former leader Sir Bill English saying in 2003, “The purpose of the Māori seats has come to an end."

Leader in 2004 Don Brash called the seats an “anachronism” in Parliament.

Under Judith Collins, National’s policy is set to change. 1 NEWS understands Collins was intending to inform the caucus and announce the change publicly next week.

Political commentator Shane te Pou was not sure it would work, saying he thought it wasn’t the “road to political recovery for the National Party and they really haven't thought it through”.

Labour called it desperate and opportunistic.

“The reality is when you get 25 per cent of the vote you got to try and find votes anywhere,” MP Willie Jackson said.

Despite the change, some are saying it’s still not enough.

Another former National MP, Tutehounuku Korako, told 1 NEWS more needs to change.

Korako said his calls to reverse the removal of the Treaty of Waitangi from National’s constitution fell on deaf ears.

“Without these issues being resolved within the party, it won’t be a comfortable place for Māori candidates in the Māori electorates.”