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National 'a party for all New Zealanders' after decision to contest Māori seats — Collins

National leader Judith Collins says the decision to stand candidates in Māori electorates again is because it is “a party for all New Zealanders”.

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The party leader says they want Kiwis to know the party wants to represent them. Source: 1 NEWS

The Opposition leader also said today she believes her party needs to have more diversity. 

It comes after 1 NEWS revealed last week the party had decided to contest the seats, which are currently held by Labour and the Māori Party.

“National has been absent from the Māori electorate contest for too long,” Collins said in Wellington today at the party's annual caucus retreat.

When asked if she was comfortable with the level of Māori representation in the party, Collins said was not. 

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The party was looking to rebuild at its summer retreat today after last year's crushing election defeat. Source: 1 NEWS

"I'm not comfortable with that," she said, adding she was also not comfortable after losing "some very, very good MPs" in the last election, meaning there was no Indian or Chinese representation in National.  

"The National Party needs to have more diversity, that is so clearly shown by the results we had."

On if National would have a chance to win any of the Māori electorates, Collins said the concept of winning seats was a "very old style of first past the post". 

"What we’re after is those party votes. Making sure we represent the whole of New Zealand. People know we want to represent them as well."

Collins said there were voters on the Māori roll who wanted to hear National's policies and views in debates and meetings prior to elections. 

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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

“The National Party believes we should be doing everything possible to represent every New Zealander, and will work towards having candidates in as many of the Māori seats as possible going forward.”

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

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".

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

Today, Collins said she believed the National Party would be a strong voice for Māori in Government

“We want Māori to do well because when Māori do well, the whole country does well,” she said.

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

“I think it's a long-time coming … I suffered push back 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.”

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

Another former National MP, Tutehounuku Korako, said 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.”

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.