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Cousins Pull No Punches In TV Debate

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Derek Fox and Parekura Horomia may have some family connections, but it doesn't stop them getting feisty in a political debate.

The two men, who both have Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu ancestry and are related -- describing themselves as cousins -- are in a tight race for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti is one of three remaining Maori seats that Mr Fox's Maori Party wants to take this election, but Labour Party minister Mr Horomia shows no signs of wanting to give it up.

Before a vocal crowd of about 150 at a debate in Gisborne staged by TVNZ7 last night, Mr Fox and Mr Horomia traded verbal jousts about the economy, housing, local bus services and the 2003 foreshore and seabed legislation which led to the formation of t he Maori Party.

Mr Fox said the Maori Party still wanted to repeal the legislation, which took away Maori rights to test foreshore and seabed ownership in the courts, and said Labour would be condemning it if it happened in another country.

"If Robert Mugabe did what Helen Clark and Parekura Horomia did, Helen Clark would be jumping up and down at the United Nations," Mr Fox said.

"The reality is that this Government, supported by my whanaunga (Mr Horomia), took away our right to go to court to see if we had a right."

The Maori Party says their rights to the foreshore and seabed were never taken away until the current Government legislated it away.

Mr Horomia defended his position and said a number of iwi in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate had secured favourable deals regarding the foreshore and seabed in the past two years.

He questioned whether these iwi would be any better off if the foreshore rights prior to the legislation had been tested in the courts and gone against Maori.

Mr Fox also attacked Labour's economic management, saying the gap between Maori and non-Maori incomes had increased since Labour took office despite favourable economic conditions and that many were still living in third world housing.

He said the Maori Party would provide more support to Maori and that they would be better off through its policy of no tax up to $25,000 of income and removing GST on food.

Mr Horomia said many more Maori had jobs since Labour came to power and better education meant many Maori whose parents had grown up as manual labourers had more hope for the future.

He also said Maori had benefitted from Labour's support of state housing.

"We have put more in this Government into Maori houses than ever before. The last National Government sold 14,000 state houses."

Mr Fox said part of the reason Maori unemployment had gone down was because so many Maori had moved to Australia.

The pair also clashed over a proposal to take Gisborne school bus services out of the hands of a long-standing local provider and hand it to a Hamilton-based operator.

Mr Horomia said he didn't support the proposal and hoped it would be changed but that it came as the result of a tendering process which the Government should not be interfering with.

Mr Horomia is certain to be back in Parliament no matter what happens in Ikaroa-Rawhiti as he is number five on Labour's list, and there is a chance Mr Fox could get the support of voters who want two Maori MPs representing their area.

However, Mr Horomia said a stronger Maori Party representation meant there was a greater risk of a National Party-led Government.

"The reality is I don't like giving way to Derek so he gets the seat so he goes off and coalitions with (National leader) John Key," Mr Horomia told NZPA after the debate.

"If we've got the nod, that keeps the seat under the Labour Government's handle. This is about mana, this is about having the right to speak on behalf of Ikaroa-Rawhiti and that's what I'm chasing."

Mr Fox said only the Maori Party would ensure Maori had an independent voice in Parliament and that strong backing for his party could give Maori the chance to be part of the next Government.

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