Maori support for the legislation that is going to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act is starting to unravel, Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says.
Mr Harawira is at odds with the other four Maori Party MPs over the Marine and Coastal Area Bill and voted against it when it passed its first reading in Parliament.
"By voting for it, our caucus is facing the grim reality that we may get stranded out in left field supporting a bill that National wants but Maoridom doesn't," he said in a column published in the Northland Age yesterday.
"As the support for the bill starts to unravel I am at peace with the stand I took to defend our right to Maori title and to reject the tests designed to keep us from getting our foreshore and seabed back."
Mr Harawira revealed that at the party's annual conference in Napier last weekend Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana called on it to withdraw support for the bill.
"He told the conference 'if you have been made to swallow a rat then say so. Tell the people, because the perception is that you have sold out'," Mr Harawira said.
He also revealed that he wasn't as comfortable as he previously said he was about being taken off the Maori affairs select committee, which is going to hear public submissions on the bill.
The Maori Party decided Mr Harawira shouldn't sit on the committee because he held strong views about the bill, and he has been replaced by another MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, who supports it.
"I was gutted with that, even though I tried to put a brave face on it," he said.
"The hearings haven't even started yet but a number of iwi leaders and other influential voices from Maoridom are joining me in opposing the bill."
The bill will repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act and restore the right of iwi to seek customary title to parts of the coastline through the courts or through negotiation with the Government.
The test is that an iwi must have had uninterrupted use and occupation of the area it is claiming since 1840.