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Abolishing Māori seats 'much more trouble than it's worth'

National party leader Simon Bridges says New Zealand needs a more efficient parliament and a smaller executive, which he says is a big make-work scheme.

At his party's conference yesterday, ACT leader David Seymour called for a reduction of the number of MPs in Parliament and the scrapping of Māori seats.

Mr Bridges told Morning Report he may support Mr Seymour's smaller government bill if it was drawn from the ballot.

He said while there was some attraction to the proposed legislation, voting for it would depend on how much Mr Seymour was prepared to change.

"There's definitely some attraction about a smaller Parliament and a smaller executive. We've got 31 on our executive at the moment, it's the biggest make-work scheme actually in government we've ever seen."

But there were "significant fishhooks" in the proposal, including that there were some electorates in the South Island "bigger than the state of Israel - and you'd be increasing those".

The proposal to abolish Māori seats would be divisive and probably more trouble than it was worth.

"We have strong Māori representation in Parliament, MMP provides us that ability, but actually we see a lot of Māori win general constituency seats."

He said National would want to deeply consult with Māoridom on the issue.

"I think it'd be hard to see a situation where it happened today. I do believe though, over time, Māoridom and more generally New Zealanders will do away with the Maori seats."

Mr Seymour also used the party conference to take aim at the Labour-led coalition government and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who he said was warm and friendly, but someone he dismissed as a "show prime minister". He went on to say that no one actually thinks she knows anything about the economy.

Mr Bridges said leaving aside the personal comments about Ms Arden, in regards to the economy, he couldn't be more critical of her last week.

He said a number of issues she put forward were distractions from what she should have had sole focus on.

"That was business confidence plummeting and economy that is going downwards... it was an incredible failing in her leadership."

He said the economy is the one issue Ms Ardern should be focused on right now.

The National Party also came under fire from Mr Seymour over what he said was its tendency to merely react to what Labour was doing.

"I reckon if the Labour Party introduced full-blown communism into New Zealand, the National Party would campaign on managing it better," Mr Seymour said.

"We stand for less government, we stand for competition, we stand for the individual, actually similar things to the ACT Party, but here's the deal, we are a centre-right party," Mr Bridges said.

He said there was a gap in the market for a party that was to the right of National.

Mr Bridges says National had not yet decided about a partnership with ACT in the next election.

"At the moment I don't see any reason why we'd change from where we've been."

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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