I never thought that there would come a day when I would join a political party. To go beyond an occasional supporter and voter to a fully fledged paid up member. But several discussions over the past few days culminating in the opportunity to be involved in the development of policy in an area that is my main focus in life, has led to a change in heart. I have been sitting on the sidelines for a long time, occasionally sticking my head up to criticise or critique, sometimes rationally so – others embarrassingly angrily. Since turning 30 several months ago I have become more aware of the need to take the knowledge and expertise that I have built up over the past decade and transform that into something of value. Something that is going to make a difference. Sitting on the sidelines may one day lead to meaningful change, but I know there is far greater prospects of, for lack of a better cliché, making a difference by putting my hand up and doing the mahi!
As a blogger and, more recently political and economic commentator, I am conscious of the need to ensure that I am transparent with my writing and my advocacy. I do not intend on operating as a Party cheerleader, nor however will I seek to bring the organisation I am now a part of into disrepute through any over the top or unjustified criticisms. It is the same judgment call I make when dealing with issues that also impact on my roles with Deloitte, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa to whom I am currently seconded to, the other Iwi clients I am currently advising, and the Māori law society on which I am currently serving as Treasurer.
Those who know me, and who have followed my writing here since its inception back in the lead up to the 2011 General Election will have a general idea as to my political leanings. I am an unashamed classical liberal in relation to all things economic, bordering on the libertarian on certain economic and freedom of choice issues. Driven by a love of Adam Smith and an interpretation of economics based on a reading of both The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, I believe that the best Government is one that sets clear and concise rules for economic actors to follow and then stands aside. Counterbalancing this is my even more open belief in Tino Rangatiratanga, and the ability for whānau, hapū, and Iwi Māori to be free to determine our own futures, and to exercise those rights guaranteed to us under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is these two divergent philosophical groundings that have, and here I am a rather grateful for this, kept me out of the party political structure until now.
This is not to say that I have not been interested in party politics. I grew up in the heart of the Taranaki-King Country electorate, Jim Bolger was our MP, and we were surrounded by National Party members. I remember meeting Jenny Shipley during the Taranaki King Country by-election not long after she had deposed Bolger and being in awe of her presence. I was 13, and as sure as night followed day, I was blue to the core. It came as a great surprise to me that my parents did not share the same outlook. Here we were, dairy farmers in the heart of the Prime Minister’s electorate. How could you vote for anyone not wearing blue? My mother, a Māori women from Waitara and a teacher who had met my father at Teachers College in Palmerston North, was anything but blue. Labour, and increasingly the Alliance were presumably the parties of choice, although it was never a point of discussion for us. Myself and my two siblings all grew up believing that we were Tories.
It wasn’t until I had just turned 20 that my unshakeable belief that I would vote National at the 2005 election was challenged. Three years into my University education, I had a much greater awareness of Te Ao Māori and the issues that were confronting us. The Foreshore and Seabed controversy the prior year ruled out Labour as an option (a position I maintain to this day) and the race to the bottom it unleashed, for the first but not the last time, drove me away from supporting the Don Brash led National Party. I elected not to vote that day, and it is probably the most effective voting decision I have ever made. Don Brash’s overtly racist version of the National Party was defeated.
Three years later and the political climate was completely different. Gone were the racial overtones, and the focus was well and truly turned to economic issues. I voted in 2008 for the first time. I entered the voting booth and cast my first ever vote for the ACT Party. This was back in the days when ACT was an economic liberal party, not a party captured by special interests and then taken over by every washed up, or future washed up, political wannabe. That ACT would become distracted, and ultimately irrelevant during this term meant that I no longer consider them a serious political option. There is a need for a classically liberal party to challenge this free-spending, crony capitalist, incarnation of the National Party; but it is impossible to see ACT fulfilling this need.
Shorn of a natural home for my economic philosophy, I have spent the past 5 years going back and forwards in my support for the Māori Party. I was so impressed by the work of Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia that they won my vote in 2011. I was not that impressed with their second term efforts and the party lost my vote in 2014. That it did not go to anyone else is perhaps indicative of a strong belief that I have in the kaupapa of the Māori Party. That is why when I was approach a few days ago by members to join and be involved in the organisation I knew immediately that my answer was going to be an emphatic yes.
So last night I nailed my colours to the mast and joined the Māori Party. I have the highest of respect for the work of Te Ururoa Flavell and watching the early performances of Marama Fox gives me hope that the Party is on the right track. I am not in this game for power. My involvement comes from a driving passion to do all that I can to improve the lives of my Māori whanaunga. That is my kaupapa, and I know that everyone within the Māori Party shares the same approach.