Seven Seats

April 29, 2011

With the launch of Hone Harawira’s “Mana” Party this weekend, I cannot help but wonder whether his support is being overstated by his supporters.  Of all the Maori politicians in Parliament, he alone has the ability to divide both Pakeha and Maori with his comments.  His white “mofo” comment was heavily criticised by more moderate Maori, and his attacks on corporate Maori are unlikely to go down well in areas such as Tainui and Kai Tahu who are staunchly supportive of their Iwi leaders.  How then will the seven Maori electorates vote in November? certainly, neither the Maori Party, Labour of the Mana Party will take a clean sweep – but which of those three will emerge as the dominant party?

The Maori Party will hold Te Tai Hauaauru, but will have to fight hard to retain Te Tai Tonga.  Rahui Katene is a very intelligent and capable politician but she suffers from simply being unable to maintain contact with a seat which covers the entire South Island and Wellington, while fulfilling Parliamentary duties (Mahara Okeroa lost the seat in 2008 for this very reason).

Over in Ikaroa-Raawhiti, the impending retirement of Parekura Horomia, has opened a very intriguing three-way battle for the seat.  As Morgan most expertly sets out, all three candidates are highly-qualified, have strong Runanga backgrounds and will represent Maori well.  Chalk this up as a potential hold to Labour, although the Maori Party is in with a fighting chance because, ironically enough, of the Takutai Moana Act.  Ngati Porou have remained outside the entire debate because sitting on Chris Finlayson’s desk is the Ngaa Rohe Moana o Ngaa Hapuu o Ngati Porou Bill.  There is plenty of time between now and November for this Bill to pass into law and for Ngati Porou interests in the Foreshore and Seabed to be legally recognised.

Hauraki-Waikato is a potential win for the Maori Party.  Nanaia Mahuta’s grip on the seat was severely tested in 2008 and Labour’s absolute policy of no asset sales has the potential to alienate many within Tainui who are ambitious for their future.  Tainui is perhaps the most business-oriented iwi in the country (helped in no small part by receiving the first settlement back in the 1990s) and it does a good job ensuring that its profits are funnelled down to its Marae.  Issues such as the foreshore and seabed and offshore drilling will only be of secondary concern compared to issues of economic development and environmental protection. As for the latter, the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 is likely to be paraded by the Maori Party as a great achievement for the hapu of the Waikato.

Moving north to Taamaki Makaurau and a straight two-way battle between Pita Sharples and Shane Jones is emerging.  Jones has emerged relatively unscathed from the credit card scandal and poses a very real threat to Sharples to win over the hearts and minds of Taamaki.  However, I tend to think that the mana of being Minister of Maori Affairs will see the Maori Party retain the seat.

Now it gets interesting – Waiariki and Te Tai Tokerau.  And, ultimately, the winner of these seats will depend entirely on the decisions made by Hone Harawira in the coming weeks.  Declare war on the Maori Party and he faces the prospect of an acrimonious battle with them on his home patch, thus opening the door for Kelvin Davis to claim the seat back for Labour.  Davis is a well-respected, well-spoken, moderate Maori MP who will rise above the Maori Party-Mana Party battle.  This seat is simply not worth the fight for the Maori Party.  They will lose it, and it will not be a noble loss either.

As for Waiariki, I believe that Annette Sykes will stake a very strong claim for the seat.  She is perhaps the only person with the mana and visibility of the potential candidates for the Mana Party to win an electorate seat alongside Harawira.  Battle-hardened from a few decades in the Courtroom, she will certainly rattle a few cages in Parliament.  Whether this is the image that Harawira wants his party to portray is, in itself, another question completely.  As for Te Ururoa Flavell, it is clear that Harawira is after a bit of utu.  He would love nothing more than to take on the man who had him thrown out of the Maori Party and beat him.  And he might just be able to do it.  When you look at where the vocal opposition to the Government is emanating from at the moment, a lot is sourced in the heart of Flavell’s electorate.

I have been known to be wrong in the past, but I am going to take a risk and set out my predictions for November.  Feel free to bookmark this page and come back and mock me if (when) I get it wrong!

Te Tai Tonga – Maori Party, Labour a close second.

Te Tai Hauaauru – Maori Party, no real challenges.

Ikaroa-Raawhiti – Labour, to edge out a tight three-way battle.

Waiariki – Mana Party, but only if Harawira takes the fight to Flavell.

Hauraki-Waikato – Maori Party

Taamaki Makaurau – Maori Party, Labour paying the price of Jones’ indiscretions.

Te Tai Tokerau – Mana Party, unless Harawira takes on the Maori Party in which case Labour.

Don’t Stay the Urewera 18 Trials

April 28, 2011

I am more than a little surprised by the actions of several lawyers and politicians in calling for a stay in the Urewera 18 trials – frankly, they should know better. Watea News reports that Professor Jane Kelsey and Moana Jackson wrote to the Solicitor-General warning that the credibility of the legal system is at risk if trial goes ahead.  These calls for a stay in proceedings were supported by Green Party leader Meteria Turei.

The only threat to the legal system arises from lawyers and politicians attempting to influence decisions of Crown Law.  There are two aspects here that concern me.  First, it goes against the ideal that justice should be conducted in an open Court, and not behind closed doors; and Second, politicians should not be seen to be interfering in the legal process.

Leaving aside the shocking nature of the raids back in October 2008, the accused have been waiting for 2.5 years for resolution.  They are convinced of their innocence and a stay in proceedings denies them of the opportunity to have their day in Court and for the judicial system to throw the book at the police for their actions on that misty day in October. Let these issues be aired in public. Let every detail of the police case be torn apart by the defendants’ legal team. Let the general public see the wrong that has been committed on the people of Tuhoe.  Justice not only needs to be done, it also needs to be seen to be done.  Going to trial brings everything out into the light of day, and will hopefully show the people of Tuhoe, and Te Ao Maori generally, that our judicial system is fair, impartial, and can be trusted.

On the issue of Meteria Turei’s comments, it is a long-standing constitutional doctrine that politicians should not be seen to be interfering in the judicial process.  We rely on an impartial Crown Law Office. While little harm will come from a call for a trial to be stayed, how damaging would it be to the perception of justice in Aotearoa if politicians began directing Crown Law to prosecute people.  The common belief is that the Urewera raids were politically motivated and politically directed and there are already rumblings within Te Whanau-a-Apanui about potential political directives to police over the offshore exploration protests.  We cannot allow any political interference in our legal system because to do so undermines the credibility of the system.

Discrimination, 1930s Style

April 27, 2011

I read a lot of evidence about the harmful impacts of colonisation and government policy on Maori and a lot of it is processed, assessed for relevancy to the particular claimant file that I am working on, and then stored for future use.  The sheer volume of evidence of discrimination and prejudice towards Maori over the past 170 years can be overwhelming if not treated in this way. But every now and then I come across something which is so shocking in its portrayal of the discrimination Maori experienced that it takes some time for the mind to fully process it.

I came across the following in my day’s readings.  It is a simple statistic, it is a shocking statistic and, what’s worse, is that it arises out of a period of perhaps the most social welfare-oriented administration of our nations history.

In 1949, of the 30,000 state houses built by the Government nationwide – less than 100 had been rented to Maori.

(Claudia Orange, ‘A Kind of Equity: Labour and the Maori Party 1935-1939’, p 207)

Maori Land and the Legal Services Act 2011

April 26, 2011

I was reading through some recent press releases (as you do) and came across this one from Te Tai Tonga MP, Rahui Katene on a new section of the Legal Services Act 2011 which seeks to include Maori land within the definitions of income and disposable capital.  What does this mean? Basically, when any owner of Maori land is making an application for civil legal aid, any income earned from that land is attributed to the applicants income and the capital value of the owner’s interest in that land is included in the applicants disposable capital value.  An application for legal aid will be declined if either of these calculations exceeds the prescribed limits.  In arguing that these provisions should be removed from the Bill, Rahui Katene stated the following:

A part of this bill disadvantages Maori people because they have interests in multiply-owned Maori land – land that has been passed down from generation to generation and that should continue to be.

Having shares in Maori land is not necessarily a commercial interest, but more so a cultural interest that is not purchased, that should not be sold and that should not be classed as one’s own personal asset.

The majority of people with shares in multiply-owned Maori land don’t see personal wealth or income from that land because the benefits are usually spread communally among the shareholders, their children and mokopuna which can number thousands of people in one land block.

The problem with this legislation is that it fails to recognise the fundamental nature of Maori land.  Maori land is not an individual commodity in the sense that general freehold land is, with strong restrictions of any sale of the land prescribed in Te Ture Whenua Maori 1993.  Further, as Rahui Katene highlights, such land is often held on behalf of the wider whanau.

I wrote recently about the calls for a review of Te Ture Whenua Maori 1993. It is provisions like these that reinforce the need for a review – to bring attention to them, and any others, and recommend revision to ensure that consistency with Te Ture Whenua Maori is achieved. Parliament needs to be reminded of the tikanga of our whenua – our whenua is a taonga tuku iho, a treasure to be preserved and passed on to our future generations.  We do not own the whenua, we merely look after it for our children.

Green Party Looking to Secure its Vote

April 26, 2011

I wonder if the Green Party might be getting a touch nervous about the impending launch of a new left-wing, Maori-focussed party.  Despite promising so much, the Greens themselves would recognise that their election day results have never been as high as would be expected.  The emergence of another voice on the left could leave them in a precarious position.

That is why the announcement today that they are running a candidate against Hon. Tariana Turia in Te Tai Hauauru for the first time should come as no surprise.  At 18, Jack McDonald is hardly going to be the most experienced person to take on Tariana Turia, nor does he stand a chance in taking the seat from her. What his candidacy does provide is a platform for the Greens to promote their vision to a wider Maori audience.

Strategically it is a good move. The Greens have a long track record of standing on their principles, and a lot of their environmental policies align squarely with Maori principles of kaitiakitanga.  What should gain them the most traction in the battle for Maori votes is their principled stance on the Foreshore and Seabed debate – having opposed legislation from day 1 and holding firm to the belief that the Courts should have been left to determine applications on a case-by-case basis.

The problem, as I noted in my previous article on the myth of a Maori demographic, is that while Green Party policy will align with Maori principles occasionally, in case of conflict the Green Party kaupapa will always take precedence over the Maori kaupapa.

The Myth of “Maori” as a Demographic

April 26, 2011

Having taking a keen interest in the debate over Hone Harawira’s split from the Maori Party and the battle for the Maori Electorates in the November 26 Election I have noticed a lot of talk about who best represents Maori – as if “Maori” is a demographic in the same notion that the rich and poor are.   There appears to be a common assumption held by many on the left of the political spectrum that Maori issues are the property of the left, and therefore only left-leaning policies are good for Maori.  This line of thinking assumes that all Maori are poor, un-educated, make up the working classes, and take a keen interest in issues of Tino Rangatiratanga.

This suits parties such as Labour and the Greens because they can then claim to represent Maori interests when they push their policies.  The problem for Maori is that when they do, they subsume Maori issues under their brand.  We then stop becoming a vibrant, entrepreneurial, and aspirational people and instead become relegated to another group reliant on hand-outs and Government protection. Labour and the Greens will often take the position that what is bad for the poor, or bad for workers, is bad for Maori – perpetuating the thinking that Maori are a poor people who need to be protected by the Government. This is a very colonial, we-know-best, position, completely at odds with Maori Tino Rangatiratanga.  Using asset sales as an example, both Labour and the Greens argue that the partial sale of SOE’s is bad for Maori – despite some iwi (such as Tainui) being actively interested in pursuing such an idea.

The mistake often made when discussion Maori political issues is to assume that Maori are all left-wing.  In reality, Maori opinions are spread right across the political spectrum.  Tino Rangatiratanga is essentially a liberal, right-wing notion of the ability to choose and decide free from Government dictation; whereas issues of Kaitiakitanga over the environment is a definite left-wing ideal.

All this makes the launch of Hone Harawira’s party very interesting.  While he has rejected the idea of forming a general left wing party, it is very possible that his new Maori Party will be grounded in leftist politics.  To my mind this would be a huge mistake.  The Maori electorate is small enough as it is, and with recent polls showing the left vote in New Zealand in a period of decline, Harawira runs the risk of alienating a large proportion of Maori before he has even started to campaign.  The Maori Party has been a success to date because it has deliberately positioned itself in the centre of politics – drawing from both the left and the right in formulating its policies.  While such an approach is not seen as acceptable by the very vocal group of left-leaning Maori, there are many, more centrist, Maori who are quietly applauding the decisions made by the Maori Party.

No one person, or party will ever be able to claim that they are the true voice of Maori.  We have many different voices, and many different beliefs as to the best way forward for Maori.  Maori representation in Parliament reflects this – 0f the 23 Maori in Parliament, 8 are in National and 8 in Labour (with a Te Heuheu on one side and a Mahuta on the other).   We need to be careful of those who claim to speak for Maori, and those who attempt to hijack Maori issues and subsume them under the left- or right- wing agendas.  Iwi and Hapu speak for Maori. It is they, and not politicians, who have the right to decide what is best for their people.

A Short Essay on Race and Nationality

April 22, 2011

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

What does being Maori mean? What does being Pakeha mean? What does being a New Zealander mean? The twin issues of race and nationality are constantly being debated here in New Zealand and around the world. They are controversial issues and, sadly, the root cause of intolerance throughout the world. Our World divides and segregates human beings in distinct racial and national groupings, and then uses those distinctions to justify differing, and often discriminatory, treatment of various races and nationality. On 28 August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior gave perhaps the most important, and inspiring, speech in human history. “I have a dream” called for racial equality and an end to the discrimination faced by Africa-Americans in the United States. Dr. King’s memorable phrase is never far from my mind in everything I do.

The struggle for equality is one shared by minority communities throughout the world. Wherever you turn, you see bias, intolerance and racism directed towards minorities simply because they are different. It is not restricted by colour or creed, intolerance and racism exist within minority societies as well. This is not an article attacking the racism of pakeha society, rather it is an article attacking those who believe they are superior to another simply because of their race or nationality. It is an attack on those people who question the rights of another to live freely in the country of their choice, and it is an attack on the current system which discriminates against people because of their race or nationality.

What is it that fosters intolerance towards people of foreign lands, or foreign races? At the biological level, Homo sapiens are no different from one another. Yes, we have our variations, but we remain the same species. Each and every one of us is united in our common heritage, and our shared ‘form’. The notion that we are different is a social construct. Nationality is a social construct. Race, in many respects, is also a social construct. I am Maori, yes, but I am homo sapiens first. I may be a New Zealander, but I am homo sapiens first. National boundaries, and the division of homo sapiens into racial groupings, are nothing more than an attempt by a group of people to exert hegemonic power other others. It is, and it always has been, about power and land.

Power and Land

Race was used in New Zealand in the 19th Century to dispossess Maori of vast tracts of our ancestral homelands. Europeans, guided by the positivist school of legal thinking, believed that non-civilised societies could not lay claim to lands within their territory that were surplus to requirements. European societies used their own artificially constructed division of the world to undertake the biggest theft of property every to occur in the entire history of human civilisation. Homo sapiens around the world had their land stolen by the ‘great’ European powers of the 19th Century and while those European societies grew enormously wealthy on the back of such a theft, the indigenous populations suffered greatly.

This ‘waste lands’ theory was used by Europeans to claim land throughout the world, ironically enough the rationale for taking the land for their own purposes was that the world belonged to everyone – to homo sapiens – and the inhabitants of an over-crowded Europe had the right to inhabit lands far away from their home. With the land came power. In New Zealand, as in many other Commonwealth countries, the British imposed their control over the land and the descendants of those early settlers have sought to maintain their position of power ever since.

It is this fear of losing power which drives our intolerance. There are examples around the world of Nations seeking to exclude and discriminate against other homo sapiens simply because they are different, and this difference threatens their way of life. Yet in almost every case the discrimination is almost laughably hypocritical. In New Zealand, people are protesting the sale of farm land to foreigners in general, and Chinese in particular, stating that we are in danger of becoming tenants in our own land – incidentally the very position we as Maori find ourselves in after the invasion of the British in the 19th century.

Further abroad, Arizona has recently sought to crack-down on illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico, despite the State once being part of Mexico (after the Spanish invasion and settlement of the 17th Century). And in the United Kingdom, controversy continues to exist over increased settlement by those, firstly, of Pakistani and Indian descent; and secondly, of poorer Eastern Europe states. Such debate conveniently ignores the fact of British colonisation of Pakistan and India, and the immigration to the British Isles by the Anglo’s and the Saxons from continental Europe.

The Way Forward

Sadly, we are a long way from realising Dr. King’s dream. I too dream of an enlightened future. A future where nationality is only relevant on the sports field, and where our artificially created national boundaries, and our socially constructed notions of nationality, no longer exist and no longer perpetuate the bias, intolerance, and racism that exists in today’s societies. Globalisation is bringing the world closer, and I believe that this is a positive thing for human society. The more we interact with those who are ‘different’ from us, the more we will see our similarities. It is no surprise that my experience in South Africa was that those people who lived with and around the black communities did not exhibit the prejudice demonstrated by those who were living in isolation.

At our very core, homo sapiens are no different from one another. It is what is in our hearts and souls which separates us – the contents of our character.

(This is an edited version of an article on race and nationality I published on my One World/One People site in October 2010)


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