There has been a lot of criticism lately of Waiariki MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, and his apparent reluctance to fully back Te Whanau a Apanui in their fight against offshore drilling in their rohe. Flavell is in a difficult position and criticism of him in this instance is unjustified. As a MP, and a member of a party which aims to represent all Maori, it is not his role to come out and support the calls of some within Maoridom for the blanket ban against offshore drilling. To do so ignores the importance of Tino Rangatiratanga within Maori society.
Tino Rangatiratanga means that each whanau and hapu have the right to choose their own approach. Te Whanau a Apanui have decided that they do not want offshore drilling in their rohe – a decision that is entirely theirs to make. However, Flavell (and any other Maori MP’s for that matter) would be in a very difficult position should any hapu in their electorate decide that they support offshore drilling and want to receive the economic benefits of it. In fact, several hapu are already engaged in the mining of minerals within their rohe. It is not the role of a Maori MP to pick and choose which hapu position he or she will support. Their job is to advocate firstly, for those people who elected them to office and, secondly, for the advancement of Tino Rangatiratanga – the right of a whanau or hapu to determine their own path.
Flavell clearly understands what Tino Rangatiratanga means. That is why he has put forward a Private Members Bill providing hapu with veto powers over offshore drilling in their rohe. It is not for him to support one iwi on a particular issue when another iwi might take a different position. Unlike many on the left, Flavell recognises that it is not for him to tell Maori what they should and should not do – the decision rests with the hapu themselves.
(Disclaimer: Being Te Atiawa through-and-through, I support my iwi in their opposition to offshore drilling in our rohe. Our whanau urupa overlooks the Pohokura oil well which every year strips millions of dollars of resources from our lands.)