It is time for the Maori Party to step back and revaluate their position on the Marine and Coastal Area Bill. It is now clear Maori do not support the bill, Pakeha are largely hostile and cross party consensus is lost. Continued support for the bill will result in harsh punishment at the ballot box next year. Rahui may lose her seat and Te Ururoa will be in trouble in Waiariki if Labour or another Party put forward a strong candidate. The party vote may survive unaffected - the 2.4% who vote MP are a core group of, for lack of a better term, staunch Maori.
I think the MP should drop their support for the bill and focus instead on repealing the F&S Act alone. A sufficient, long term replacement at this time is not viable. The Party’s activists (Annette Sykes, Hone Harawira etc) and academics (Moana Jackson, Margaret Mutu etc) are opposed and so are many iwi (Ngai Tahi, Te Atiawa, Ngati Kahungungu etc). Without broad acceptance among Maori the issue will smoulder and ignite in the long term. However, when it does ignite I do not think any government would be willing to revisit the issue. Mainstream New Zealand’s patience would be stretched thin and rednecks would not be willing to compromise more than they already have (they lost one battle but damn it if they lose the war) therefore political will would be near nonexistent. It would be a weak and self interested move for the MP to leave the issue for future generations. Cross party support was also vital to suppress redneck discomfort and reassure mainstream New Zealand that the bill was no threat to their interests. Sadly Labour’s decision to pull support has provided a vehicle for redneck discontent and encouraged pessimism among mainstream New Zealanders.
Come the 2011 election it is predicted that the MP will decide who governs the country. If this does eventuate the MP will have enormous leverage and could push for a much, much better deal. Both Parties will do anything to occupy the Treasury benches so the MP could push hard on the issue if they are in a strong position post election. However, if they continue on the path of destruction they may end up with only three members or less if Hone says ka kite.
The current haste the MP is approaching the issue with is unnecessary. This issue is the MP raison d etre and Maori are patient. They will wait for the best deal but nothing less. A view to the long term is required, a lasting solution, a just solution – anything less is unacceptable.