Jul 27, 2011

Flavell on Suicide

Monstrous comments from Te Ururoa Flavell. From the NZ Herald:

A Maori Party MP has suggested that children who take their own lives should be condemned rather than have their life celebrated - a call slammed as "absolutely disgusting" by a mother whose child took his life. 

In a controversial column in Rotorua's Daily Post newspaper, Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell suggested a "very hard stand" should be made on suicide. 

"If a child commits suicide, let us consider not celebrating their lives on our marae; perhaps bury them at the entrance of the cemetery so their deaths will be condemned by the people," he wrote. 

"In doing these things, it demonstrates the depth of disgust the people have with this. Yes it is a hard stance, but what else can we do?" 

Suicide should be condemned, but Te Ururoa’s suggestion will only compound the pain suicides causes. Punishing the family will not, repeat will not, deter suicide. Suicide is a selfish choice, and by definition, a choice made by the victim and inflicted by the victim. Very rarely do assisted suicides occur, but when they do the response from our criminal justice system is adequate. There is no need to assault the families with cultural shame.

Burying suicide victims at the entrance of the urupa will cause massive shame for the whanau and that shame will continue throughout numerous generations. Denying suicide victims tangi, which was another one of Te Ururoa’s suggestions, will prevent whanau from finding closure and compound the emotional trauma.

Te Ururoa is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Yes, no one likes suicide and everyone wants to respond. But this sort of response will not feature in the minds of potential suicide victims. Suicide victims think of the here and now, their ability to foresee consequences or feel and demonstrate empathy is limited.  

Politically speaking, Te Ururoa may be reflecting popular opinion. The suggestion that suicide victims not receive tangi is common. There is a desire to shame the family. I am unsure whether or not this is truly in line with tikanga Maori or a remnant of the sort of Christian thinking that has influenced Maori practise. I am not qualified to say.

We need representatives with fresh minds, not representatives recycling poor ideas from a time gone by.  

Jul 26, 2011

The Kingitanga, Wai262 and Mana Policy

The Kingitanga is, supposedly, apolitical; however critics are accusing Kingi Tuheitia of injecting politics into the movement. From Radio New Zealand:

A former head of the Tainui-Waikato Parliament has dismissed suggestions that a meeting between King Tuheitia and the dissident Fiji colonel, Tevita Mara, could politicise the Kingitanga.

The criticism has been raised by people formerly close to the Kingitanga.

But a past chairperson of Te Kauhanganui, Tom Roa, says King Tuheitia met with Ratu Mara out of respect, because the colonel has royal connections.

I agree with Tom Roa. Given Mara’s connections to Fijian royalty – as an aside I didn’t know Fiji maintained a monarchy – Kingi Tuheitia is under an obligation to meet him (Mara). It is customary for the Maori Monarch to meet visiting Royals from the Pacific. The relationship between the Kingitanga and Pacific Royalty is an expression of the relationship between Maori and Pasifika people. Maori are connected to the Pacific through whakapapa and the Kingitanga respects this by maintaining connections with “the royal houses” of the Pacific. Having said that, I do not think Mara, who is under suspicion of torture, deserves an audience with the King. Mara is, to be polite, a sinner who deserves an audience with the Police rather than the Maori King.

The Greens are, once again, calling it like it is. From Radio New Zealand:

The Green Party says it's not holding its breath for any genuine Government engagement in response to Wai 262 - the recent Waitangi Tribunal report on Māori culture and identity.

The report says current laws and government policies marginalise Māori and allow others to control key aspects of Māori culture.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says she sees little point in her party trying to make the Government do anything, because its response is likely to be fairly weak.

National will not touch Wai262 in an election year. Although the report proved pedestrian, any action taken will open National’s right flank and render the party vulnerable to attacks from the redneck right. It appears New Zealanders are comfortable with National’s approach to Maori and Maori issues, but Maori issues are always explosive and best left untouched in uncertain times. National enjoys a solid grip on the centre and the far right, but as we move closer to the election their grip of those constituencies will loosen. If the Nat’s are perceived to be pandering to Maori they will lose control of the right vote and potentially compromise their stranglehold on the centre. With the deteriorating economy and a resurgent left the Nat’s will play it safe – it would be unwise to inflame the Maori issue. However, the Nat’s may move on Wai262 in an attempt to placate the Maori Party and capture their support post-election. This is a long shot though – John Key already has the Maori Party wrapped around his finger.


The Mana Party have followed through with another policy drop, this time in health, employment, education, cost of living and tax. From what I have read, I’m impressed. Most of the policy is progressive and realistic. I haven’t read all of it nor thoroughly considered all of what I have read, but my first impressions are positive. This is what you would expect though with brilliant minds like Jane Kelsey contributing.

Kohanga Hikoi

On my way to Law School yesterday I bumped into the Kohanga Reo hikoi moving from the Cenotaph, just outside of the grounds of Parliament, towards the Waitangi Tribunal Office on the Terrace. From 3 News:

An urgent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal today is alleging discrimination against Te Kohanga Reo.

Protesters say Te Kohanga Reo needs to be left in the hands of Maori, after years of bumping heads with the Ministry of Education.

They say Kohanga should no longer come under the control of the ministry and be given statutory recognition as an independent and stand-alone initiative.

Kohanga Reo are defined as early childhood centres (ECC), although they were never intended to operate as such and, for all intents and purposes, do not operate as such. The crux of the issue is that Kohanga are unable to operate according to tikanga while defined as ECC. It appears that regulations governing the operation of ECC’s prevent Kohanga from operating as intended. For example, kaumatua who are not registered and qualified teachers do not receive pay from the Ministry of Education and Kohanga must be fenced off from the Marae.

The claim is calling for an independent body to govern and administer the Kohanga Reo initiative. I’m not sure whether this is entirely necessary, but the logic behind it is clear. In my opinion, rather than create a new body Kohanga should be treated as separate entities with appropriate regulations governing their operation.

I’ll close this post with a few observations from the hikoi:

·         Police presence was low in comparison with the MCA act hikoi. Most of the cops were Maori and Maori Wardens were used as well. 

·         3 News estimated the hikoi to be 1200 strong. At the Cenotaph I estimated only about 300 – I’m not sure where the other 900 came from. 

·         I only spotted Hone Harawira and Parekura Horomia at the Cenotaph. Maybe I missed the Greens and Maori Party, but it is recess week so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greens and Maori Party could not send MP’s. 

·         The hikoi was loud but composed and the waiata were beautiful.   

·         The claimants have engaged Mai Chen, New Zealand’s top public lawyer.

Jul 22, 2011

Katene and Tirikatene, the 3 R's and Iwi

A few issues have caught my eye over the past week:


Rahui Katene has opened the battle in Te Tai Tonga attacking Labour over their choice of candidate, Rino Tirikatene. Apparently, Rino Tirikatene comes from the same Hapu and this is, according to Rahui Katene, unfair. I fail to see things from her point of view. Rahui cannot attack Rino on his substantive record, given he is new to parliamentary politics, but if she doesn’t find a more potent attack line she will not run into much success. Rahui also claims:

However she is demanding evidence to back up claims she stands to to lose her electorate.

Pundits are picking she will lose her Te Tai Tonga seat to Labour at this year's election.

Ms Katene wants to know where they're getting their information from as there haven't been any polls conducted in her electorate.

"The only poll that I'm aware of is the one that we're doing our ourselves and that is showing a far different story," she told Newstalk ZB. "It is showing that I am well ahead of any other opponent."

Readers will know I am picking Rino Tirikatene to snatch Te Tai Tonga. The Maori Party’s polling may indicate that Rahui is ahead, but as we move closer to the election I expect the gap, if it even exists, to close and Rino Tirikatene to open up a ten point lead. Rahui will lose a significant amount of support as a reflex action against her support for the MCA act, GST and, generally speaking, refusing to take a principled position on issues like the ETS. Rahui Katene is also the invisible Maori Party MP. Turia and Sharples are the leaders, Flavell is the workhorse and Hone was the outspoken activist. Rahui was always on the fringes and, in my opinion, has nothing of substance to stand on. Having said that, Rahui may have solidified her support in Christchurch. By all accounts Rahui has provided excellent support to her constituents. However, Wellington, Dunedin and Invercargill remain marginal. Invercargill and Dunedin are working class strongholds while Wellington may swing towards Labour in the wake of public sector cuts and strained relations between tangata whenua and the Wellington City Council. I should elaborate on the local council point. Although relations between WCC and local iwi bear no relation to central government, relations between iwi and any form of government influence the mood of the people. At the moment the mood, in Wellington at least, is anti-government. 

Hone Harawira continues his simplicity tone

Mana leader Hone Harawira is calling for a return to the three Rs.
A report from the New Zealand Institute has identified under-investment in training for jobs and careers and failure to engage children at school as being behind high levels of youth and Maori unemployment.

But Mr Harawira says academics and administrators have been experimenting with kid’s lives for too long, and he wants to see more emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic. 

First of all, the New Zealand Institute is a right-wing think-tank. Secondly, Harawira may be making things a little too simple. I have no issue with “the three R’s” as the basis of children’s education, but I do take issue with Hone’s attack on “stuff about teaching people to think”. There is nothing more important than equipping young people with the skills they need to use their minds. The three R’s, much like the Cambridge system, merely encourages rote learning and the use of mundane processes. The strength of the New Zealand education system, as it exists at the moment, is that young people are taught the skills they need to problem solve, think creatively and, generally speaking, use their minds. The strength of systems like NCEA is that students are encouraged to think as opposed to recall. 

Hone sounds like the Nat’s when he calls for a return to the old ways. However, the old ways may be outdated. In an increasingly diverse world a strong focus on reading writing and arithmetic may no longer be necessary. Sure, everyone needs to know how to do the basics, but everyone also needs to know how to use the basics. It is not enough to merely ‘know’ something. I will be disappointed if the three R’s forms the basis of Te Mana’s thinking in education. 


Parekura Horomia has made a good call

Labour's Maori affairs spokesperson says it's time for iwi to think about the economic condition of their members, rather than concentrate on building up the tribal putea. 

Parekura Horomia says ordinary Maori families are going through tough times, with bills mounting up, their jobs under threat and the services they rely on under threat from National's privatisation agenda.
He says iwi should start using the economic muscle they have built up.

Agreed. Some Iwi, Tainui and Ngai Tahu in particular, are in a position to begin distributing benefits to their members and, more importantly, offering opportunities for their members to improve their conditions. This could include offering interest free loans to small businesses and first time home buyers, developing community housing in partnership with the government and offering their members first preference for employment in, for example, Iwi tourism ventures.

Of course responsibility should not be devolved to Iwi, it is still the role of the State to improve the conditions of its people, but Iwi have a role to play in partnership with the government.

Hannah Tamaki's run continues

Unsurprisingly, Hannah Tamaki is back in the running for the presidency of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. Tamaki took her case to the High Court after members of the League removed her name from the ballot papers amid fears that Tamaki, and by extension the Destiny Church, were attempting a hostile takeover. Justice Kos in his ruling on Wednesday held that Hannah Tamaki is entitled to run for President of the League. However, the Court also expressed concern around the creation of ten Destiny affiliated branches, in which Hannah Tamaki had a hand in creating, and held that those branches are ineligible to vote. Justice Kos held:
I find the manner in which the new branches have been established completely contrary to the practices and tikanga of the league.

Although, the Court did single out three branches with loose connections to Destiny as legitimate. The Court made it clear that Tamaki's religious beliefs do not preclude her bid. The MWWL is strictly "non-sectarian", this means the organisation itself cannot proclaim and/or take a religious stance. It does not mean that the organisations representatives are not entitled to hold personal, or more specifically, religious beliefs.

In short the actions of the League were unlawful, but perhaps justified in the sense that the League is attempting to protect its history and mana. Hannah Tamaki should have the opportunity to stand, however her minions should not have the opportunity to vote. Hannah Tamaki has, according to the Court, conducted her bid lawfully. She has not, however, conducted her bid with integrity. Rigging the competition is not on and if Tamaki has any sense of fairness she should stand down. I have said it again and again: Destiny Church wants to secure social services contracts. The government has, on a number of occasions, refused to award contracts to Destiny Church. Clearly the Church cannot secure contracts under the Destiny mast. Consequently, the Tamaki’s have identified the MWWL as a potential vehicle for their new money spinner, i.e. providing social services. The MWWL is one of the most respected Maori organisations in New Zealand and can run on their record promoting Maori wellbeing. The MWWL provides an attractive prospect for the Tamaki’s.

I doubt Hannah Tamaki will win. Many League members are fiercely opposed to her candidacy and will make voting against Tamaki a priority. I guess Tamaki’s play has been good one respect: the MWWL appeared to be in decline, however Tamaki’s play for the presidency appears to have energised the League and spurred renewed interest in the League and what it stands for.

Jul 20, 2011

Closeup on Kawerau (pt 2)

I know my last post on Kawerau lacked proper structure; unfortunately today’s post does as well. Over the past twenty four hours I’ve been collecting a number of disparate thoughts and committing them to two posts. I haven’t had the time to refine my thoughts and place those thoughts in a logical structure. Hopefully you don’t get lost in this post.

Today I’ll refrain from commenting on the quality of Closeup’s follow-up story on Kawerau. I’ll focus on the issues. On a positive note, the story did identify one of the causes of dysfunction in Kawerau and, thankfully, one of the solutions. It doesn’t take a genius to discover that joblessness is one of the drivers of dysfunction in Kawerau and that jobs are one of the solutions.

The unemployment rate in Kawerau stands at 19.3% compared with 7.5% nationally and 16.1% for Maori. This is unacceptable, but hardly surprising. The simple, simple fact is: there are not enough jobs in Kawerau. The most successful businesses in Kawerau are New World and the local pubs. The main industries, forestry and pulp and paper production, are high skill industries. Secondary industries, read those supporting the main industries, are also high skill, for example engineering, electrical work and heavy machinery work. Most Kawerau residents do not have the skills to even think of applying for those sorts of jobs. This is, in part, a failure on their part, but mostly a failure on the government’s part.

In Kawerau you move from a decile one primary school, to a decile one intermediate school and then onto a decile one high school. This is not a dig at the quality of low decile schools – my primary education was good – my point is that students attending low decile schools receive fewer opportunities than students attending higher decile schools. The teaching staff are, and this may be an unjustified claim, at the lower end of the scale while the resources available to the school, staff and students often fall below what you would expect in a developed country. Once students reach the third tier of schooling they are less likely to at the same level or ahead of their peers at other high schools. Now this is where it gets interesting in Kawerau. Kawerau College is shit.

Kawerau College is one of, if not the worst, high school in New Zealand. Former Principal Steve Hocking left a few years ago in disgrace after allegation emerged that he had smoked cannabis and sexually assaulted a student among other allegations. The achievement levels at the school are well below average, even against comparable schools. The teaching staff are, as is the case with poor performing schools, well under par with many holding primary school teaching qualifications only. The student body is captured in a culture of low expectation. Gang culture permeates the school and career aspirations are near non-existent. Kawerau College has a major role to play in improving Kawerau in terms of creating expectation and equipping students with life skills and job skills.

It is thoroughly normal, in Kawerau that is, to move from school to the dole. Welfare dependency is engrained. There is a culture of dependency, but that is not a reflection on the dependent, but a failure on the part of the state and a reflection on decades of poor government policy. People in Kawerau move from school to the dole because that is the only option. There is the option of higher education, but that option is usually not available given that most Kawerau residents are underachievers as a result of an economic system that selects against the poor, a poor education, low expectation and a culture that does not value education or success as we define it.

One way to improve dysfunction in Kawerau is to create a culture that values success. Which brings me to another point, success in Kawerau needs to be redefined. Success is not a gang patch, success should not be defined by the your spotting prowess, success should be defined by the way you treat others, whether you achieve your goals and lead your life according to an acceptable value system.

Paula Bennett appeared on the show as well. Bennett expressed concern for Kawerau and indicated her willingness to improve the situation. The problem is, she has no solutions and is unwilling to acknowledge the true extent of the problem. I was lucky enough to sit on a meeting she had with community leaders in April. Bennett appeared responsive, however she had no idea how to tackle the problems and the advice and information she received at the meeting from community leaders seemed to fly right over her head.

Paula Bennett is of the view that the community has the power to change their situation. This is true, but to a limited extent. The community can effect a culture change and provide better support for the vulnerable, but the community cannot create jobs where economic opportunities are scarce. The community cannot fund vital services. Nor can Iwi either. It is not the place of Iwi to provide social services – government cannot expect to devolve their responsibilities.

The government needs to provide a hand-up. At the moment the government is merely, and I hate invoking this language, providing a hand-out. Chucking money at a problem hoping it will correct itself. Kawerau cannot auto-correct. The government needs to step in, in partnership with the community of course, and provide direction and support. A Commissioner needs to be placed in Kawerau College, the College Board needs to be sacked (they are incompetent), social services need to be overhauled and centralised for maximum effect, policy needs to be directed at under 5’s and youth, service providers need to focus on upskilling beneficiaries and ensuring they are work-ready, the government needs to invest in the local economy to create jobs and encourage the private sector to invest in the local economy. The Council needs to encourage growth through rates incentives and partnerships with Iwi.

These suggestions are just the beginning. More can be done and must be done. And it’s not up to the community to do it alone – they can’t. This is the place of government, this is the responsibility of government. Doing nothing is a cop out.

Jul 19, 2011

Trouble in Tainui rumbles on

Some interesting news from Unattachednz:

Tuku Morgan’s false accusations of financial mismanagement against the chair of Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Mrs Tania Martin have been dismissed by Waikato Police corporate fraud detectives.

The Waikato corporate fraud office stated in a written response to Mrs Martin there was no basis for the intervention of the criminal law after reviewing the allegations made by Tuku Morgan and Robin Whanga.

Tuku Morgan (chair of the committee Te Arataura) made public his allegations of financial mismanagement in the Waikato Tainui tribal magazine ‘Te Hokioi’, which is distributed to over 60,000 tribal members; and he repeated those claims in two internal reports to Te Kauhanganui.

Trouble in Tainui erupted last year when Tania Martin released a damning report criticising the tribal executive, Te Arataura. In response, Tuku Morgan lobbied Kingi Tuheitia to remove Tania Martin as Chair of Te Kauhanganui, the tribal Parliament. The King subsequently sacked Ms Martin only for her to be reinstated by Te Kauhanganui at the behest of the High Court. Martin then publicly released an affidavit delivered to Te Kauhanganui which was, in my opinion at least, a damning indictment against Tuku Morgan and Te Arataura. Tuku Morgan and Te Arataura responded in kind with Tuku publicly slagging Tania Martin on Native Affairs. The tit for tat battle has continued over the last few months, the main event been the repeated attempts by Te Arataura to block meetings of Te Kauhanganui.

It is obvious Tania Martin enjoys the support of Te Kauhanganui. As such, she will not go away. It is also clear that Tuku Morgan and Te Arataura do not, as such their positions are in jeopardy. It is in their self interest to block, avoid, stymie and attack Te Kauhanganui. Te Arataura is the power behind the throne (the Kingitanga) and the regulator of tribal funds. Te Arataura holds the power, but Te Kauhanganui holds the Mana. In my opinion Te Arataura cannot continue their game. At some point Te Kauhanganui will assert its Mana.    

The troubles in Tainui are indicative of the troubles faced by post-settlement entities. The systems used by Tainui are too complex and, as is common across Maoridom, there are too many chiefs. The success of treaty settlements largely depends on the quality of the systems and institutions Iwi utilise and create. Maori cannot afford to get it wrong.  

Kawerau on Closeup

Last night Closeup ran a story titled “shocking teen life exposed in Kawerau” (or words to that effect). The story was alarmist and delivered without any context to ground the viewer. The panel discussion following the story was even worse. John Tamihere provided useful and insightful commentary, however Christine Rankin and Daryl Aim contributed nothing useful.

I will preface this post and restate my connections to Kawerau. Long time readers will know that I grew up in Kawerau, although I have lived in Wellington for the past one and half years and Rotorua the five years prior, I still call Kawerau home and I have an intimate and deep understanding of the people and the issues.

To be fair, Closeup has highlighted issues that need to be addressed. Where the programme strays is in tainting the entire town as dysfunctional. Yes, there have been incidents of organised fights, sex for drugs and youth suicides, however this is symptomatic of a larger problem in New Zealand society – not symptomatic of problems confined to Kawerau. These sorts of things are hardly alarming or new. In fact organised fights and suicide are, to be frank, thoroughly pedestrian. Even sex for drugs is hardly unheard of. Spend a night of Courtney Place and you’ll see more than your fair share of such behaviour. Other small towns face the same problems that Kawerau does, Rotorua faces the same problems and so to do a collection of other suburbs and cities. The difference is that the ripples of suicide, organised fights and so on travel further and reverberate across the entire community. Social problems in small towns seem more pronounced because the entire community is affected as opposed to, as is the case in cities, a segment of the community. Kawerau is, for the most part, a good town with a strong sense of community and citizenship.

If we are to understand why Kawerau's social problems we need a history lesson. Kawerau’s decline coincided with the onset of Rogernomics and slowly continued through to the early 2000’s. In the late 80’s the Mill experienced large-scale redundancies and large retailers like Farmers and the Warehouse decided to locate their Eastern Bay of Plenty stores in Whakatane. Partly because the Kawerau labour market was volatile (job losses and strike actions were common) and partly because Kawerau was experiencing something of an exodus. Many middle and high-income mill workers left Kawerau for nearby lifestyle towns like Ohope. Demand for the Mill’s product also declined through the 90’s as competition throughout Australasia and Asia increased. Many Kawerau residents started to question the long term viability of the Mill and the local economy. Consequently, many residents searched for opportunities elsewhere.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s the town stabilised. Although the population continued to decline the future of the Mill was certain and other opportunities, such as geothermal power, emerged. Social indicators continued to paint a depressing picture, however the stats had not manifested into large scale anti-social behaviour.

Fast forward to the mid to late 2000’s and things take a turn for the worst. Small but frequent redundancies begin to occur at the Mill, consequently local businesses begin to flee or go under, no new jobs are created and the local high school hits rock bottom. The town’s decline is complete.

Kawerau is the victim of failure – failure on the part of successive governments. Successive governments have thrown resources at Kawerau. However, those resources have not come with qualifications. The government has not ensured adequate funding is given to the best organisations, government agencies in the town work in competition with each other and improved outcomes are, therefore, compromised.

Perhaps the most significant let down is the chronic short-termism that plagues New Zealand political and policy thinking. New Zealand is always searching for immediate solutions and quick fixes. We like to treat symptoms but are blind to the structural causes of anti-social behaviour etc… The government can encourage novelty schemes for beneficiaries, increase the number of Police and open a trade training school, but unless the structural causes are addressed no long term difference will be made. New generations of lost children will be made each day.

The structural cause of anti-social behaviour in Kawerau is, in my opinion, our current economic settings. Let me be clear, I believe in the market as the best mechanism, however I do not believe in the neo-liberal model New Zealand adopts. A model that encourages low wages and inequality. A model associated with, and in my opinion responsible for, poor educational and health outcomes, high crime rates and incarceration and chronic inequality.

Unless we switch to a model that promotes higher wages, reduces inequality and addresses other poor social and economic problems, like the problems that occur in Kawerau, will continue to occur.     

One thing that really gets me is ignorant suggestions that gangs and drugs are the cause of social problems in Kawerau. Gangs have always been a problem in Kawerau. By all accounts gang violence peaked in the 80’s. During my childhood gang violence was non-existent. Many of the town’s troubles are blamed on the presence and influence of gangs. However, this misses the point. Gangs are an expression of social dysfunction, not a cause. Undoubtedly, gang culture influences many young people, but gang culture is itself a symptom and suppressing one symptom will not improve the condition. The same is true of drugs. Drugs are an expression of a larger problem and serve mainly to lock people into destructive lifestyles.  

I am disappointed Closeup chose to spin the situation in Kawerau. Kawerau faces serious issues that deserve adult treatment, not sensationalist bullshit. 

Closeup will feature a follow-up story tonight. I will comment on it tomorrow hopefully.

Jul 12, 2011

Native Affairs Debate

I often find myself disagreeing with Brian Edwards, but I agree and support his praise of Maori TV and Native Affairs. Last night’s debate between Dr Don Brash and Dr Pita Sharples was brilliant. Julian Wilcox’s handling of the debate was perfect as well. He was even handed and he posed the questions that needed to be asked. Native Affairs is easily the best current affairs show in New Zealand and Julian is the best presenter. Full credit to Maori TV.

In terms of who won the debate, I’ll tentatively call it for Pita. Pita remained largely composed and raised stronger points, including the need for equality and the need for specific measures to address inequality. Brash largely relied on the notion that Article III bars Maori from enjoying rights that other New Zealanders do not enjoy, while conveniently ignoring Article II may I add, and he also hammered the argument that Maori enjoy some sort of constitutional privilege. God knows what he meant by this. For more analysis on the debate see Tumeke and Kiwipolitico.

As an aside I love it how Brash calls it “the Maori issue”. Although old man Brash attempts to argue substantively, he always reverts to offensive terms, slurs, anecdote, selective readings of history and warped interpretation of fact. He calls Maori “animist” – which is fine, however the word carries negative connotations and is too similar to animalistic – Brash also slurred Pita Sharples calling him a “radical”. Brash frequently reverted to what “people tell him”, he conveniently ignored Article II and he then went on to advocate the minimum wage which discriminates against young people. I thought Brash was all about equal rights? Apparently not.     

Every time this rights debate surfaces I wish a Maori politician would echo Thomas Jefferson:

There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.  

Best and Worst Performing Maori Politicians - Updated

We’re well into July and I still haven’t updated the best and worst performing Maori Politicians page. I’m becoming pretty slack when it comes to blogging, hopefully I can pull it together and make time to blog as regularly as I did.

Hone Harawira has finally been bumped from the top spot and Kelvin Davis features as the best performing Maori politician for the first time. Shane Jones also features in the top end as does Tau Henare (yes, Tau Henare).

It was difficult to single out the worst performing Maori politicians. The only stand out was Tariana Turia for her terrible comments re Solomon Tipene.

For the full run down click here.

Losing it

The Maori Party have lost it. From the NZ Herald:

The Mana and Maori Parties are set to go head to head in a battle for Maori electorates in November's general election. 

The Maori Party last night rejected an offer for the parties to collaborate and Mana leader Hone Harawira is disappointed but moving on with plans to stand candidates. 

This means the Maori Party might lose Waiariki, Te Tai Tonga and Tamaki Makaurau. The party might not gain any new seats. Tariana Turia will be the only Maori Party MP left standing. The Maori Party had two choices: put aside any lingering animosity and work towards forming a powerful tino rangatiratanga bloc in Parliament or refuse to work in partnership with the Mana Party and, instead, work against them. The Maori Party chose the latter.

A strategic partnership made sense for both sides. The Maori Party would retain the ability to win the Maori electorates while the Mana Party would be free to build a monopoly on the Maori vote.

Hone will retain his seat. Tamaki Makaurau might fall to either Shane Jones or the Mana candidate. Hauraki-Waikato will be retained by Labour. Annette Sykes might win over Te Ururoa Flavell.

(Just out interest I notice Annette is participating in a debate in Rotoiti on behalf of the Mana Party – surely this confirmation that she intends to stand. Immediately after the byelection Annette also acted as the de-facto Mana Party leader. Please confirm whether or not you are standing Annette!).

Parekura will win Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Tariana will retain her seat, but with a decreased majority. While Rino Tirikatene will erode Rahui Katene’s 1000 vote majority and snatch Te Tai Tonga.

It appears that the Maori Party have allowed personal feelings to cloud their objective judgement. The Maori Party might just have signed their death sentence.

Jul 11, 2011

Act aren't coming back

There are so many things going on in Maori politics at the moment and I don’t really know where to start. John Ansell and his mates are attacking Maori (and Pakeha too), Tariana Turia has ruled out supporting a capital gains tax, Pem Bird has confirmed there will be no deal between the Maori Party and the Mana Party and the latest Horizon poll puts the Mana Party ahead of the Maori Party while the TV3 poll puts Mana one point behind the Maori Party. In this post I’ll deal with Act and over the next few days I will cover the other issues.

I’ll start with John Ansell and Act. Over the past few days the Party, but mainly Ansell and Brash, have drunkenly stumbled from one disaster to the next. For the complete run down see this post from Danyl at the Dim-Post. The brief picture is this: on Friday Act placed an ad in the NZ Herald admonishing the apparent pandering to Maori radicals. Brash later released an emotive press release defending the content of the ad. John Ansell then took to the Kiwiblog comments section and let rip against Maori, the Maori Party and the National Party among others. The Act party finally responded asking Ansell to step down as “creative director”.

This whole saga has revealed, or perhaps reinforced, the idea that the Act party is merely a collection of fringe lunatics. The party’s slow descent from libertarianism to populist paranoia is now complete. The Act Party are so singular in their worldview, so confident in their assumptions and so nasty in their beliefs that they are now political poison - a sinking ship. I, along with Irishbill and a plethora of other commentators, am now predicting the Act Party funeral will occur on November 26. A significant number of New Zealanders respond to the silly idea that Maori enjoy more rights than non-Maori, but most New Zealanders do not respond to the dirty extremism and fantasies that the Act Party espouses. Few New Zealanders will complain about the “Maorification of everything”. I have yet to come across a non-Maori who does not enjoy and support Maori language week. Maori language week enjoys near universal support in fact. I have yet to come across a non-Maori that ridicules the use of Maori culture on the sports field, in schools and, indeed, across society. Most New Zealanders see such complaints for what they are – rabid hate.

Act has adopted the ‘them and us’ mindset. The same mindset that so often sinks aspirations for tino rangatiratanga. Act has become so warped, so engrossed in their own bullshit that they are beginning to believe racism has appeal. Racism is a dirty word and when you find yourself, like Don Brash, having to claim that you are, in fact, not racist then something has gone wrong.

The response from Maori has been pleasing. Most Maori realise that Brash and Act are irrelevant and no threat to tino rangatiratanga. When people ask me what I think I respond with meh. What Brash, Ansell and Act do is of no consequence to Maori. They wield no power. Pita Sharple's open letter to Brash was, in my opinion, good. He refrained from playing Don’s filthy game and kept the tone civil, the language fairly neutral and focus positive. Some have said Sharples did not go far enough, but I tend to think that an attack would have resulted in more harm than good. The Maori Party need to be seen as the reasonable side in this debate. Let Brash and Act shoot themselves in the foot. Hone has also kept his response fairly civil saying that Brash has no place in politics. And this is, undoubtedly, true. Brash and his cohort of nutters belong nowhere near government. 

It does bring into question whether the Maori Party can, as a matter of principle, remain a part of government with a pack of racists. From what I can gauge most Maori would say no, but I would disagree. Pita Sharples rationalises the Maori Party’s commitment to the coalition by stating that he would rather be at the table opposing the lunacy Act pushes than outside blubbering away without influence. This is, I think, a sensible position to take. The Maori Party play an important role as a sort of counter-weight.

One thing I find amusing is just how sloppy Act have been. The ad the party placed in the Herald was rubbish. As an aside full credit to the Dom Post for refusing to publish the ad. Again, Danyl at the Dim-Post provides the authorative comments on why the ad is rubbish and I will not repeat his points. However, I will offer some points of my own. Firstly, the ad is visual chaos – almost gimmicky. The language used is also awful. Overly emotive in my opinion. The reader is bombarded with images, feelings and information and as a result no clear message prevails. The reader is lost in a sea of hyperbole and competing influences. Hyperbolic abuse is never effective. The reader begins to see past the alarming language and message and instead will begin to see the ad for what it really is – naked race baiting.

Another sloppy play was allowing John Ansell, and disgraced former MP David Garret when he was in Parliament, to run wild on Kiwiblog. Any political party with even a pinch of good sense does not let its senior staffers, and MP’s, post fantasy on political blogs. Such behaviour invites controversy.   

The Act Party are dead. And this is good for Maori. One less barrier to positive progress. Act are making Hone Harawira look moderate as well. This can only be a good thing. I will take great pleasure in watching Act sink even further. I do not think any party could recover from the sort of scandals that have, and continue, to rock Act. Goodbye, Act. 

For excellent commentary see this post from Lew at Kiwipolitico.

Jul 5, 2011

Maori Women's Welfare League Strike Back

It looks as if the Maori Women’s Welfare League (MWWL) may be inviting a legal battle. From the NZ Herald:

Destiny Church's Hannah Tamaki has effectively been disqualified from the presidency race for the Maori Women's Welfare League after her name was left off voting material. 

Mrs Tamaki's derailed candidacy comes after an alleged direct challenge from a MWWL member - Prue Kapua - who argued to the national executive that because Mrs Tamaki's branches were aligned to the church they were unconstitutional. 

Unfortunately, I cannot track down a copy of the charter. However, I will tentatively suggest that the MWWL may have overstepped the mark. I say, with a fair degree of certainty, that former presidents have had or retain some connection to faith based organisations. I fail to see how faith would be a disqualifying factor. The MWWL is strictly non-sectarian in outlook and approach, but that does not mean members or leaders must disown their religious beliefs. Although I do not support Hannah Tamaki’s bid for the presidency, in fact I actively oppose her bid, striking her name off of voting papers is unfair. Having said this, I cannot say with any certainty whether this move from the MWWL is legit without viewing the charter, however, prima facie, it appears that the MWWL have got ahead of themselves.

In a double blow, church members who are also in the MWWL might not be able to vote regardless of Mrs Tamaki's candidacy status. 

Yesterday, Mrs Tamaki, the wife of Destiny's Bishop Brian Tamaki, was considering legal options. A letter was sent to the MWWL executive team in Wellington asking for an explanation about the situation by 3pm.

What the Bishop wants, the Bishop gets. Or at least that is how he sees it. I have no doubt that Hannah Tamaki and her husband will invoke the law as a means to their end. Mrs Tamaki’s bid for the presidency is, in my opinion, an attempt by Destiny Church to seize control of a respectable social organisation and, subsequently, access social service funding. The Church has identified government contracts as a new money spinner and they are hell bent (terrible pun I know) on securing them. Providing social services is a way to make money under the guise of doing God's work.

Hannah Tamaki is running an expensive campaign for the presidency. She is distributing promotional material, attending MWWL functions and, according to reports, instructing Destiny Church members to form their own MWWL branches and join existing branches. However, the MWWL is firmly opposed to such moves and they are beginning to play the game. Three Destiny Church affiliated branches of the MWWL have not received voting papers due to their connections with the Church. The MWWL is also investigating other methods to block Destiny branches and Destiny affiliated members.

I hope this whole saga turns out well for the MWWL. The League is one of the most respectable Maori organisations in the country. A Destiny Church take over will only serve to smear the organisation. Hopefully the MWWL can keep it clean and minimise the damage Destiny has already inflicted.

Jul 3, 2011

Release of the Wai262 report

Yesterday was a significant day for Maori across the motu (New Zealand). Firstly, Saturday marked the signing of a “relationship agreement” between Tuhoe and the Crown. Treaty Settlement negotiations between the two parties fell apart last year when John Key ruled out the return of Te Urewera National Park and then, quite gratuitously, insulted Tuhoe at a dinner in Ngati Porou. Hopefully the agreement marks the final stages in settlement process for Tuhoe. Secondly, but most significantly, the Waitangi Tribunal released their findings on the Wai262 claim. The report, titled Ko Aotearoa Tenei, deals with a series of potentially explosive issues including the legal nature of tangata whenua relationships with native flora and fauna.

The Wai262 claim was originally lodged in 1991. All but one of the original six claimants have passed on. For a good overview of the history of the claim see this post at Ahi-ka-roa. Today I want to deal with the political ramifications of the report.

Firstly, I must preface my comments and let you know that I have not read the report. I intend to, but then again my intentions do not always translate into action. Give me a break though – the report is massive and doubt that I will have time to even sift through it. Anywho, the Wai262 claim has always been something of a sleeper issue. No one really knew what to expect. Would the claim result in radical recommendations that would challenge the nature of our legal system and challenge the assumptions New Zealanders hold regarding Maori and Maori relationships with their resources and taonga?  Or would Maori, as is usually the case, come out disappointed and the status quo is maintained?

In my opinion, the status quo has been maintained. Of the recommendations I have seen nothing strikes me as innovative or, indeed, effective. The recommendations are certainly sweeping, for example the report calls for action on issues as dissimilar as Maori intellectual property rights and Maori health, yet nothing appears that strong. The report speaks of advisory committees and compulsory consultation, but these are recycled and, in many cases, failed ideas from the 80’s and 90’s. Many Maori, including myself, were hoping for a fundamental shift in the nature of the Maori/Crown relationship and an innovative approach to recognising Maori interests. Advice and consultation are glorious notions and can be effective when the conditions suit and both sides are willing to engage. However, more often than not, Advisory Committees and compulsory consultation relegates Maori to secondary partners. Maori and the Crown, or whoever it may be, never met on equal footing. Advice and consultation is merely a box to be ticked – not a serious step in the process.

Having said that, Maori must realise that the Tribunal is constrained. The Tribunal, and by extension Maori, must work within a Western legal framework. Maori must work for recognition on Pakeha terms, we cannot be recognised on our own terms and seeking to do so does not serve an overarching practical purpose. We cannot expect a system that does not reflect our values or our traditional systems to satisfactorily recognise our rights and interests. The Waitangi Tribunal must also work within the international legal system. The tribunal cannot recommend actions that may offend international legal norms. A good example of Maori rights failing to gain proper, or what we as Maori deem as proper, recognition is the foreshore and seabed. Maori possess mana whenua over the foreshore and seabed and this is recognised by the New Zealand legal system as customary title. Under a Maori system our mana whenua would manifest as complete authority and control over the foreshore and seabed. But under the Western legal framework which Maori operate within mana whenua manifests as rights to perform traditional activities and sometimes rights to control how resources are used. This is unfair, but Maori must also realise that there are competing interests in the foreshore and seabed, as well as other areas where Maori are concerned, and sometimes Maori interests are not dominant.

The Tribunal had 20 years to formulate ideas, policies, mechanisms etc to adequately recognise Maori interests. Of course the Tribunal was, as I have said, constrained. But our legal system allows a fair amount of flexibility. After all Parliament is bound by no one but itself, and even this is debateable, and the Courts are fluid and, for the most part, responsive to social change. The Tribunal did not have to work so unimaginably within existing norms.

Politically speaking, I think the report will fizzle out. We are now witnessing the initial bang, for example Joshua at Maori Law and Politics points out the notorious redneck shedevil Muriel Newman was all over Radio New Zealand spitting anti-Maori venom in every direction, but over time the venom will lose its sting. The report is not, in my opinion at least, radical enough to excite widespread concern among the rest of New Zealand. Don Brash and Winston Peters will do their best to whip up a frenzy, however the conditions a not right. John Key currently leads a wildly popular government with the Maori Party. New Zealanders appear comfortable with the idea of a right wing/Maori government and comfortable with the idea of advancing Maori rights. The best example is probably the signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. The UNDRIP was a major and, if you care to read the text, radical step forward in terms of Maori rights. However, New Zealanders were and are comfortable with it. Furthermore, the media treatment of the report is, by my estimate, overall net positive and this will contribute to the public mood.   

The Maori Party and the Mana Party will also make a political football out of the issue. The competition for the tino rangatiratanga vote will largely come down to who can spin the most attractive rhetoric. Hone will almost certainly call for the implementation of all recommendations – he may even rubbish the report as weak. Whereas the Maori Party will probably run the line that they will push for the implementation of the recommendations “at the table”. Both parties have to make the case that they can give better effect to the report. I tend to think the tino rangatiratanga vote will tend towards the harsher rhetoric that Hone adopts. Judging from what I have seen and heard from prominent tino rangatiratanga advocates they are disappointed. Moderate Maori will tend towards the Maori Party rhetoric that stresses result. Although the result may not be all that is hoped for, progress is progress I guess.

Labour’s reaction to the report will be interesting. I have no doubt the Maori Caucus will want to give effect to the report, but the Leaders Office will probably be running scared. Labour will have to pick their position carefully. The party cannot risk scaring off the blue collar redneck vote, while at the same time the party needs to maintain their share of the Maori vote. I guess the compromise position is to welcome the report, but not commit to anything specific.

Once again I have written far more than I intended. For excellent analysis of the report keep your eye on Carwyn Jones at Ahi-ka-roa and Joshua Hitchcock at Maori Law and Politics. These guys are more qualified to speak on the report than I.