Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia is seeking an urgent meeting with John Key over his "insulting" comments about the Waitangi Tribunal as the Prime Minister yesterday went into damage control.
Speaking to the Herald last night, Mrs Turia made what may be her strongest criticism of Mr Key in their 3-year political partnership.
She suggested his comments on Monday and yesterday that his Government "could choose to ignore" any tribunal recommendation to halt the sale of Mighty River Power while Maori water claims were settled, was a politically motivated sop to New Zealanders hostile to Maori attempts to assert claims.
I find it difficult to take Turia serious. Remembering back, we’ll find Turia and the Maori Party employed similar rhetoric and sentiment during the section 9 controversy. That rhetoric and sentiment came, of course, to nothing.
It’s a little hypocritical for Turia to label the Prime Minister’s comments as “politically motivated”. Her comments are politically motivated too. The Maori Party have to drive a wedge between themselves and the government. They cannot afford to be tainted by association or appear to be passive players. The Maori Party have to align themselves with Maori opinion and that means the party have to position themselves against the government.
It all, to me at least, seems a little overblown which signals politics is at play. The PM was merely making statement of fact, and a fairly innocuous one at that. Although I accept that the comments were unhelpful.
The obvious question becomes, when will the Maori Party walk? Well, it depends on the Tribunal’s findings and the government’s response. A piece or pieces of Mighty River Power will not satisfy the Maori Council. A solution along those lines will satisfy the Iwi Leaders Group, who are still lobbying behind closed doors, however the Maori Council is searching for the power to put an outright stop to asset sales. The Maori Council are not interested in shares – they’re not a commercial body.
The Maori Party will not walk – unless the situation escalates. The Maori Party has too much to lose. If they walk, there is no guarantee Maori will follow them. They would, I predict, be attacked for walking four years too late. Support would more likely consolidate with the Mana Party. Why risk, it must be asked, programs like Whanau Ora too? Whanau Ora is Tariana Turia’s legacy and she will not let that slip so easily. Ultimately, however, the Maori Party believes firmly in the idea of “being at the table” and they will not sacrifice that belief for what is, at the moment, an innocuous comment from the PM.
This is a volatile situation. There is potential for foreshore and seabed 2.0. If the situation is not managed well on both sides, both Maori and non-Maori, we could see racial tension increase to Don Brash levels. Joshua Hitchcock made an excellent point on Twitter last night commenting on:
The Hypocrisy of the Political Right: We believe in property rights, except when they are claimed by indigenous people. We despise collectivism, except when it comes to beaches and waterways which everyone owns
Oh, the hypocrisy.