Te Roopu Pounamu, the Māori members' network of the Green Party, was established in 2000 and grew in strength as a voice for Māori in the party. With the leadership of Metiria Turei, the network succeeded in amending the party’s charter to recognise and commit to the Māori text of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This was a defining moment, because it has ensured that there is one mainstream party with significant support that is committed to stand up against historical and contemporary breaches of Te Tiriti. I don't think Labour will ever commit to the Te Reo Māori text, and we need to remind our selves of that more often.
The Greens polled very well in the Māori seats in 2002, with a Māori electorate party vote average of 10.5%, the year Metiria entered Parliament.
However, the political climate dramatically shifted with Don Brash’s Orewa speech, the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and the establishment of an independent Māori political voice, the Māori Party. Many of our members and voters were inclined to support this independent Māori voice, and so our support took a hit in the 2005 elections, an election that saw the emergence of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples as significant and influential political leaders, with a huge range of support among Māori voters. We lost an average of -7.3% party vote in the Māori electorates, and this was a strong contributing factor to our close proximity to the 5% threshold in that particular election.
The confidence and supply agreement between National and the Māori Party was the catalyst for another shift in the political climate. A steady stream of activists, members and supporters began dissociating themselves with the party and the Government it was supporting. This conflict came to a head with the departure of Hone Harawira from the Māori Party, which led to him forming the Mana Party.
However, Hone and Mana haven’t been the only beneficiaries of the Māori Party’s decline. The Greens also saw a rise in support, in part due to this political shift, but also because of the ascension of Metiria Turei to co-leader and her ever-growing profile in Māori communities. Metiria has become a champion for wāhine Māori and Māori whānau and is immensely popular; particularly among young, educated Māori. With the exception of Winston Peters, she is the only Māori leader of a mainstream political party.
The Greens support among Māori raised dramatically at the 2011 general election, a +6.3% party vote increase, largely due to the influence of Metiria, the relative decline of the Māori Party and the exposure of other Māori candidates in the party. Support for the Greens at least doubled, in some cases tripled, in all of the seven Māori electoral seats.
Indeed, in Te Tai Tonga, Dora Langsbury and the Greens achieved second place in the party vote, the only other electorate the Greens have been able to achieve this in was in Wellington Central in the same election.
|Metiria Turei and Marama Davidson during
the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election 2013.
Due to the by-election the party can no longer be ignored and not seen as a credible option for Māori. It has staked its place in the Māori seats as a fresh and viable 21st Century alternative to the ‘old’ Māori politics of sectionalism and patriarchal leadership.
The Greens also have a strong Māori caucus for a party of it's size. Denise Roche (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Huri) and David Clendon (Ngāpuhi, Te Roroa) are talented MPs with significant experience in their respective portfolio areas; gambling, local government and waste in the case of Denise and small business, justice, police and Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the case of David.
With the planned departure of both Tariana Turia and Pita Sharlpes, the key battleground seats in 2014 will be Te Tai Hauāuru and Tāmaki Makaurau. Tāmaki is particularly vulnerable for the Māori Party, and the young, fairly liberal electorate has the potential to have a significant swing to the Greens. The Māori Party is stronger in Te Tai Hauāuru but has no clear succession plan. It is also the home of the Ratana-Labour alliance. However, the Greens went from 3.5% party vote to 11.2% in the 2011 election in the electorate, coming third place in both candidate and party votes, ahead of the Mana Party.
The Green Party does face significant challenges that it will need to overcome. However, all of these challenges can be met and if there’s anything that can be learnt from the last two decades in Māori politics, it is that the pendulum of Māori political support can swing quickly and in sometimes unexpected directions.
History has proven that we as Māori are willing to test new political options and vehicles of Māori aspiration. With their track record, values and personality the Green Party occupies a prime position to be able to be a powerful voice for our people both in Parliament and on the streets.
Post by Jack Tautokai McDonald