Feb 24, 2011

Hint, hint

I can announce that it is my intention to continue to serve the Tai Tokerau as an independent MP, and that I will contest the 2011 elections as either an independent or as a member of a new political movement in Aotearoa.

Interestingly, Hone indicates that he is open to joining or forming a new party. It is hard to know what to make of this. On the one hand you could speculate that Hone is sending a subtle message to the apparently numerous young activists who are calling for a new left party. However, on the other hand you could say Hone is just playing a sensible game. As a general rule you never rule anything out in politics. I tend to think Hone is declaring his availability as an anchor for a new left party. Not necessarily declaring his intention to actively form such a party, I think he intends that work to fall upon the young activists who are keen for a new left party.

What is also interesting about the above statement is that Hone rules out the possibility of seeking refuge with the Greens. Up until recently Hone has advocated for a strategic alliance between his former party and the Greens. However, Hone must realise he will not fit within the Greens’ new found eco-capitalist framework. Ultimately, Hone’s identity as a tino rangatiratanga advocate clashes with the Green’s identity as a middle class environmental party.

The statement continues;

It is also my intention to go back to my electorate and to supporters around the country over the next month to inform them of my intentions and to seek their support

It sounds as if Hone has already decided whether he will remain independent or form a new party. It appears that it is just a matter of seeking the endorsement of his supporters. Martyn Bradbury must be getting pretty excited.   

In terms of the election itself, I have advised the leadership of the party that it is not my intention to contest any of the other Maori seats in 2011, and I understand that the Maori Party has agreed not to stand a candidate against me in 2011 either.

So Hone is ruling out forming an alternative Maori Party, however, not a new left wing party. Remember a new left party would use Te Tai Tokerau as their MMP anchor, therefore contesting other electorates is merely a waste of resources.

To conclude, Hone has indicated, quite expressly, he may contest the election as a member of a “new political movement”, i.e. a new left party. This will give hope to the likes of Martyn Bradbury. However, one must exercise cautious optimism. As Chris Trotter points out here and here, forming a new party is far, far easier said than done.  

Feb 23, 2011

Breaking News: Hone's out

So Hone has just gone quietly. This is good. The last thing anyone wants to see at the moment is petty political bickering.

It appears that Hone and The Maori Party have come to a sort of mutual compromise. And I say sort of because I think the deal primarily benefits The Maori Party. Hone quits without fuss and rules out standing in any other Maori electorates, stressing that it is best for the party and him as an individual, while The Maori Party agrees not to stand a candidate against him. A pretty one sided agreement if you ask me.

This will have serious repercussions for The Maori Party. Firstly, they lose their principled voice. The only remaining sign of integrity and connection to ordinary Maori, especially rangatahi. The Maori Party is now a wholly complete corporate vehicle with a single ideological purpose. The Maori Party is unique in its ability to move between the left and right, the party’s ideological fluidity means they can form a government with either the left or right. However, with Hone gone it becomes very difficult for the party to move left and as result they lose their greatest strength. The party becomes rooted to the Nats.

Secondly, as Gordon Campbell puts it, Hone can now denounce the party as the “sell outs in Cabinet”. Its not like this theme needs to be cultivated either, it is already firmly rooted and Hone can now refine it by the day. If Hone does choose to do this the Maori Party will suffer enormous damage. The evidence is right there, Harawira just needs to highlight it. Easy.

Thirdly, The Maori Party has alienated their base. Te Tai Tokerau is fiercely loyal and they will not accept this result as fair (because it wasn’t). In the eyes of Te Tai Tokerau the way the party handled the entire process was nothing short of insubordinate. As a consequence membership will bleed heavily between now and ultimate defeat at the ballot box in November.

Shane Jones will now rate his chances, and rightly so. As I have said previously I think Pita enjoys a personal following rather than a political one. However, his affable persona has taken a huge hit. He has displayed a fair bit of rhetorical aggression towards Hone and at Waitangi he was exposed as double dealer by actively seeking a replacement for Hone. Not a good look.

Tariana is probably safe. Then again I do not know much about her seat.

Te Ururoa is probably safe, for now. At the moment blame is directed towards the leadership and to certain degree Pem Bird. Te Ururoa has managed to stay under the radar but that may change. I do not think he will lose his seat. Labour is standing Louis Te Kani, a local barrister, although I do not want to write him off I am yet to see or hear anything from him which is a bad sign. The election is coming and he cannot afford to begin his campaign late in the piece. Te Ururoa is vulnerable and he should be formulating a plan of attack.

Rahui will probably lose her seat as a mere reflex action. What has she done? Nothing. About the only thing I can remember is her stomach stapling operation and a quote she gave in a story about the GST rise. The people of Te Tai Tonga expect better. They deserve better.

Hone will romp home in Te Tai Tokerau. Kelvin Davis may as well not turn up. In the past few days Hone has been gifted two issues. The WWG report and the MCA bill. One is a bread and butter issue while the other touches everything it means to be Maori. Standing on these two issues alone Hone could probably court a few thousand Maori votes if he were to form a new party.

The Maori Party is cultivating a significant amount of distrust among their supporters and it will probably be fatal. Certainly this whole affair is turning off many non-aligned but sympathetic supporters. To be brutally honest I think the Maori Party has had it. Tino rangatiratanga is out the window and the corporates are in. There is no way the party can ride back into Parliament on the backs of one or two indigenous corporates. The party needs the people, the problem is the people just left with Hone.


From TangataWhenua.com;

A hui today for a proposed hikoi to protest against the Marine and Coastal Bill have agreed upon official dates for leaving and arriving in Wellington.
The hikoi will be against the Government rushing this Bill through parliament after over 6000 submissions were received and not one change done to it.
11th of March 2011 is the date the hikoi takutaimoana will leave from Te Rerenga wairua.
The proposed date of arrival in Wellington will be Tuesday the 22nd March 2011
It will take 11 days to travel the 1100 kms from Te Rerenga Wairua to Wellington

One wonders whether Hone will be leading the Hikoi as the people descend on Parliament? This should cause Pita and Tariana more than a few sleepless nights. The threat is genuine and, to my surprise, the people are mobilising. I guess the old protest networks still exist. I await The Maori Party response to this.

Part 1: WWG Report and The Maori Party

In this post I want to address two events which understandably fell under the radar yesterday. The release of the Welfare Working Group’s report and, in a separate post, The Maori Party Disciplinary and Disputes Committee recommendation to cancel Hone Harawira’s membership.

A small number of New Zealanders will feel, as John Key so aptly put it, “queasy” when digesting the recommendations of the WWG. We all assumed the report would recommend options for radical reform, but what we received was beyond radical – it was militant, violence in paper form. I do not want to throw around strong words indiscriminately but the report is heinous and depraved. I sit here wondering how, how the hell can any feeling person, any person with even the slightest hint of humanity, recommend that, for example, women be penalised for the most native human characteristic – reproduction. Homo Sapiens are genetically programmed to reproduce. It’s so fucking repugnant to suggest financial incentives, or should that be penalties, can suppress nature. 

I was also struck with how profoundly unimaginative the report is. We all know Rebstock et. al. do not have the capacity for original thought, or perhaps more accurately the capacity to follow logical reasoning pathways, but a single joblseekers benefit? Other commentators have already pointed out how nonsensical, inane and shallow this is so I will not repeat their points.

Ultimately, the report is plagued by stupidity, riddled with sloppy economic assumptions and absolutely malicious in intent. The sad thing is the government will rubbish the most extreme and moderate suggestions, as we have come to expect, while one breath later they will endorse the middle ground. Classic false compromise that this government is getting so good at. The fallacy of the middle ground. The lazy mind that is the New Zealand public falls for it every time. I hope the government will be so preoccupied with the Chch rebuild that this report falls to the wayside and we can vote them out before they get the chance to act. However, the Nat’s are the true masters of the game of politics and they will not miss such a golden opportunity to smash the deprived without scrutiny.   

But anyway I’m getting distracted. What I want to examine is the effect this report has on The Maori Party’s relationship with National.

The relationship between the two parties is already strained. The Maori Party are compromising on every issue and suffering the political damage as a result. The Maori Party has failed to exercise any power in the relationship. For example over the ETS. The Nat’s needed The Maori Party to pass the ETS, their showpiece climate change legislation, however even though the Nat’s were totally reliant on the votes of The Maori Party, they still caved. Even the concessions the Nats have offered as part of their supply and confidence agreement with The Maori Party, for example Whanau Ora, have resulted in compromise on The Maori Party’s part. The most recent episode to cause tension is the MCA bill. The Maori Party wants meaningful concessions that will quell discontent. However, they have not received any of the concessions they are seeking. Even the iwi leaders are angry that their concerns were ignored at Waitangi. The relationship simply cannot continue if the Maori Party is going to take all the political hits. One hit too many and the Nat’s will sink their best chance at governing post election.

The final hit may come in the form of the WWG report. The Maori Party simply cannot support the report or any government that does. Tariana has already come out saying she opposes attacks on mother and attacks on beneficiaries in general. However, what is more interesting is that merely a press realease later she says she supports moves to get the unemployed into work earlier. Perhaps this signals she will toe the National Party line and take up a middle ground position? Doing so will be a fatal mistake. In the wake of the UN report highlighting the extreme disadvantage Maori face Tariana cannot, or at least be perceived to be, entrenching that disadvantage.  It could be argued that the Maori Party would survive any hit to beneficiaries because beneficiaries do not vote. This is true but it misses the fact that every Maori, and I mean every Maori, will know at the very least one beneficiary, and furthermore many Maori will know what it is like to struggle as a beneficiary. What it is like to be stigmatised, made to run around in circles and ultimately receive crumbs as a result.

If the Nats do follow through, even with the most moderate recommendation, The Maori Party must pull back from the coalition. Remaining with the Nat’s will be seen as lending legitimacy to the government and will feed the narrative that The Maori Party is working against Maori interests. The discontent is out there, and supporting more anti-Maori policy will surely ignite that discontent. If the Nats follow through The Maori Party is left with two straightforward options;

  1. Pull back immediately, with mana intact, and renegotiate post-election. Hope that electoral damage can be mitigated.
  2. Remain and attempt to soften the government’s stance but risk electoral oblivion as a result.  

I prefer the first option. If The Maori Party pull out Maori may be inclined to forgive them. The Maori Party can lay claim to some integrity. The only outcome in taking the second option is, as I said, oblivion. So will The Maori Party realise that the WWG report is one compromise too far and their relationship with the Nats can take no more strain. Hopefully. And will the Nats realise they will sink their only viable long term coalition partner if they force the Maori Party to support their plans for welfare. Probably. So I am hopeful that the Maori Party will say no to the WWG report.

Part 2: Hone Harawira

Now to Hone Harawira. No one is surprised the D&D committee recommended Hone be expelled. It was always a foregone conclusion. The question now becomes will the National Council follow that recommendation. In my opinion, probably.

The leadership need him gone, he is an impediment to their agenda, National want him gone because he is an impediment to future coalition arrangements with the Maori Party and lastly iwi leaders want him gone because he threatens their access and influence over government. There is significant pressure coming from all corners.

I think Hone is beginning to realise all hope is lost. Why else would he skip the hui and instead attend a Waitangi Tribunal hearing. A parting fuck you perhaps?

Andrew Geddis makes the point;

The Maori Party's National Council is required under the Party Constitution to make its decisions "by consensus. (Consensus may be defined as a process of ‘whakawhitiwhiti whakaaro,' To arrive at an outcome at which those present, are accepting')." In other words, every member of the Council has a veto power over that body's decisions.

And further down reports;

The NZ Herald is reporting that:
"Mr Harawira's fate would be decided by the council, including at least two representatives from each Maori electorate except for Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau branch. Mr Bird said Te Tai Tokerau's views were already clear and they were "conflicted"."
So that is how they'll manage it - simply exclude from the decision-making process anyone you think is going to disagree with the decision. Like I predicted back here. Where I also noted that it's a step that "would be risky - it's the sort of procedural move that a court might get very interested in down the track."]

So there is almost no chance Harawira will remain with the Party.

I cannot believe Bird has done this. What a dipshit. His political inexperience is really showing. Rangatira are not autocrats. To maintain power, mana really, Rangatira had to practise a consensus style of leadership. Compromise was always offered and finding common ground was paramount. But no, Bird is obviously a Rangatira of 2011, like his mate Tuku Morgan, he dictates and thinks all are bound to follow because he has mana. Wake up Bird, your mana comes from the people, many of whom reside in Tai Tokerau. And if you choose to shit on them they will not hesitate to remove your mana.

If this entire process was handled well and undertaken in good faith the Maori Party could have kept their honour and membership intact. After this final slap in the face I cannot see how anyone would continue to associate with the Maori Party. The party appears determined to alienate its biggest support base. But for what? A ministerial position and all the perks that come with it?

Hone must go it alone. Stand as a voice of integrity firmly opposed to the sell out Maoris sitting on the opposite side of the House. As an independent Hone has more power to expose the Maori Party’s corporate agenda.

The Party must now expel Hone. They have no choice. But I wonder though if they have considered the consequences. Are they prepared to suffer an immediate electoral backlash? Do they think they can recover next year? Who within the party will be the voice of principled opposition?
What ever happens this is the sort of debacle party’s never really recover from. Good I think. I do not want to see the Maori Party, as they are, in the 50th term of Parliament.

Feb 21, 2011

6 topics, 1 post

A few quick points:

  1. I have no idea why Hone did not show at today’s hui. I’m not even going to bother hypothesising. Attempting to understand the man’s mind is perhaps a futile task. He is hot and cold, hit and miss, yin and yang. One moment it appears he is calculated and considered while merely a breath later he may act erratically and with little lucidity. Hone will never sit around the Cabinet table if he cannot contain himself – he is politically unmanageable. Hone wants to become a minister, but he never will unless he displays some discipline. Hone Harawira, as he is today, is political poison. He will sink any government he is a part of. Hone needs to realise merit is only a small part of ministerial appointment, at the end of the day MP’s become ministers because they can be managed. Hone cannot be managed, therefore Hone cannot become a minister. Ultimately Hone acts on impulse and more often than not he is swayed by the last person he spoke to, normally his mother wife, or Tai Tokerau kaumatua and kuia. He needs to act with a view to the long term.
  2. On a related note I am perplexed as to why the party decided to delay announcing the outcome of the hui – after all it was predetermined, right? At some point the hopeless Maori Party PR team needs to realise that nothing they do will kill the issue. A media ban is only so effective and a delay in proceedings is utterly impotent. People are not going to forget about this issue and nor will they cool over time. In the interests of resolution the party should be announce the outcome immediately. This is a circus that makes Maori look politically incompetent. UPDATE: The committee came up with “a range of options” which will be presented to the National Council. The final decision is in the hands of the NC. What a drawn out process.   
  3. Peter Paraone intends to stand in the coming election. Yawn.
  4. Te Arawa team Te Matarae i Orehu are national kapa haka champs.
  5. Tariana Turia has released a video in defence of the party’s support for the MCA bill. It is pretty silly. It merely confirms the Maori Party has lost the debate. The best Turia can do is continue the ‘it’s not great but the best we can get’ theme. A self defeating narrative.
  6. Second rate journalist Karl Du Fresne, no doubt channeling Peter Dunne, wants to deny our history. Karl wants to ignore the continuing struggle for equal rights. Karl wants us to forget about the fact that Maori are less likely to be offered and receive chemotherapy compared to our Pakeha mates. He wants us to forget about all that other discrimination, like when a Maori woman was denied a job due to her moko. Karl wants us to ignore our ugly history too. Forget about the fact that Maori received smaller relief payments during the depression. Forget about all that land confiscation. Gosh, that scorched earth policy is all in the past. Ultimately Karl just wants us to have a glorified wank over how great our country supposedly is. Get with the program Karl – this country has issues that need confronting. If you can’t appreciate that then go fuck yourself. (For a far more insightful, sober and articulate post on this issue see No Right Turn).    

UPDATE: I think I need to apologise for the strong language used at 6. I am not inclined to edit anything I have already written, therefore it will remain. I am very young and many issues make me very angry.   

    Feb 20, 2011

    RWC Protest: A few thoughts

    From today’s Sunday Star Times;

    DISGRUNTLED Maori have warned that Rugby World Cup celebrations could be disrupted if their grievances – including those over the foreshore and seabed – aren't addressed.

    I believe this is a tangible threat. Maori are beginning to grow impatient, certainly the younger generations are frustrated with the pace of change. The older generations are willing to accept, and are indeed accustomed to, sluggish progress, whereas young Maori are accustomed to a world that moves fast, a world where change is rapid.

    The government would be wise to treat this threat as genuine. It would be incredibly reckless to disregard this as mumbo jumbo coming from the mouths of a few disaffected brown people. The possibility of mass protest is very real. The protest organisers will, I imagine, have little trouble mobilising thousands of protestors given the high unemployment environment, likely welfare changes and passage of the MCA bill. As Maori households continue to struggle political awareness will increase. The challenge is to channel that awareness into mass political action which admittedly is easier said than done. It is worth keeping in mind though that for Maori households, and of course many non-Maori households, it is painful knowing that you struggle but not as a consequence of your own actions. It is painful knowing you struggle due to incompetent economic management and a failure, on the government’s part, to neutralise the worst effects of their economic policy, for example the rise in GST. In my opinion poverty and deprivation, i.e. the current economic conditions, should be enough to amplify political awareness and facilitate political change.

    Maori have identified an opportunity to push the government hard and they have a powerful weapon – leverage. Protest action, or the threat of, will deter more than a few overseas spectators. The government literally cannot afford to let this happen. The government looks to the RWC in the hope that it will stimulate the economy and help kick start growth. A significant decrease in spectator numbers will have a profound negative effect on the economy, after all the tournament is already forecast to make a loss. Therefore, it would be reckless for the government to disregard the threat of protest action.

    The government also cannot afford to contain any protest. Given the authoritarian nature of the current government I can imagine the creation of “free speech zones”. Free speech zones are an undemocratic American creation used to contain protests. They are used to keep protestors out of the public eye, make them invisible. Of course such undemocratic behaviour would never be acceptable in New Zealand, or at least I hope it would never be acceptable, therefore the government would need to search for different means. How about kettling? This would be the worst response. There is no better way to turn a peaceful protest in to a riot. Maori respond in kind to physical confrontation. Without doubt things will turn very, very ugly. This would have the flow on effect of mobilising many more Maori. Violent clashes during such an international showpiece will do nothing for New Zealand’s reputation as a safe and stable tourist destination nor will it do anything for New Zealand’s standing in the international community.

    Ultimately, for the sake of the economy and our international standing, the government cannot allow any protest during the RWC. Therefore, the protestors will have a significant amount of leverage.

    However, the protestors should consider this. The international media are not going to pay any attention to an insignificant minority making some noise during an insignificant sporting tournament. The likes of the colonial Stephen Jones are not going to cover any story that is not related directly to what is happening on the rugby field. The international media present will be, by and large, sports journalist from Europe and covering political demonstrations in New Zealand will not be part of their brief or expertise.

    There is also the threat of clashes between Maori and die hard rugby fans. Do Maori really want a repeat of the Springbok Tour? Is it really fair to divide the nation during what is meant to be a triumphant moment in New Zealand history? Is it not better to hold ones protest at the ballot box? Vote this scum government out?

    Protest during the RWC will create anti-Maori feeling that will last a decade or more. Having said that equality and justice is more important than what others think of you. Sadly, New Zealanders fail to realise their own privilege, even if they did I am unsure they would have the courtesy to extend that privilege to the underprivileged. New Zealand is not an egalitarian country. We are a country divided, divided along class lines, divided according to ethnicity and divided along ideological lines. We are not equal, we are unequal. We are a country where the privileged are determined to preserve what they have over the rest of the country. Whether that be weakening work rights or failing to acknowledge the interests of the indigenous people. The privileged operate under the assumption that their rights are paramount and exclusive. Perhaps it will take mass political action during the RWC to effect change for the underprivileged, perhaps it will take mass political action during the RWC to win the rights that the privileged enjoy.

    The government should not ignore the warnings. Maori will wreck the government’s precious tournament. All Maori ask for is equality.  

    Feb 19, 2011


    The herald reports;

    Two big iwi leaders met with Prime Minister John Key to discuss state assets sales today.

    I can't be bothered restating my already well documented views, therefore I think it we should revisit the following posts:

    This should give new readers a fair idea of where I am coming from on this issue.

    Happy-go-lucky JK

    John Key is doing a shitload of smiling and waving at Te Matatini. No news story is complete without mention of Keys presence at the festival and a cute audio or visual accompaniment. But the question is why bother? This isn’t the A&P festival, it is Te Matatini, meaning National supporters are scarce. But that is the key, National supporters are scarce. Key approaches politics as if it is some sort of glorified marketing exercise. This is all about increasing brand awareness and reaching into a new political marketplace.

    Over the past two years Key has attempted to break into the Maori market. Soften the Maori vote so when the political climate generates the right circumstances National can have a serious stab at the Maori vote. To do so Key needs to develop a strong relationship between Maori voters and his brand. This is a huge challenge because brand loyalty must be sufficiently strong as to offset policy sensitivities. Of course John Key will realise this but I tend to think he has underestimated the challenge. How does one build brand loyalty that is so strong that it offsets policy concerns? Well this is how I think John Key is doing it.  

    First of all Key went for symbolism. He firmly attached his brand to The Maori Party, especially Pita Sharples (in a personal capacity). He also elevated Hekia Parata and advanced Maori policy such as Whanau Ora. This created the perception that Key is not hostile towards Maori aspirations, in fact quite the opposite and he shares the same goals and aspirations as Maori.   

    The next step, and the most difficult, was personalising Brand Key. The symbolism is there but how will Key reach out to ordinary Maori voters? The answer: by immersing himself in Maori culture (i.e. Te Matatini). The best way to connect with Maori is on a cultural level. Forget class it’s all about cultural identity. This is where Brand Key will earn the trust and respect of Maori. Key creates the image that he shares the same values as Maori.

    Of course there is a risk in attaching Brand Key to Maori. His image may become diluted, confused or outright spoilt. However, this is unlikely, It just reinforces the idea that Key is an everyman with the common touch.

    In all honesty I am probably overanalysing this. Maybe Key just wanted to laugh at Pita Sharples or have another day off. Either way Labour should take a few lessons from Key on how to reach out to Maori.

    Feb 18, 2011

    Sort it out, Labour

    What is interesting is that Labour may have relatively few Maori MPs after the next election, unless they do some recruitment into high list placings. It is rumoured that Horomia may retire also, and Mahuta is staying on but concentrating mainly on family for the next few years.

    On top of Mahuta, you’ve got Shane Jones, Kelvin Davis and Moana Mackey. Only four Maori MPs would be historically quite low for Labour. Labour may give high list rankings to some of their Maori seat candidates – but then of course that may help the Maori Party keep those seats.

    I do not like this. In my opinion Labour has always taken the Maori vote for granted. The party establishment treats Maori support as a given, almost a right. If Labour continues to treat Maori support with casual disregard then the electoral consequences will be severe.

    Traditionally, Maori voted Labour because Labour was the best of a bad bunch. However, in 2010, Maori have genuine political alternatives. National has shown that, under the right circumstances, they can accept some aspects of tino rangatiratanga and advance Maori aspirations. The Greens worldview is in most respects comparable with Te Ao Maori and NZ First offers a creed of nationalism that appeals to many Maori. And of course there is The Maori Party. Unlike in the past Maori can easily shift their vote to other Parliamentary parties.  

    In such a crowded political market place Labour needs to do more. Labour appears to be operating under a mindset stuck in 1984 where the Maori vote only determined the outcome in four safe Maori seats. As such Labour could easily disregard the Maori vote without suffering electoral consequences. However, this is 2010, the political landscape is wildly different. Maori are a growing demographic and consequently a growing electoral power. One would think, in the interests of longevity, that Labour would be making a concerted effort to solidify the Maori vote. In 2008 women and to a lesser extent the working class ditched Labour. If Labour continues to disrespect Maori support then Maori may follow suit.    

    Labour needs to rebuild trust among Maori. Following the foreshore and seabed controversy and more recently Phil Goff’s Nationhood speech Maori trust in Labour has dwindled. Having only four Maori MP’s feeds the perception that Labour just does not care about the Maori vote. National has really stolen the initiative in terms of the Maori vote. By entering into an agreement with the Maori Party the Nats have created the perception that they are willing to enter into a good faith relationship with, at first glance, ideological foes for the good of the country. Over the past two years the Nats have continuously offered the Maori Party small concessions thus reinforcing the perception that the party is no longer hostile towards Maori aspirations.

    Labour needs to get it together. The party is incompetent in every respect. Without the Maori vote Labour cannot hope to ever occupy the Treasury benches. Women love John Key, urban liberals are few and far between and the working class by and large no longer identify with Labour. If Labour does not change tact add they can surely add Maori to the list of disaffected supporters.                

    Feb 17, 2011

    Hikoi 2.0

    I remain unconvinced that a hikoi is a step forward in terms of opposition to the inadequate MCA bill. First of all, I doubt that Wikatana Popata possesses the organisational skills required to co-ordinate an effective, not to mention large scale, protest. I also doubt that he has skilled people behind him. One could argue that he proved his leadership ability and organisational skill at Waitangi, however there is a significant difference between organising a group of 200 people with whom you have personal connections and co-ordinating a protest connecting politically inactive and disparate groups across the North Island.

    Secondly, the government is immovable. If anything a hikoi is a gift to the government. Hikoi are a great way to create anti-Maori sentiment. The government will appear strong and principled in the eyes of non-Maori if it refuses to shift position and offer Maori no further concessions. The government has nothing to fear from a hikoi, it’s none of their voters protesting after all. Certainly it is a golden opportunity for the government to stick it to those cry baby land grabbing Maoris. An easy PR victory.

    Thirdly, the Maori Party appears immovable as well. Their logic is clear – this is the best that can be achieved at this point in time. Although I disagree with such a defeatist attitude there is a small pinch of truth to it, but that does not make it right. The party’s challenge to their people is essentially – come up with a better way forward or shut up. Therefore, I do not think a hikoi which is offering no answers will be of much interest. Unless of course that hikoi involves a significant amount of people. Which brings me to my next point.

    There is not a significant amount of popular discontent with the bill. Yes, many iwi are disappointed, yes, many of the party’s members are disappointed and, yes, many Maori political commentators are disappointed. Yet disappointment among these groups has not translated to popular disappointment. In tough economic times concepts such as mana whenua are relegated to the back of people’s minds. Wages, benefits, prices and so on dominate people’s political thinking. Correcting historical injustice and delivering on the promise of the treaty is such an intangible concept. It lacks immediacy and is ultimately a secondary concern for many Maori.    

    In the end I support the idea of a hikoi against the MCA bill. Whether that hikoi will result in any gains is open. I remain sceptical. Having said that I do hope to be proved wrong and The Maori Party should be very, very worried.  

    Hat tip Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua

    Tomairangi o Te Aroha

    It is with sadness that I write this post. Dame Judith Binney, or Tomairangi o te Aroha, has passed. Binney was a beautiful person, a fierce intellectual and a great friend of Maori. New Zealand is a dimmer place today.

    I extend my deepest condolences and utmost sympathy to the family.

    Feb 16, 2011

    Maori Party Propaganda

    Marty Mars has reproduced an interesting panui he received from The Maori Party. Taken at face value the piece appears to be standard political material, nothing controversial or new, just restating what is already in the public domain. However, a few points caught my attention, specifically;

    (The Bill) Allows iwi to claim customary title. Customary title is a property right that includes customary interests plus all minerals except gold, silver, uranium and petroleum; all newly found taonga tuturu, development rights, and a right to develop a plan which regional councils must recognise and provide for.

    The MCA bill does allow iwi to claim customary title; however s33 of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 (FSA 2004) allows iwi to claim territorial customary rights (TCR). s32(1) defines TCR as “customary title or an aboriginal title that could be recognised at common law”. So what is the difference between the FSA 2004 and the MCA bill? As far as I know, not much. TCR and customary title, or customary marine title (CMT), are basically the same thing under the common law. The key difference I suppose is the MCA bill clearly defines the rights associated with CMT under s64(1) while the FSA does not define any rights associated with TCR rather under s37(1) a successful applicant group must enter into negotiations with the Attorney-General and Minister of Maori Affairs “for the purpose of negotiating an agreement as to the nature and extent” of TCR. So under the FSA 2004 customary rights are conferred via order-in-council, after negotiation with the relevant ministers, whereas under the MCA bill rights are conferred via legislation once the relevant criteria are met. In sum, not much difference, but I personally think the MCA bill approach is superior. 

    The peice also claims;

    Restores the right of access to court. If negotiations with Ministers do not reach agreement, tangata whenua can take their title claims to court.

    First of all – right of access to the courts was not extinguished. s33 of the FSA 2004 reads; 

    High Court may find that a group held territorial customary rights

    The High Court may, on the application of a group, or on the application of a person authorised by the court to represent the group, make a finding that the group (or any members of that group) would, but for the vesting of the full legal and beneficial ownership of the public foreshore and seabed in the Crown by section 13(1), have held territorial customary rights to a particular area of the public foreshore and seabed at common law.

    Forgive me if I have misinterpreted this, and I do not think I have, does this section not grant The High Court power to determine whether iwi posses customary title? Why then is The Maori Party claiming to have restored access to the Courts? Bizarre.

    I also want to address this point;

    The Crown has to prove customary rights were extinguished, not iwi.

    While s105(1) of the MCA bill reads;

    Burden of proof

    The applicant group must prove that it is entitled to the customary interest that is the subject of the application.

    This section clearly sets out that it is the responsibility of iwi to prove customary rights were not extinguished. It does not fall upon the Crown to prove otherwise. Why has The Maori Party made such a wild claim when the bill clearly states that the opposite is true. Is The Maori Party deliberately misleading Maori? Have I missed something? I am leaning towards the former.

    I also took issue with this statement; 

    The Bill does not settle the issues, but it keeps them alive.

    I disagree - the bill definitely settles the issue. No party will revisit such a toxic electoral issue unless they are moved by the majority to repeal it. Debate around Maori property rights always breeds controversy and discord. No government will reopen a can of worms as unpredictable as the foreshore and seabed. Labour will not go anywhere near the issue because National will savage them. While a second or third term National government will lack the political capital required to revisit the issue without alienating their support base.

    I have run out of time so I will quickly conclude. It appears The Maori Party are engaging in some good old fashioned political propaganda. Well done to them for recognising the power of the blogsphere and reaching out to Marty Mars. However; if the party is going to put stuff out in the public domain it should make a greater effort to ensure the material is accurate. I hesitate to say the party is making a deliberate effort to mislead people, maybe I missed something,. Either way, The Maori Party should tread carefully.   

    Feb 15, 2011

    C'mon Tariana

    Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the party is prepared to live with any electoral fall-out from its wrangles with rebel Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira.

    Political commentator Matt McCarten has suggested Mrs Turia and Mr Harawira may be the only two Maori Party MPs left standing after the election, as the row over whether the party is right to support the National government affects support in the wider Maori population.

    Mrs Turia says the comments by the former Alliance president should be read in the context that he has been advising Mr Harawira behind the scenes.

    “He has a bias and he is showing it. As far as we’re concerned, and we can only guage it by what the electorates are reporting back to us, it is true we will lose some members and it is also true we will gain some members,” she says.

    Mrs Turia says the Maori Party leadership is not letting the complaint against Hone Harawira divert its attention from other important work needing to be done.

    Firstly, I think Matt is wrong in this instance. Pita is fairly secure in Tamaki Makaurau while Te Ururoa Flavell, although less secure, will prove hard to dislodge. Shane Jones will struggle to pull back Pita's majority in the electorate. I have always thought Pita enjoys more of a personal rather than political following in the electorate, therefore The Maori Party’s political decisions will have a negligible effect on voter behaviour. On the other hand Te Ururoa does not enjoy a personal following rather an iwi following. Te Arawa will vote for their man while some other iwi within the Waiariki electorate, for example Tuhoe and Ngati Awa, casually endorse him. Mita Ririnui has signalled that he will stand down following the election, hopefully Labour stand a credible candidate with the connections and intellect required to really challenge Te Ururoa. Personally, I would like to see Annette Sykes stand (not for Labour though). I have already outlined in a previous post that I think Rino Tirakatene will snatch Te Tai Tonga. Rahui has failed to impress, although she does well as Tariana’s minion. I think Ngai Tahu endorsement is one of the keys to success in Te Tai Tonga. I do not know which way Ngai Tahu is leaning but given their opposition to the MCA bill one could assume favourable feeling towards The Maori Party is limited. I am curious to know what Marty Mars, who is more qualified to speak on Te Tai Tonga issues, thinks.

    Secondly, Turia is correct, Matt has been advising Hone and for some I believe. Perhaps this gives credibility to the new left wing party rumours. More than likely it is just Matt offering help to a personal friend. Where Turia errs is in suggesting Matt’s column is spin. That is an overly cynical and politically charged suggestion that I do not even think Turia believes. Reading over the column even the most partisan supporter would admit the column is astute.  

    Thirdly, expecting to gain members is wildly optimistic. The Maori Party’s brand is tarnished. The perception that the party is ‘selling-out’ is firmly rooted among Maori and non-Maori too. Reversing that perception will take many months. The word kupapa is often thrown about when discussing The Maori Party. Obviously, there is a depth of negative emotion surrounding the party – who would want to associate with such a party? The party is beginning to resemble electoral poison.

    Lastly, Turia speaks of “other important work needing to be done”. Ahhh, and what work is that? Prison privatisation? Asset sales? Weakening work rights (90 day law)? Dumping huge costs on already struggling Maori families (ETS, ACC changes etc)?

    Or were you referring to doing something about the Maori unemployment rate? The shocking Maori health statistics? Violence in the Maori community? Child poverty? Maori failing in the education system?

    I wonder, but something tells me you had the first list in mind.

    No photos!

    The Maori Party has finally realised they need to shut down media conjecture surrounding the disciplinary and disputes committee re Hone Harawira. As such Pem Bird has issued a press release announcing a media ban on all aspects of the process.

    This is somewhat disappointing but understandable. However, The Maori Party should not lose sight of the fact that they are a political organisation currently part of government. As a member of government the party owes, to a somewhat limited extent, the public a degree of transparency. As a political organisation the party owes its members a degree of transparency as well. Communication, i.e. media coverage, is central to all political activity but of course the counter argument is that internal party problems are of no concern to the public. However, one could argue when those problems begin to affect government stability, essentially the ability of government to govern, then it does become the business of the public.

    Banning media coverage was a slick move. The party clearly realised that they had no control over the narrative, certainly the media were moving the issue in an increasingly unfavourable direction. Therefore, the party needed to reclaim the natural advantage. A blanket ban on media coverage means the party can manage the news in its favour. The Maori Party now has power over how and when news re Harawira is presented. The party will also control the content and thus have more influence over the direction the news will take. The news will be presented on The Maori Party’s terms. Naturally there is no guarantee the media will follow the party’s lead but it is apparent that the party has more power of the news as a result of the ban.

    I think a ban on media coverage is a good thing for political discourse. The whole saga is dragging on and on and consequently deflecting focus on arguably more important issues such as the MCA bill and the upcoming welfare report. The party does deserve a degree of privacy over this issue and I hope the media respect this.

    Local content

    Yesterday I drove past a protest group calling for local jobs for local people, in particular tangata whenua. I do not want to go into the details of local exclusion from the job market I just want to say too often in Kawerau people identify the symptoms rather than the problems. Kawerau as a community needs to define the problem rather than look towards the symptoms. For example many people will cite unemployment as the problem when in reality it is merely a symptom of wider economic and social factors that are preventing business growth and upskilling respectively. What's more, the problem, or in most cases the symptoms, are more often than not examined in isolation. This leads to tunnel vision, a focus on limited range of solutions and outcomes.

    If the Kawerau District Council and wider community do not do something to arrest the slide in social and economic indicators then the town is doomed. The current problems the town faces are a result of decades of trends that will take years to reverse. The council needs to stand up and take leadership on this issue. Show a little vision, a little bit of guts, take the risk. Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen. In my opinion the council lacks the vision, the expertise or even any awareness that they are presiding over a dying domain. If Kawerau cannot get its act together central government, and I am 100% sure of this, will force the district to amalgamate with Whakatane. And nobody wants that.      

    Read this

    In the latest issue of Werewolf Gordon Campbell goes about demolishing 10 myths surrounding welfare. Campbell is, in my opinion, the best journalist and online columnist in New Zealand. His writing is incisive and accessible. His latest piece should be required reading for all New Zealanders. You can access the story here.     

    Funding slashed for the MSB

    In a disappointing episode last night the new Auckland council voted to slash funding for the Maori Statutory Board (MSB) from $3.4m to $1.9m. This may have serious repercussions in terms of the boards’ ability to operate effectively and fulfil its statutory obligations. Surprisingly, for the first time ever, I found myself agreeing with something said over at roarprawn;

    Maori acted in good faith with the Council administration to decide on a budget that they believed fitted their needs.

    That they managed to secure themselves the equivalent of a Rolls Royce, when all they needed was a Toyota Camry, says quite a bit about their financial and negotiation skills.

    This is true. It really is a kick in the face for the MSB after having negotiated skilfully and in good conscience. Understandably David Taipari, the head of the MSB, is seeking a declaratory judgement to determine whether council has the power to refuse a reasonable funding request. He believes;

    “If our proposed costs are reasonable, the council has no discretion about meeting those costs, so tonight's council decision is probably in breach of the law”.

    Apparently Taipari engaged an independent consultant and worked alongside council officers in an attempt to formulate a reasonable budget. The $3.4m figure was the result of that collaboration. For the council to then turn around and slash that figure, a figure which came about with the help of council officials and was subsequently approved by the finance committee, seems utterly unjust and smacks of political point scoring. Hopefully the judge finds that the council is obliged to meet the reasonable funding request of the MSB. This issue is not going to go away unless the boards requests are met.

    Feb 14, 2011

    John Tamihere: is he right for once?

    Taken at face value the $3.4m budget for the Maori Statutory Board appears excessive, especially considering it has to come out of the existing council budget which has already been approved. However, John Tamihere makes the pertinent point;

    “We are a cheaper alternative to the eight authorities who multiplied their costs by eight. We are an immediate example of the super city working a lot better and a lot smarter”

    I am unsure of the figures but surely it is reasonable to assume that $3.4m is considerably less than the combined amount the eight previous councils spent on Maori. I am not familiar with the Supercity legislation but by all accounts the Maori Statutory Board has a very wide brief. The reality is government costs a lot. $3.4m appears like a huge amount to the individual but it is small change for body exercising public functions. Peanuts really. Unfortunately, the council will probably gut the boards funding. Any move to do so will seriously affect the board’s ability to operate effectively and fulfil its statutory obligations.

    This whole issue was an easy political target. Any perception that Maori are receiving hand-outs is jumped on by dipshit rednecks and subsequently exploited by the likes of the repugnant Cameron Brewer. However, credit to Cameron for scoring a few easy political points. He comes out of this affair having enhanced his image and at the same time damaging Len Browns.

    I hope the council sees sense and reason, rather then votes, when considering this issue. But this is probably too much to expect.

    Feb 13, 2011

    Death spiral

    The Marine and Coastal Area Bill is deeply flawed. The Bill is riddled with drafting errors and ultimately will not restore mana whenua. So naturally I was disappointed to see the Bill returned without amendment.

    I half expected Te Ururoa to adopt a degree of independence from the Nats on this select committee. Sadly, he, and his mates, had formed a common intention. The question I find most intriguing is when did the two parties decide they were going to use their majority to return the bill unchanged? I am merely speculating but I think it was done a number of months ago, perhaps when the select committee commenced. I would also postulate that the complaint against Hone Harawira was an attempt to silence him before the bill was returned to the House. I think Te Ururoa and the leadership did not think it likely that Hone would hold on for so long. I imagine they thought he would quickly shoot himself in the foot and the matter would be dealt with relatively swiftly. As we know the opposite has happened and Hone is beating them at their own game. Given that Hone was not expelled before the bill was due to be returned the leadership needed another way to silence him – suspension from caucus. Hone’s behaviour over Waitangi weekend provided an excellent excuse for doing so. Now he cannot speak out on behalf of The Maori Party, he is something of a castaway. But that’s enough speculating – back to the select committee.     

    As a select committee member Te Ururoa’s role is to facilitate public scrutiny and consultation. Furthermore, Te Ururoa, as a self proclaimed Maori representative, has a responsibility to act as an agent for Maori interests. I expect him to exercise his own independent judgement but ultimately it is more important that he act as a conduit for Maori concerns. However, Te Ururoa has put political considerations ahead of his moral and democratic responsibilities.

    The MCA bill is not an elite concern. The implications of implementation will be far-reaching. The bill affects all Maori and all New Zealanders. Therefore, it was almost an imperative that the Maori Affairs Select Committee took into account the views of submitters and reflected that in their report. What the committee has shown is that policy formulation is an insider’s job. Influence over policy is only open to members of government and those with institutionalised access to it, for example the Iwi Leaders Group. This theme is becoming all too common across Maori Party policy. Access and consequently influence is granted only to the elite (iwi leaders) while ordinary Maori are excluded (I have touched on the subject of the Iwi Leaders Group limiting Maori political participation here).

    It cannot be said enough that what Te Ururoa has done is nothing short of disgraceful. Annette Sykes sees it as a betrayal and I agree. It is disappointing that Te Ururoa has not rationalised his actions nor made any attempt at all to at least defend what he has done. It makes you wonder if he is not reacting to the situation is he even anticipating it?
    The party must surely be doomed. It has no money, it is losing talent and in due course will probably lose members. Surely Moana Jackson, a prominent critic and conscious within the party, will leave. It is difficult to say if many will follow but I would not rule out the possibility of mass exodus. The Maori Party is descending down a corridor to destruction. Only they can save themselves, although I doubt they have the self awareness and foresight required to do so.    

    Feb 12, 2011


    I have wanted to blog about an issue affecting the Eastern Bay for a few days now. The problem is nothing significant is happening at the moment. Right now the big issues, in my opinion, are Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne’s election overspend and the proposal to move the Rangitaiki Ward under the governance of the Kawerau District Council. However, both of these issues are presently in limbo, Tony Bonne’s spending is currently under police investigation and the Rangitaiki Ward proposal is currently before The Local Government Commission, therefore there is not much I can add to what I have already said here and here. With this in mind I scoured the Whakatane Beacon website for something to blog about – anything really – and this story caught my eye.

    Whakatane High School’s first roll increase in 10 years has not come at the expense of its neighbours, with Trident High School and Edgecumbe College both reporting similar increases.
    Trident principal Peter Tootell said he expected the school to have a starting roll of around 1240, up from 1224 last year.

    Historically, Whakatane High School (WHS) has outperformed Trident and enjoyed the largest roll as a result. However, over the past 10 years that trend seems to have reversed markedly. Compared to WHS Trident now enjoys a higher roll and a higher NCEA pass rate. Trident had a 77.5% pass rate at Level 1, 81.6% at Level 2, 76% at Level 3 and 69% of Y13 students gained university entrance. WHS results are considerably lower. Of course you should never take NCEA results at face value. The above figures do not take into account the percentage of endorsements at either merit or excellence level or scholarship passes (endorsements are an indicator of a robust teaching program and a talented student body while scholarship passes are an indicator of individual academic excellence). The figures also do not take into account the mix of internal and external credits (internal credits are far easier to obtain) and the figures are not broken down according to gender, ethnicity and decile. Essentially you can manipulate statistics to tell any story and I think many schools do this. They present you with raw figures which sound very impressive but upon investigation are revealed as nothing great.

    He said Trident was inundated with requests from students, particularly from Opotiki and Kawerau, after parents were informed in term 3 of the hostel’s planned shut.
    They did not want to go to their local school, preferring to attend school in Whakatane.

    Kawerau College has been in decline for two decades I believe. For as long as I can remember many parents have sent their children to WHS, Trident or Edgecumbe College. Others have sent their children to boarding school. This comes down to the fact that Kawerau College is absolutely inadequate – an epithet of mediocrity. This is unfortunate, every student deserves a quality education.

    I don’t think there is much of a point to this post. I just wanted to highlight a story I found interesting.

    Sharples 1, Hide 0

    Pita Sharples has clearly bested Rodney Hide over Maori involvement in the Supercity. It has now become apparent that the Maori Statutory Board will have significant financial resources and political power. Provided of course that the C&R bloc, with the aid of some left wing councillors, do not gut the Boards funding. 

    In the infancy of the Supercity debate Rodney Hide made a blatant political attempt to limit Maori participation. In the interests of a few redneck votes Rodney led the charge against dedicated Maori seats, despite the fact that the intellectual argument was behind the concept of Maori seats as well as the Royal Commission. Demand among Maori for dedicated Maori seats was strong - Labour, The Greens and some political commentators also came out in support. As the pressure built Rodney offered John Key an ultimatum – ‘it’s me or the Maori seats, John’. The Prime Minister came down on the side of populism (no Maori seats!) and refused to tarnish his brand by getting heavily involved. The issue was left to Rodney and he stood by his position. It was an easy win for the right. Throw around sloppy and ultimately meaningless catch phrases like ‘race-based privilege’ and ‘one man, one vote’ and the rednecks come out of the woodwork and middle New Zealand swallows the soundbite without question.

    As the debate receded Pita Sharples entered negotiations with Rodney Hide regarding some form of Maori representation on the Supercity. Rodney could not compromise his credibility and allow Maori seats. Rodney desired a Maori Advisory Board whereas Pita Sharples desired a Maori Statutory Board. The two are similar in name, do not let that deceive you. The key difference is a Maori Advisory Board would exercise delegated power and be completely subordinate to council. On the other hand a Maori Statutory Board is empowered by legislation and operates independent of council. A Maori Statutory Board derives its authority directly from statute and is not constrained by council. A Maori Advisory Board relies on delegated authority from the Council and is thus a subsidiary and constrained by the wishes of council.

    I’m not sure that Rodney Hide is so stupid that he did not know the difference between the two. It is probably safe to assume Rodney knew the difference between the two but did not anticipate or understand how a Maori Statutory Board would work in practise. I think this is due to Pita Sharples playing a subtle game in negotiating with Rodney. I think Pita managed to push this pass Rodney because he was subtle in revealing his objectives. Remember Pita was a negotiator in his former life and by all accounts the most agreeable and good natured person in government. His judgement is questionable but his political nous is well tuned. So as I said at the beginning of this post – Pita has bested Rodney Hide. We now have Maori political participation in the Supercity, not in the form of dedicated seats but in the form of a powerful statutory board. Arguably Maori have more power under the current arrangements.

    When this story broke I hoped it would prove to be a fatal hit to Rodney’s credibility. At this point it does not appear so. Why? Because the media are focussing on the Boards so called ‘exorbitant funding demands’ as opposed to the stupidity of the situation at large. Stupid, shallow fucks. It is sickening seeing that slimy little shit Cameron Brewer spouting his National Party lines and the msm repeating them ad nauseam. But I guess Maori bashing is a free hit for the msm and their ignorant readership, listeners and viewers.
    At the end of the day this is Rodney Hides creation. He is answerable. But as we have come to expect he is attempting to deflect blame. In politics it is always someone else’s fault, but in government the buck always stops at the top. Rodney cannot hide from this for long (no pun intended, seriously).  

    (N.B: Although, in principal, I disagree with the concept of an unelected Maori Statutory Board I cannot help but feel pleased and think that this is karma for Rodney)