Apr 28, 2011

What Brash means for the Maori Party

Rodney Hide has announced his resignation as leader of the Act Party and cleared the way for Don Brash to assume the leadership. Hide will remain as a minister.

I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Hide. He has been embarrassed, degraded, assaulted and ultimately destroyed in a very, very public spectacle. But we are dealing with Don Brash here – the most morally bankrupt man in New Zealand politics so it’s hardly surprising is it? Perhaps what is most interesting, for me at least, is who is behind all of this. The Hollow Men showed that Brash was a mere puppet who was easily manipulated and led by a few puppet masters. But who is the puppet master(s) now?

But anyway, that is a side issue. In this post I want to discuss what a Brash led Act Party means for the Maori Party.

Most commentators seem to agree that Brash will increase the Act Party’s declining political stocks. Some also believe Brash will deliver much needed stability. So what does a resurgent and stable Act Party mean for the Maori Party?... It means the Maori Party will become irrelevant.

At the moment the Maori Party is expendable – the party can be disregarded without affecting the ability of the National government to command the confidence of the House. However, the Maori Party is viewed as the National Party’s best shot at a long term coalition partner. The Maori Party has a secure grip on two seats (Te Tai Hauauru and Waiariki), a somewhat firm grip on one seat (Tamaki Makaurau), a marginal grip on one seat (Te Tai Tonga) and the ability to run hard in the other two Maori seats.  This means the party is almost guaranteed to return, at the very least, two MP’s. The party was, prior to the Hone Harawira saga, stable as well.

On the other hand Act was seen as incredibly unstable. The party was rocked by a number of personal controversies and policy blunders, for example the Supercity legislation. Act did not enjoy a secure grip on an electorate seat either and most commentators believed the party would not breach the 5% threshold. Combine this and the prospects of Act remaining in Parliament were slim.

It was prudent of the National Party to regard the Maori Party as the best medium to long term coalition partner. As far as coalition partners go, the National Party do not have many to choose from. The Prime Minister ruled out working with Winston Peters, United Future will probably not grow and Peter Dunne will not be around in two terms time and Act is, or at least was, knocking on deaths door. The chances of a new right party forming also looked incredibly slim. In practical terms this left only the Maori Party. Ideologically speaking the Maori Party had the ability to gel with the National Party and the Maori party’s leaders, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, are a conservative and pragmatist respectively. This fitted well with National’s inherent conservatism and John Key’s brand of pragmatism. The Maori Party is neither left nor right and can be used, depending on circumstance, to pass right wing or left wing legislation as well. It’s a perfect fit for a government trying to play the game both ways i.e. left and right.

However, the Act Party appears to have changed trajectory. Most analysts accept the party will rise again. Remember Brash was responsible for the National Party’s huge rise post 2002. His rhetoric surrounding social issues appealed to a huge number of New Zealanders and it is difficult to see why the same formula will not work today in the wake of the MCA act controversy. So with Act on the comeback trail the Maori Party suddenly becomes redundant.

Act is the National Party’s natural ally. In cohort with Act the Nats can continue to occupy the centre. The centre is where major parties aim to be and under a Maori Party/National Party arrangement the Nats would be busy attempting to occupy the right given the Maori Party’s more natural tendency to reside on the left. Ultimately, the Nat’s would be busy trying to cover vast ideological ground in the absence of a coalition partner firmly classed on the right. However, with Act the Nats do not have to worry so much about nursing to the right and the party can focus on retaining the centre. Act would also be more willing to pass some of the more populist legislation that could be defined as anti-Maori, for example welfare attacks.

So with Brash at the helm of Act we can reasonably assume the party will see an increase in support. This makes the Maori Party expendable in the long term.

Another effect that a Brash led Act party will have is that it will probably kill the National/Act/Maori arrangement. Brash is a notorious racist and probably the most hated man in the Maori world. It is also impossible to reconcile Brash’s public stance in regards to Maori with Maori Party policy and values. I would expect Maori Party supporters to firmly oppose Brash and his prescription for Maori. Brash is a libertarian. Individualism and the supremacy of the individual underpin libertarian philosophy. Whereas the Maori Party stands for, or at least claims to stand for, tino rangatiratanga. Tino rangatiratanga is built upon the notion of the collective. Collective responsibility, collective rights and so on. The two are wildly incompatible.

Essentially, Brash does not believe in the concept of race. It logically follows that he cannot work with a party predicated on the notion of race and rights by virtue of race. Also, in a personal capacity, how can Maori Party MP’s work with a man who has done more damage to the reputation and standing of their people than any other politician in the last two decades. Brash is an open and shameless racist.

Brash will push for positions that are anathema to Maori. It is just impossible that the Maori Party could sit by in coalition with a man delivering racist rubbish. Maori will not stand for another repeat of Orewa.

To sum up (I’ve kinda forgot where I was going with this) a resurgent and stable Act party means the Maori Party will become expendable in the long term. If Act is looking like a future prospect then there is no need for the Maori Party in the National Party’s calculations. Furthermore, the Maori Party will not work with Brash – a dishonourable and tarnished racist. The Party is just too dissimilar. For this country’s sake, I hope Brash does not come within one hundred kilometres of government. For once I agree with Winston Peters:

"A John Key-Don Brash coalition would asset strip the country, keep wages low and attack superannuation."

Kia ora.

Shortland Street reinforces negative Maori stereotypes

A few days ago I was unfortunate enough to catch a few minutes of Shortland Street. I tend to avoid soap operas wherever possible - especially Shortland Street. I always think of Shortland Street as a retarded mix of the Young and the Restless and Home and Away – two of the most unpleasant shows around. Now a few days back SS ran a storyline where a bunch of stereotypical Maori attempted to charge a nice middle class family for access to some shitty beach in West Auckland.

The nice middle class family was Pakeha, obviously, and the damn Maoris were dressed in rugged trackies and leather jackets. The latter is a thinly veiled suggestion that the Maoris were gang affiliated. The Maoris spoke as if they had a mouthful of kumara and were made to stand jake the muss like while the Pakeha family asserted their god given right to access kiwi beaches free of charge. This is a rednecks wet dream and was, and I hate to admit this, quite funny. However, my initial amusement quickly turned to embarrassment and disgust. Stupid little storylines like this serve no purpose. It was in no way a reasoned or profound comment on society. It was nothing more than a cavernous statement reinforcing mainstream stereotypes of Maori.

SS often attempts to pass comment on contentious issues, for example a number of lesbian characters were introduced to the show when the civil union bill was causing a stir. However, the writers often fail when attempting to address serious issues. The writers routinely display less perception, subtlety and skill than a 4th form drama student. Ultimately, the entire storyline was nothing more than scaremongering. The MCA act is still a contentious issue and SS has managed to create further hostility and tension. The issue requires long term resolution – not lame antagonism.

The shows Maori advisor has come out attempting to defend the story arc

Mr Raerino, the current cultural adviser, said he had not been sure about the storyline when he first saw it.
But he was comfortable when he followed it through to its conclusion - it turns out the camping ground's owner was sending sewage into the sea and the Maori group was aiming to hit the owner in the pocket to force her to change her ways.

It is too late. The show clearly places the viewer on the side of the family wanting to access the beach for free. The good guy/bad guy dichotomy is established in unequivocal terms. The problem is that the viewer is conditioned, not only by the show, but by society to take the side of the family attempting to access the beach. New Zealanders are assaulted with images and messages of Maori as parasitic creatures. Think about the rhetoric surrounding treaty issues – it’s hardly flattering stuff. Think about the imagery many New Zealanders hold of Maori – poor, often criminal and always less educated. Most people are prone to imagining Maori in unpositive terms. Maori are expected to be staunch, unreasonable and now there is a commonly held expectation that Maori will block access to beaches.

Although the storyline resolves itself in favour of Maori (theoretically speaking – I tend to think otherwise). It doesn’t matter because the reflex action to criminalise Maori is so ingrained. And the initial direction of the story arc reinforces that. It is almost impossible to see Maori in a different light considering the fact that many viewers are conditioned to see Maori in such a stereotypical light. Whether the Maori charging access were morally right and arguably pretty savy is inconsequential. The viewer will see what they want to see and what they are programmed to see and writers reinforced the negative message very, very powerfully.

This is why I never watch SS. The show is a joke. Stick to dry love stories and pedantic everyday dramas. Don’t try and be The Wire. Your writers aren’t Jon Stewart. I don’t think I can put it any better than this facebook commentator:

"Maori are just low-hanging fruit for these uncreative ignorant hacks."

A few interesting fb pages

I was trawling through Facebook today, as you do, and I came across a few pages that might interest readers.

The first is Rino Tirikatene’s campaign page. Tirikatene is the Labour candidate for Te Tai Tonga and is, as far as I know, the only Maori candidate running such a page. Status updates come fairly frequently, there are quite a few photos and all of the basic background information is there. You can check it out here.

The second is tangatawhenua.com’s page (TW.com is the leading Maori news website). Their page is frequently updated with news stories, information on important events and hui and all manner of other things affecting Maori. Other facebook users also post some interesting things on the wall.

The Maori in Oz.com page is also worth a read. The page is updated fairly frequently with some interesting stuff.

The last is the Launch of the Mana Party page. So far 43 people are attending. The page sets out the day’s agenda and Hone kindly links to google maps for people wanting directions.

If you can think of any others link to them in the comments section.   

Apr 27, 2011

Terror raids in Te Whanau a Apanui 2

In a follow up to my previous post on potential police raids in Whanau a Apanui. Tangatawhenua.com reports:

“The (police) are planning a raid on Te Whanau a Apanui. The Police are currently recruiting as many Maori within the Police Force to ‘soften’ the impact of the raid on this small Maori community.

Make no mistake this is a repeat of the brutal scare mongering tactics that were applied to the Tuhoe raids October 2007 and remeber the shambles of that operation? Taxpayers money has been spent and is still being spent on an unfounded and unjustified case that is yet to produce any hard evidence or results.

The proposed raids on Te Whanau a Apanui are a direct response to a community who are trying to stand up for their own rights. They oppose oil drilling off their coast and this is how they are being treated! Their concern is for all New Zealanders, they know if Petrobas is granted permission they are the first in a line of many who will ravage much more than the East Coast.  We need to show our support.
Our source is very reliable as they were approached by the police force to join the mission but refused as they whakapapa to Te Whanau a Apanui. This is serious.

All phones to the east coast community are tapped and people are being marked.

This is outrageous and unnecessary.”

A raid would be a naked political act. This issue is politically charged and will, inevitably, attract a political response. When Maori interests and mainstream political interests clash the police are always willing to do their duty and suppress rangatiratanga. The Tuhoe raids made it clear that fantasy forms a sufficient cause for action – concrete evidence counts for nothing when political interests are at play.

A few weeks ago I speculated that we may see a repeat of the raids in this post:  

“Without doubt the surveillance capabilities of the state have been activated. If the protests continue in to the medium term we can probably expect to see a repeat of the Urewera raids. Te Whanau a Apanui will not back down and the rhetoric will only harden. Of course Te Whanau a Apanui and Greenpeace will never turn to militancy, but the Police and SIS will construe some narrative indicating planned militant action.” 

I guess the Police just love playing James Bond. Never mind knocking on some doors in Te Whanau a Apanui and having a chat with some of the ‘suspects’. No… The police would rather get out their guns and play silly buggers. If the police suspect something untoward is going on then the sensible step is to engage with Te Whanau a Apanui on reasonable basis – i.e. face to face in a non-threatening situation. There is no reason to blow this issue to Mars. But the police just love the “us and them” storyline and the “white vs. black” dichotomy. They’re stuck “deep in the forest”.

Pass this story on. Keep it going and launch it into the mainstream consciousness. Let’s blow the lid on this thing.  

Will Meka Whaitiri stand in Ikaroa-Rawhiti?

Patrick Gower has the inside running on Parekura Horomia’s likely successor: 

The kaumatua and legend Parekura Horomia is considering standing down from Ikaroa-Rawhiti. He'll come back to Parliament on the list.

Meka Whaitiri is one of the potential candidates being talked up to put her name forward. She is chief executive for Ngati Kahungunu Iwi... She's got over a quarter of a century experience in the public sector, including working in the office of the Minister of Maori Affairs - a certain Mr Horomia… She's been a Treaty Negotiator (and) her family is extremely well-known on the Coast and up the Bay.

This is interesting. Whaitiri appears to be, on paper at least, a very strong candidate. Ngati Kahungungu is the second largest iwi in Ikaroa-Rawhiti with some 60,000 members (Ngati Porou is the largest iwi with over 70,000 members). That is a fairly significant bloc and I am sure her whakapapa connections to Kahungungu will pay electoral dividends.

What will also work in Whaitiri’s favour is her involvement with the runanga. Runanga candidates are, more often than not, well placed and well connected. Whaitiri can work and leverage key runanga contacts. She will have access to runanga resources as well, for example information on all the Marae in the area.
Whaitiri will also know from her time in Parekura’s office what a strong campaign looks like. Furthermore, if Whaitiri stands she will be the de-facto incumbent – the anointed candidate if you will. This will not go unnoticed.

Gower continues:

Ikaroa-Rawhiti is now shaping as a major electoral battleground with a three-way race. We know that Mereana Pitman is keen to stand for Hone Harawira's Maori Party. Na Rongowhakaata Raihania has been in place for the Maori Party for a while and he'll give it a decent candidate.

I do not want to make on a call on what way I think the seat will swing – not yet anyway. I have only ever heard good things about Pitman and Raihania. All three are strong candidates and there appears to be little that separates them. There is one distinction to be made though. Career wise both Whaitiri and Raihania come from runanga backgrounds, however Raihania was also something of a unionist, while Pitman comes from a social services background. I would also tentatively place Pitman to the left of Whaitiri and Raihania given her involvement in the radical side of the Maori renaissance.

The Mana Party/Maori party split may actually make it easier for Labour.

Most likely.

Everyone is trying to figure out what these three-way races will mean in the Maori electorates. Who knows? But they will be massive scraps.

Yup, it’s a hard call made harder by the fact that Hone has yet to announce a party list or a list of candidates standing in electorates.

Apparently Parekura has until May 10 or 11 to decide whether he will stand as a candidate or on the list only. If he does stand down and passes the seat to Whaitiri then Labour has a good chance of retaining the seat.

Terror raids in Te Whanau a Apanui....

Some disturbing news from Te Whanau a Apanui:

Our team have been given a heads up from an inside source that the Police are mobilising to hit Apanui with raids, like the Tuhoe ones. Maori cops have been asked to take part in an Armed Offenders operation. We… have made contact with Police personnel to say that if they have concerns they can raise it with us directly in open korero, and that raiding our people is not necessary or desirable. Whanau, we hope this is not true. We sincerely hope it is not true. However if it does come to pass we know we have nothing to hide, we have been open about our opposition and our reasons for it, and have put all of our information out in the open. Again, standing up for our mana is not a crime, and we haven't been engaged in any illegal activity. If this does eventuate whanau we stand together, as always, and we ask that people DO NOT retaliate or get agitated by the Police - do not get trapped into the game. Keep our whanau, mokopuna and kaumatua safe at all times. Video record anything you can. Stay calm, stay on the kaupapa.

I tend to think this is more than just speculation. In my opinion it is plausible, if not probable, that the Police are keeping a close tab on the tribe with a view to suppressing continued protest action. The Police will undoubtedly construe some warped narrative and, like last time, arrest a bunch of naïve Maori activists, skinny environmentalists, pacifists and small time riff raff. Another kick in the guts for Maori and another embarrassment for the police.

If you support Te Whanau a Apanui please share this. Over facebook, twitter, blogspot, wherever – just get it out there.

Apr 26, 2011

The battle for the Maori seats

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a beer with Lew from Kiwipolitico. Lew is one of my favourite bloggers and is perhaps the most astute political commentator in New Zealand. He is also one of the best commentators when it comes to Maori political issues - or Maori issues in general actually. When we were talking he mentioned that there are two elections happening this year. The main election battle between Labour and National and an election battle for the Maori seats. This is a fairly significant observation in my opinion.

Even under MMP the election is, for the most part, a battle between the two, for lack of a better term, material parties – Labour and National. We may not have an authentic two party system, but we do have a de facto two party system where political discourse occurs on the terms of the two main parties. Other parties are often a secondary concern and rarely penetrate the body politic. This trend will probably continue as New Zealand moves towards presidential style elections.

The other election is, as said, a battle for the Maori seats. A battle for the right to represent Maori. The Maori Party claims, or at least claimed, to represent Maori, however the party never really secured an undisputed mandate to do so. The Maori Party MP’s entered Parliament representing their respective constituents rather than Maori as a whole. The same is true of Parekura Horomia and Nanaia Mahuta. The Maori electorate MP’s wins did not symbolise an endorsement of the Maori Party or Labour Party. Their wins were a personal endorsement and a reflection of their own standing in their respective electorates.

The battle will feature three actors. The Labour Party, the Maori Party and the Mana Party. Three serious contenders. The Labour Party is just looking to secure a few extra seats, but the Maori Party and the Mana Party are seeking a mandate. A secure grip on the Maori seats and the right to say we have the mana to speak on behalf of Maori. The Maori Party desperately wants the mana to act unequivocally for Maori. This was the party’s goal from its genesis. The problem for the Maori Party is that Hone Harawira wants the same and he is making a legitimate claim. Hone realises the Maori Party is compromised and he is having no trouble convincing Maori that that is the case. On the other hand the Labour Party is looking to claim what is, historically speaking, theirs by right.

In my opinion neither Hone nor the Maori Party will secure a mandate. The Labour Party will not either. The political situation is too messy, it is unclear where everyone stands. Hone has yet to cultivate a clear claim as to why he should receive the mana to represent Maori. The Maori Party has given no reason why Maori should trust them again and Labour is yet to repent for the FSA 2004 betrayal. Tangible political issues are dominating Maori thinking as well. Maori are struggling through a violent increase in living costs and a brutal government agenda, for example ACC cuts and assaults on workers rights. There is little room for symbolic questions at the moment.

But is it even possible to represent all Maori? Probably not. Maori often act in unison and are united on many issues, especially questions of tino rangatiratanga. However, there will always be diversity of opinion. Maori may agree on an outcome, but there will be one thousand different ideas on how to get there. Maori may seem integrated, especially in terms of values, but there will always be subtle differences and small nuances that separate different iwi, hapu and even whanau.

I do think it is possible to hold the mana to act on behalf of Maori though. I do not mean the mana to act as a unilateral decision maker, but the mana to act as a symbolic leader, a person(s) who can unite Maori on certain issues and drive ideas among Maori.         

The battle for the Maori seats is, comparatively speaking, attracting little attention. This is surprising considering the results in the Maori seats will almost certainly determine who forms the next government. If the Maori Party is destroyed the National Party will lose their only stable coalition partner, therefore depriving them of another term in government (assuming Rodney Hide is toast in Epsom and an outright majority is not obtained). The Mana Party will undoubtedly fill the void and a centre left government would be almost guaranteed.

If I were to pick a representative of all Maori, I would pick Hone Harawira. Not because he reflects most Maori, but because he takes his job as a representative seriously. He remembers that his mana is derived from the people and the people can take it back. He speaks passionately and honestly. There is no pretending, nothing fake or forced, Hone speaks for Maori. The others speak, first and foremost, for themselves. They put electoral considerations ahead of what is perhaps right. Been a hopeless idealist, I like the thought of someone with a bit of honesty.

The Herald on Maori politics

An interesting piece from Claire Trevett in the Weekend Herald on the Maori Party and Hone Harawira:

Next week (the Maori Party) will meet to analyse that report (re the non-aggression pact). The agreement's demise is inevitable - not least because it is abundantly clear that while Harawira might not want the party to stand against him, he and his supporters certainly want to be able to stand against the Maori Party MPs.

As I have said, a Maori Party candidate in Te Tai Tokerau (TTT) will not dent Harawira’s support nor push the seat towards Labour. By my reckoning Hone’s base is comprised of around forty percent of TTT electors. In the wake of the expulsion saga I think he managed to solidify that base.

Hone enjoys a sixty two percent majority. I can think of no reason why that figure would decrease – even in a three way race. TTT is a Hone Harawira seat, not a Maori Party seat. Hone benefits from his record as an excellent electorate MP, he benefits from his reputation as an uncompromising Maori advocate and he benefits from his reputation as a genuine good bastard. Hone also maintains an excellent parliamentary record. He voted, for the most part, in principle, for example against the unfair tax switch and the inadequate MCA act, and he smashed tobacco companies and managed to convince a Tory government to increase taxes on tobacco products. Maori in TTT eat up Hone’s tino rangatiratanga rhetoric as well, for example “fiercely independent” iwi like Ngati Kahu. 

The Maori Party is expected to make its move on April 29 - the day before Harawira is to announce his party and new line-up. It will justify its decision by saying there was pressure from Maori Party supporters in Northland to give them someone to vote for.

So the Maori Party will announce whether they will stand a candidate against Harawira this Friday. This will be the Maori Party’s death sentence. Standing a candidate against Hone is utterly illogical. I do not know what the Maori Party expect to achieve. I do not believe that there is much pressure coming from the one or two remaining Maori Party supporters in TTT. I think the Maori Party is erecting a façade, and a pathetic one at that. This is not about placating one or two noisy Maori Party supporters in TTT, it is about destroying Hone as a means of self preservation. Maori will not and can not sustain two Maori Parties – something has to give. One has to be destroyed or one needs to take a broader approach i.e. look beyond Maori voters. Hone also represents a tangible and operating threat – he is pulling Maori Party supporters and will continue to do so (assuming ceteris paribus).

Claire continues:

In Te Tai Tokerau, that will undoubtedly result in a vote split between the Maori Party and Harawira.
The result could well be that Labour's candidate Kelvin Davis, who awaits this scenario with some glee, sweeps through the middle and takes the prize.

This is where she loses herself. Conventional wisdom would dictate that a third party candidate would push the seat towards the dissimilar candidate, read Kelvin Davis. This would perhaps be the case in a general electorate, but the Maori electorates are vastly different in terms of character. Different values are at play, different motivations, the issues are not generic, party ties are secondary, the differences between candidates are often cosmetic, the electorates encompass a huge area and, ultimately, voting is not a wholly rational exercise. For example some Maori will vote according to whakapapa. This wouldn’t occur in a general electorate. What I am trying to get at is that you cannot apply conventional understanding to what appears to be, on the surface at least, a simple political question. The Maori electorates are unpredictable and unusual.

If Davis wins the seat, Harawira does not. That may well be a sacrifice the Maori Party is willing to make - it is Harawira rather than Labour which is most corrosive to it.

A Harawira party without Harawira in Parliament is a far less dangerous prospect and if self-preservation means losing a limb, it may well be worth it.


It is hard to gauge support levels for Harawira, beyond his own possibly inflated claims and one Native Affairs-Baseline poll in March in which about one-third of Maori voters said they would support him. 

Anecdotally speaking, there is a shitload of support for Hone Harawira in Waiariki and in Wellington. A terribly unscientific facebook poll on tangatawhenua.com’s page asking who you would vote for had a Harawira party on 152 votes and the Maori Party on 39 votes.

Previous Maori polls even close to an election have not reflected the result. Harawira has strong support in his own electorate, but it is yet to be seen how much of this was because of his Maori Party backing. 

As aforementioned, Harawira’s support is not a result of the Maori Party - TTT is a Harawira seat not a Maori Party seat. 

But in the Maori seats, it is Labour voters who decide who wins. Last election Labour maintained its stranglehold on the party vote in the Maori seats, with about 50 per cent.

True, to a certain extent. Maori vote for Labour out of habit and as a strategic move. Maori do not vote Labour because they believe in the principles of social democracy, or approve of Labours record on Maori issues, or because they’re “Labour people”. The vast majority of Maori have no idea what the hell is going on and vote Labour because it is an ingrained action. Those Maori that do know what is going on vote Labour because a centre left government is in the best interests of Maori. A party vote for the Maori Party is a wasted vote. Maori can have the best of both worlds if they vote Maori on one level and Labour on the next.

Phil Goff's decision to rule out working with Harawira in a government may be enough to staunch any significant flow of the Labour/Maori Party split vote to Harawira.

Maori do not think like this. Whether or not Hone is in government is inconsequential.

(The Maori Party) is still polling at about its 2008 level. But this time, the stars are in alignment. This election year, Labour is struggling in the polls leaving its votes ripe for the picking by another party with left wing policies

Dissatisfied Labour voters will naturally move to Hone. The Maori Party has vacated the left and now occupies the centre right while Hone is moving left. It would take a pretty significant ideological shift for Labour voters to move towards the Maori Party. Why would Labour voters support a party that props up a National government?

Add to this the increased mana that comes with the ministerial positions held by Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, and a significant lift in the party vote could be achieved if the Maori Party works for it.

This counts for nothing when that mana has not been utilised appropriately i.e. it was used to pass the MCA act among other transgressions. Mana comes with qualifications, it is not a virue in itself.

The party is not blind to this opportunity - but despite its term in government, it has not capitalised on its influence by strong fundraising among wealthier iwi and businesses, many of whom must be watching with some unease the prospect of Harawira unseating the Maori Party.

This is interesting. I would have assumed that financial support from some iwi would be a given. If iwi do not support the Maori Party after having received a number of sops, including the ETS, then they are incredibly ungrateful.

Names of potential candidates are emerging - including Mereana Pitman in Ikaroa-Rawhiti, where the battle could be wide open if Parekura Horomia does not stand again.

Former Maori Party stalwart Angeline Greensill is also expected to stand for Harawira in the Waikato-Tainui seat after missing Maori Party selection for the third year running.

Both Mereana Pitman and Angeline Greensill are strong candidates. I think both are members of Te Whaainga Wahine, an emerging organisation of wahine Maori and a Maori political force of the future, and both enjoy huge respect in their respective rohe. Angeline Greensill has come close in Hauraki-Waikato and is a strong opponent of the corrupt Tuku Morgan and Te Arataura. Mereana Pitman is from the protest generation and enjoys a national reputation. I do not think Greensill would win Hauraki Waikato, but Pitman has a chance if, as Claire says, Parekura steps down. Mereana Pitman is a Hone Harawira like figure, without the rough edges and the aggressive demeanour. She is respected as a Maori advocate, someone who has done the mahi on the ground, and is, by all accounts, an intelligent woman. She is untested as a politician though.

Overall, an excellent piece from Claire Trevett. I’m looking forward to Harawira’s launch this weekend. I will blog on the launch and any interesting aspects next week, hopefully.  

Apr 25, 2011

The ANZAC myth

Indymedia has reproduced an interesting article by Dr. Danny Keenan of Victoria University:

On the eve of ANZAC day 2006, the following article was published in the NZ Herald. It summarises the level to which NZer's have been hoodwinked into associating their identity with the crimes of Imperialists.

For Maori, it is even worse. Not too long after the end of the Land Wars, their military prowess was usurpped and perverted by their Imperialist enemy and their Kupapa collaborators, to make them a party to every reactionary war and police action against indigenous and woking class people the world over. The Solomons is only the latest.

Go and read the article. Go. Go now. Do it. You’ll feel more informed for it.

Some thoughts from the East Coast...

I spent the Easter weekend on the East Coast in between Te Kaha and Waihau Bay. The weather was a bit shitty at times, but that didn’t detract from the fact that the coast is one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. Life is unassuming and the people are modest. The people and the land lack any pretentiousness, you know where you stand and things are what they seem. There are no posers, no hideous glass towers, no rabble - life is simple and modernity is sparse. It is almost a nostalgic picture, a snapshot in time, New Zealand as it used to be, but more especially Maori as they used to be. Life is simple.

Perhaps this description is overly romantic. But in my mind it holds true. And I do not want to see it threatened. The locals do not want to see it threatened either. Driving up from Opotiki to Te Kopua you are left in no doubt as to the position of the locals. Protest graffiti is scattered across the road, signs dot the roadside and banners hang proudly from homes, fences and sheds and shacks. One of my favourites was “Mean Greenpeace Mean”.

This isn’t going to go away, but sadly I find it hard to see Te Whanau a Apanui winning. Having said that, the circumstances are capricious. Sudden change may occur. Especially if the public swings behind Te Whanau a Apanui. We all remember the schedule 4 back down. In that case the public responded to a very powerful narrative cultivated by the opposition (Greenpeace, the Greens, Labour etc). But can Te Whanau a Apanui and Greenpeace replicate that? Hopefully. Mining schedule 4 land also personally touched middle New Zealand, it was not an exclusive concern. Does oil drilling in the Raukumara touch most New Zealanders? Hopefully. Do New Zealanders accept that the rewards from oil drilling offset the risk? Hoepfully not. This is not a Maori issue. It is an environmental issue.

Apr 22, 2011

New Maori blog

Maori Law and Politics is a great new Maori blog by Joshua Hitchcock. Joshua is a lawyer working in the Treaty of Waitangi field. He is far more charitable towards the Maori Party than I. Meaning he is more objective than I, and more sensible some would say, when it comes to discussing the Maori Party. This is what Joshua has to say about his blog:  

As much as possible, Maori Law and Politics will be a forward-looking, positive expression of our potential as Maori.  Policy ideas will be discussed and floated for comment and legal issues will be dissected.   The reality of Aotearoa/New Zealand is that we, as Maori, now share this beautiful country with people of many different races and creeds.  I am a strong believer in Tino Rangatiratanga – the right of the whanau and hapu to decide their own approach and take control of their own affairs, but at the same time I am an Officer of the High Court of New Zealand and I take this responsibility seriously.  Like it or not, we are part of a collective society and any commentary on Maori law and politics needs to be grounded in this fact.  While this position may leave me open to criticism from many Maori activists, I make no apologies for it.
Sounds promising. I look forward to reading more of what Joshua has to say.

On ya Todd

I was skimming over the Whakatane Beacon on Wednesday and came across this:

A building and construction scheme providing job training and education for Kawerau youth will reopen this year. The scheme was originally run by Kawerau College but closed at the end of 2010. Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell, Kawerau Enterprise Agency head Helen Stewart and Rotorua MP Todd McClay campaigned to the Tertiary Education Commission to bring it back.

“This is an excellent result for Kawerau and I am grateful to all those who have put time and effort into making sure that the programme can continue” Mr McClay said.

“Through the continuation of this scheme many more young people in Kawerau will be given the chance to gain a qualification and get a foot on the job ladder.”

The point I want to make is that Todd McClay is a decent electorate MP. I like Steve Chadwick and she was, by all accounts anyway, an excellent MP for the Rotorua electorate. However, and I am surprised to be thinking this, Todd McClay is just as good and possibly better. McClay has a Kawerau electorate office (Chadwick did not) and he makes a genuine effort to get out in the community. I am not aware of many other tangible gains McClay has made on behalf of the Kawerau community, but the perception that he cares about the community may be enough to pull him through this election. Kawerau is a solid Labour town, probably one of the most Labour friendly towns in New Zealand, so I didn’t expect McClay to give the town any attention at all. However, it appears that McClay actually understands what it means to be an electorate MP. Of course this isn’t enough to make me vote for him, but I appreciate his efforts.  

Apr 21, 2011

The Mana Party... Coming soon

Hone Harawira appears set to announce the formation of a new party at the end of the month. The Mana Party should be announced following a final hui on April 30. Readers will know I have been predicting and advocating a broad left wing party as opposed to an alternative Maori party. However, it appears Hone will deliver the latter.

As you can probably imagine, I think this is a strategic mistake. I will qualify that statement by saying good on Hone. Maori want a new kaupapa Maori party and he is delivering one. In this post I want to quote, at length, my thoughts on the issue from March 12:

Hone has announced that any new party he forms will be Maori focussed. I do not think this necessarily precludes the possibility that the party will be broadly left wing. Certainly tino rangatiratanga finds a natural ally in the left - the recognition of indigenous rights is almost the exclusive domain of the left in fact. Hone appreciates this. In this post I want to discuss why Hone Harawira must launch a broad left wing party rather than a single issue alternative Maori party.

If Hone were to form an alternative Maori party he must, in the interest of electoral success, destroy the current Maori Party. The numbers required to sustain both a left wing Maori party and a right wing Maori party do not exist. The Party vote for the current Maori Party is already exceedingly low and it is fair to assume that there is little potential to tap new and existing, yet inactive, voters. The Green Maori vote is also exceedingly low. The Labour Maori vote remains significant yet there are dangers in attempting to bite a piece off of the Labour Party. For the moment, Hone needs the Labour Party in terms of support in the House and around Parliament. Any new party Hone forms will also be ideologically tied to Labour. Now if Hone were to pursue the Labour Maori vote Labour could respond in kind and attempt to stymie Hone. Erect barriers in an attempt to protect their voter base. For example Labour, if threatened, could silence Hone in the House by refusing to offer him anymore speaking slots. Cut off his oxygen supply essentially. Hones best options is to target the politically inactive. The constituency exists and I firmly believe Hone, in cohort with Matt McCarten, is, or are, the people to finally reach out to that untapped market often called the underclass.  

Most people can list three or four political values and issues that mean a lot to them. The reality is that most people will not list flags on bridges, international treaties and customary rights near the top. The cost of living, wages and welfare will come out near the top of most lists, therefore it is crucial that Hone take a broader view. The current Maori Party continues to collect a considerable amount of criticism for the party’s perceived focus on symbolic wins as opposed to substantive wins. This should signal to Hone that a focus on Maori values such as the recognition of some rights is not enough to placate Maori. At the end of the day Maori, like everyone else, want to enjoy a higher standard of living, job security etc. And of course the underclass, I loathe the connotations of that word but it is the common designation we all understand, is not exclusively Maori. The underclass consists of the working poor, Pakeha beneficiaries and in many cases Pakeha pensioners. With this in mind it becomes clear that the pitch must be much wider. Although any new party Hone launches will not rely on the party vote, for the time being that is, if Hone wants to drag any new MP’s in with him he must ensure his messages, policies etc resonate with a wide audience.  

The political marketplace is already crammed and, as one commentator put it, an alternative Maori party will occupy a niche within a niche.

Most of this, in my mind at least, still holds true. I want to add a few more comments though.

Firstly, the Maori vote is volatile in one respect and solidified in another respect. What I mean by this is that on a candidate level the Maori vote tends to jump around while on a party level the vote is largely fixed with Labour. In terms of the party vote I think this comes down to habit – it’s a generational thing. Hone will struggle to change that. The Maori Party failed to convert a majority of Maori. Mana Motuhake also failed and so did the Greens.  

Secondly, Hone needs a moderating force. In my opinion he does whatever the last person told him to do. People like Annette Sykes will hardly exercise control over Hone’s more extreme tendencies. They will only reinforce what he believes.

I wish Hone success. I agree with much of what he says and does. But not enough people share my outlook on life. Not enough to make him a significant force.

Winston Peters targets the Maori vote (updated)

Has Winston Peters always attracted so much attention in the Maori media? I haven’t been following politics long enough to really know, but it seems like he is quoted several times a week by Waatea News. Was this always the case?

Perhaps what is most interesting is that Winston is speaking to Maori issues rather than generic issues or, for lack of a better term, mainstream issues. New Zealand First is not a kaupapa Maori party nor a party overly concerned with issues which are exclusively Maori. However, Winston appears to be making a concerted effort to be heard on issues affecting Maori. For instance the sale of land to Tainui and East Coast iwi's opposition to oil exploration.

I think Winston has identified the Maori vote as soft. The Maori Party is losing support at a rate of knots; Labour, having failed to regain Maori trust following the FSA 2004, is in no position to pick up frustrated voters; For some odd reason the Greens never penetrate the Maori electorate and National remains, for the most part, hostile towards Maori aspirations for tino rangatiratanga.

With the above in mind I see two options. The dark horse – Hone Harawira – and the old war horse - Winston Peters. Hone Harawira will naturally and rightfully scoop most dissatisfied Maori voters; however the centre right vote is open. Winston’s regular punts in the Maori media are an attempt to hit the centre right in my opinion.

One could politely label Winston a Maori basher. But I do not think he is that simple. He is certainly comfortable with his whakapapa, at ease on the Marae by all accounts and sympathetic towards Maori aspirations for full employment, higher education and so. Maori do connect with Winston on a personal level and he understands the Maori psyche. Taking this into account we can assume Winston will, as he tends to do, ignite a personal following. However, the challenge is build an ideological following. This will be difficult considering Winston's opposition to treaty settlements and affirmative action (to name a few).  A dig at these issues will evoke a less than positive response from Maori.

I think this election is, for Winston, a chance to get back at Rodney Hide, the Nats and the media. But most of all Winston Peters wants to leave on his own terms. He does not want to bow out at the hands of his enemies. This is his show and dammit he wants to write the script.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention when I posted this that Winston has yet to really register with the mainstream media. I would actually speculate that this is a deliberate approach. Winston appears to be taking a community approach to campaigning. He is holding town hall meetings, giving guest lectures - he has given several here at Vic - and targeting niche media outlets (e.g. the Maori media and local rags). He is not holding extravagant dinners or staging political stunts. He does enough to keep his name in the public consciousness, but 'media whore Winston' is nowhere to be seen.    

Apr 20, 2011

Jane Kelsey on Native Affairs and Operation 8

There have been two developments in the so called Urewera terror saga. Firstly, the Urewera 15 are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Secondly, a film chronicling and commenting on events since the raids in 2007 has opened in Auckland. The film is called Operation 8: Deep in the Forest and is directed by Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones.

On the first issue I recommend, in fact I urge you, to go watch Julian Wilcox’s interview with Professor Jane Kelsey on Native Affairs (episode 05/06). Prof. Kelsey is fiercely intelligent and sympathetic towards things Maori. I wish she was an MP – she’d be outstanding. In the interview Prof. Kelsey makes the pertinent point that the needs of the system are been put ahead of the rights of the accused. She goes on to discuss the advantages of a jury trail in this particular case as well as the personal effect the process is having and has had on the accused and their whanau. I thought she framed the issue better than anyone has so far.    

On the second issue I’ll point you to the Standard where Rocky has written an excellent review of the film. The post is fairly comprehensive and incredibly informative.

So go and watch the Jane Kelsey’s interview and read Rocky’s review. They put it far better than I ever could.   

Apr 19, 2011

Not enough

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell is putting up a private members bill that would give iwi a veto on offshore oil exploration and development.

The Waiariki MP says the bill is a response to the Government’s lack of consultation with Te Whanau a Apanaui and Ngati Porou before it licensed Brazilian oil giant Petrobras to prospect in the Raukumara Basin of the East Cape.

I think Flavell realises he completely misread the depth of feeling surrounding this issue as well as the level of opposition coming from the environmental movement and Maori in general. His reputation in Waiariki is compromised as a result. Initially, Te Ururoa Flavell declined to support Te Whanau a Apanui despite continued pleas from the tribe. He finally, and possibly reluctantly, moved when the government dispatched the navy. He had no choice really, but he should have moved behind Te Whanau a Apanui sooner. Of course he expressed concern some time ago re the lack of consultation, but he refused to provide tangible political support beyond a single press release and maybe a murmur or two in the House. Enter stage left, Hone Harawira. Harawira, as he tends to do these days, stepped in to claim the ground the Maori Party had vacated. He attended the powhiri for the flotilla and made it pretty clear he stands in solidarity with Te Whanau a Apanui.

Although I agree with the purpose of the bill I cannot help but feel it is a sop. I think it is reasonable to assume the government will not support the bill and Te Ururoa is not so naïve as to believe otherwise. The Maori Party is part of government, albeit a small and expendable part, does it not follow that they can tap the minister on the shoulder and say “hey, we need to talk” and then sort it all out without recourse to private members bills.

The bill is too little too late. Te Ururoa will not regain the ground lost. The dogs are out too. Shane Jones has come out strongly with this clever press release and Turia has responded. But ultimately Te Whanau a Apanui will not buy any of the rhetoric or casual sops. Symbolism is, at the moment, not enough. Te Ururoa’s bill actually doesn’t remedy the situation. It is a response after the fact. It doesn’t put a stop to oil exploration either.  

I hoped to be proved wrong. I really do. The bill would be good. And credit where credit is due. Te Ururoa is doing the right thing. Not enough to save his reputation up the coast though.    

Apr 18, 2011

The Maori Party investigates a death sentence

Pem Bird, the Maori Party President, has announced that the party is investigating whether or not Hone Harawira has breached the non-aggression pact. Admittedly Hone has not held back when dealing with the Maori Party. However, Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia have, at times, responded in kind.

Apparently the party will appoint an official to investigate the matter. What a waste of time and resources. All the ‘official’ will be doing is examining semantics and then issuing a predetermined conclusion. The party should be expending energy on parliamentary business, electorate business and the upcoming campaign. You do not need an ‘official’ to determine whether or not Hone has said nasty things. The answer to that is self evident.

If it is found that Hone has breached the agreement Te Tai Tokerau becomes fair game. While for Hone the other Maori electorates become fair game. This would play right into Hone’s hands. No one will come within arms reach of Hone in the north. However, if Hone were to stand candidates in the other Maori electorates he would either win them or push them into Labour’s hands.

On current polling a Harawira candidate in Tamaki Makaurau would do enough to push the seat towards Shane Jones. Take Willie Jackson for instance. Jackson would play to soft and hard left voters, as well as women, the same pool of voters Pita Shraples plays to. Whereas Shane plays to the centre and to the right. The centre right, in terms of Maori, is overshadowed by the left. However, with the left vote split Shane will charge up the middle and secure the seat.

In Hauraki-Waikato a Harawira candidate would, again, cannibalise the Maori Party vote. Angeline Greensill is, by my reckoning, a fairly staunch tino rangatiratanga advocate. Any Harawira candidate will, in all likelihood, share a similar outlook. Again, the Maori Party candidate and the Harawira candidate would be playing to the same base. Therefore, the vote opens up and the Labour candidate runs up the middle and, in the case of Hauraki-Waikato, with an increased majority.

Waiariki is perhaps the most interesting. It would be a three way battle between Te Ururoa Flavell, Annette Sykes and Louis Te Kani. As I have said, I tend to think Annette would secure the seat in this scenario. Annette’s rhetoric is hard and uncompromising and she works within a different ideological framework. Louis Te Kani is very much focussed on economic gowth for Maori and getting out of the so called grievance mode. It is hard to say where Te Ururoa stands anymore, but I think it is most accurate to say he stands in the centre right camp. Whereas Annette Sykes is hard left and an aggressive tino rangatiratanga advocate. Te Kani and Flavell are fighting for the centre right vote and Annette will monopolise the left vote and the tino rangatiratanga vote (of which there is no shortage). The seat would fall her way.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti would go Labour’s way. Parekura Horomia enjoys a strong personal, as opposed to ideological, following. This is not the sort of following that can be easily broken. Neither the Maori Party candidate nor a Harawira candidate can break that following without a gigantic slip up on Parekura’s part. Parekura is the epitome of a grassroots campaigner. He attends every rugby and netball match, every significant birthday, every Marae event, you name and he’s there. This sort of personal connection with the voters is not easily broken with talk of policy, aspirations and political speak.

In my opinion the same is true of Tariana Turia in Te Tai Hauauru. She benefits from an enormous amount of respect among the people. Notwithstanding events of recent times, she has worked hard as an electorate MP and her stance over the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was commendable. In the end her personal following will be enough to see her through. I am unsure how strong the Labour candidate Soraya Peke-Mason is. I do not know if Harawira has anyone willing to stand in Te Hauauru either.

Te Tai Tonga is the most marginal Maori seat and would go Labour’s way. Southern Maori are not, as far as I know, that keen of the harsh tino rangatiratanga that Hone and some of his supporters espouse. I have always considered southern Maori more conservative than Maori in the north. Not in a traditional left right sense, rather when it comes to Maori nationalist matters. Given this it seems plausible that Hone would struggle to find a candidate willing to stand. I cannot think of any likely contenders from the top of my head. Even in the event of a three way race I think Rino Tirikatene is poised to lock in the seat. Merely as a reflex against Rahui Katene’s support for the MCA act, the GST rise, the ETS and so on.

If my theories were to play out the Maori Party would be left with one seat (Te Tai Hauauru), Hone Harawira would gain two (Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki) and Labour would snatch three (Hauraki-Waikato, Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Te Tai Tonga). This would be a death sentence for the Maori Party and a lifeline for Hone Harawira and his new party (assuming he forms a new party). I do not want to see the Maori Party destroyed, but that is the price paid for thinking you are bigger than your constituents. The Maori Party has lost touch. It is also the way of minor parties tainted by government. If the Maori Party is to go the way of history, the question is who fills the vacuum? Hone Harawira or Labour…

Ratana revolt

Ratana Minister Kereama Pene has called for the church’s followers to abandon the Labour party. Only three Labour candidates have connections to the church - Soraya Peke-Mason, Rino Tirikatene and Louis Te Kani. None will be elected to Parliament on Labour’s current polling unless they win an electorate seat.

The Ratana church has always been politically active and Ratana members always vote. Labour’s historical monopoly on the Maori seats and the Maori party vote was in no small part due to Ratana support. The church is currently comprised of around 60,000 members. The Labour Party cannot afford to play fast and loose with such a significant electoral bloc. If Labour continues to ignore the church, i.e. take their support for granted, then the party will open the door for Hone Harawira. Hone is already poised to savage the Maori Party vote and if Labour continues to treat the Maori vote with casual disregard they can expect the same. Maori have genuine political alternatives in the Greens, Hone Harawira, the Maori Party and to a lesser extent New Zealand First. Labour cannot act like they still enjoy a monopoly over the Maori vote – the party has to work for it now.

Having said that, Ratana is not as strong as it once was. The church claims some 60,000 members. I tend to think this is an inflated claim. Ratana is certainly a significant electoral force, but only when they vote as a cohort. I do not believe the church votes as one anymore. The faith is no longer as strong and Maori, as a people, are generally more questioning of their leaders. The Ratana faithful will not take the words of their leaders as law and vote accordingly. They will, in most cases, vote as free thinking individuals.

To be honest Pene appears to be having a sook. And an unjustified one at that. Pene ignores the fact that Louisa Wall is currently a sitting MP and will almost certainly return next year. Rino Tirikatene will probably snatch Te Tai Tonga and Louis Te Kani has a chance in Waiariki. So that is one certain (Wall), one probable (Tirikatene) and one possible (Te Kani). Not bad if you ask me.  

Te reo Maori report

A report into the state of te reo Maori was released last week. The report calls for, among other things, funding to be redirected into projects encouraging whanau to speak Maori in the home and a dedicated te reo minister. Pita Sharples has expressed some concern regarding the level of government support the recommendations will receive.

Prima facie, this is a valid concern, however saving the Maori language is not a partisan issue. Most Maori cultural issues are, sadly, wedge issues. But te reo is not - in my opinion at least – the issue enjoys broad public support.

Between now and the election the government must keep Maori onside, especially Maori Party supporters. It is widely accepted that any post election arrangements will involve the Maori Party; therefore the government needs to ensure Maori Party supporters feel comfortable with the idea of a second term National government. To do this the government must build the perception, among Maori only, that the Maori Party is receiving substantial gains rather than casual sops. The government cannot risk offending or alienating the Maori Party parliamentary wing either. There is a problem in been seen to be placating the Maori Party. Firstly, because the party is the Maori, key word Maori, Party. Secondly, any further sops for pet projects or intangible cultural projects could be seen to be inconsistent with the austerity narrative the government is running. Look what happened with the plastic waka for instance. Hopefully, the Maori Party runs hard on this issue. In my eyes any success in this area is a redeeming factor for the Maori Party. Of course it is not wholly redeeming, but a positive step and one I would respect.       

On a side note, Pita Sharples is walking into a minor backlash following accusations that he attempted to gag members of Te Taura Whiri, the Maori Language Commission. Apparently Sharples directed, through a letter to the commission, that he would be the “point man” for the government response to the issue. This is concerning, but somewhat fair. Sharples is the minister and I understand he would want to keep tight control over how the report is presented to the public and the government. However, Te Taura Whiri is an independent statutory body entirely separate from the minister’s office. Sharples has no control over the commission and should not be issuing directives. It is constitutionally offensive. Te Taura Whiri has a right to comment and should, as the Maori language commission, comment. I disagree with some accusations that Sharples gagged the commission - that is an overstatement.

Pita Sharples is not the most effective politician in my opinion. Having said that, he doesn’t need to be. Saving te reo is in the government and the country’s interest.

Apr 17, 2011

The split is complete

Hone Harawira has shifted his proxy vote to the Greens. The separation is now complete. As soon as the split was announced I expected Hone to shift his vote to the Greens. It seemed natural. After all, Hone split with the Maori Party because he disagreed with the party’s voting decisions so it seemed somewhat illogical to keep his vote with the Maori Party.

This is good for Hone and possibly good for the Greens. The two can now work as a bloc. Should Hone bring in another MP, or perhaps two, the two parties can negotiate as a left wing bloc. This is dangerous though. In the event of a strong left wing bloc the Labour Party would be inclined to form a grand coalition with the National Party, as has happened in Europe (I cannot remember who originally made this point - sorry). Ultimately, nothing scares Labour more than been a real left wing party.   

Hone also announced that a research unit has agreed to support him. He did not specify whether it was a parliamentary research unit or an external research unit, maybe a team associated with the Unite union. This will mean Hone’s own electorate and parliamentary staff have more time to do their actual jobs and Hone has more time to focus on building a new party and spend more time in Te Tai Tokerau. Good.

Weekend thoughts

A few comments:

Parekura Horomia should stand as a list candidate only. If Labour wants to retain Ikaroa-Rawhiti a succession plan needs to be put in place. As an aside, the Maori Party should be doing the same in the interests of longevity. If they do not they will be a one hit wonder and Labour will step in once Turia, Sharples and Flavell have gone. But back to Parekura. I think an anointed Labour Party candidate would do well. So long as Parekura campaigns alongside him or her. In the last two elections the Maori Party came reasonably close to snatching the seat. The sudden lose of Parekura would translate to a Maori Party victory in my opinion. However, if Parekura can transfer his personal following over to the next Labour candidate the Maori Party will remain outside of striking distance. 

On the subject of Parekura, he is on the right side of his constituents in saying maintaining traditional lifestyles outweigh any perceived economic gains. On other hand, the Prime Minister is on the wrong side of tangata whenua in saying they must consider the economic benefits. The risk posed is unacceptable. The local people should have a greater say in whether oil prospecting and extraction occurs. The locals will shoulder the risk, yet receive little in return.

Were a disaster to occur it will be the local people who are directly, and almost immediately, affected. I will not be affected here in Wellington nor will the Prime Minister. I will lose nothing, but I probably would have benefited through the increase in economic activity, while the local people will lose their recreational ground, their food basket and ultimately the lifestyle that has sustained them for almost one thousand years. The value of their property will plummet, their quality of life will plummet and an exodus would occur. The whenua and the moana would become a sparsely populated wasteland.

Most readers will have heard about Jamie Lee-Ross and his call for the abolition of the Maori seats. Veronica Tawhai, a politics lecturer at Massey University, rebuts Lee-Ross. I encourage you to read it. There is also an excellent discussion over at Big News

The Maori Statutory Board (MSB) funding drama is now resolved. Both parties appear to have compromised and an agreement has been reached. The MSB played the situation very well. The board was always in the stronger position. The Council could not afford to have the issue dragged out in the public domain. That would have been, politically, very damaging. Hopefully the MSB can get on with the job now. 

Apr 13, 2011

Orders served

Protestors off the East Cape have been served with a notice stipulating that they must not come within a certain distance of the Petrobras ship. As I said yesterday, this is more than outrageous. The threat of criminal sanction is very, very serious. Criminal sanction is the ultimate in moral judgement and legal punishment. It is beyond comprehension that the government is willing to invoke the criminal law in a case where no tangible harm exists, where the behaviour is non-threatening and where criminal sanction will effectively inhibit socially acceptable, and arguably desirable, behaviour. But most importantly there is a reasonable alternative to criminal sanction – working with the protestors. To be fair there probably is no common ground to be found and Te Whanau a Apanui/Greenpeace will not compromise, but the government should have, at the very least, tried before sending in the guns. The government has jumped ahead and invoked what should have been an option of last resort.

This is Greenpeace after all. A group of pacifists, environmentalists and other anti-violence types. The same could be said of Te Whanau a Apanui – they are the kaitiaki (custodian), not a taua (war party).   

There is one positive so far though. The Maori Party has finally come out in support. Credit to Te Ururoa Flavell (better late than never). However, I think he did undermine his point somewhat when comparing the government’s actions to Gaddafi. Hyperbole is effective when used well, but I think he may have taken the idea of exaggeration for effect a wee bit far. However, the point behind the rhetoric was strong and obvious.

This issue is only going to get messier. I am in two minds as to whether the government can win. The rangatiratanga of Te Whanau a Apanui will not stand against the might of the New Zealand state and win, but with the help of iwi katoa, politicians and the public the government must back down.  

Apr 12, 2011

Protest in the Raukumara

Drama on the high seas continues with news that the government has now dispatched the Navy, the Air Force and the Police in response to the protest action occurring in the Raukumara Basin.

It should concern us all that the government is willing to invoke the coercive powers of the state in response to a minor and non-violent protest. Such powers should only be invoked in exceptional circumstances. The protests occurring off the East Cape are not exceptional by any definition. The protestors have engaged the Petrobras ship on a number of occasions, however disruption only occurred on one occasion when a lone swimmer, yes a lone swimmer, disrupted the survey line. Do you think this warrants direct government intervention? The protestors do not pose a threat to the New Zealand people nor the integrity of the state. The rule of law is, as far as I can tell, not under threat. Having said that, arguably, the government is threatening the rule of law through the exercise of what appears to be arbitrary power. Another salient point is also made over at Pundit: that it is not the place of the executive government, read Cabinet, to dictate to the Police what, where and when they should investigate perceived offences. That is constitutionally repugnant and very dangerous in practise. The basic notion is that the law makers should have no role in law enforcement. The government, in seeking to prevent continued protest, not through legislation but through law enforcement, seriously oversteps the mark.   
Ultimately, it is beyond reason that the government is invoking the full power of the state in response to a non-violent protest occurring extraterritorially. Proponents of liberty and freedom should be concerned.

What I also find interesting is that Petrobras has not lodged an official complaint with the police nor has the company requested government help. Intervention in the Raukumara Basin is a government initiative. Clearly the government feels the protestors pose a threat to government rule. Any protest action which undermines a lawful government enactment is a challenge to that government’s integrity and legitimacy. Given the authoritarian nature of the current government it should come as no surprise that they have, when threatened, responded with a show of force.     

Without doubt the surveillance capabilities of the state have been activated. If the protests continue in to the medium term we can probably expect to see a repeat of the Urewera raids. Te Whanau a Apanui will not back down and the rhetoric will only harden. Of course Te Whanau a Apanui and Greenpeace will never turn to militancy, but the Police and SIS will construe some narrative indicating planned militant action.  

What really gets me about this issue is that the government is putting the rights of foreign oil interests ahead of the rights of tangata whenua. This is not unexpected, but it was at least reasonable to expect a more equitable balance between the interests of tangata whenua and the interests of foreign corporates. Sadly, tanagata whenua have been disregarded – which is true to form really.    

Greenpeace and Te Whanau a Apanui cannot allow the government to dictate the terms of this debate. Opposition cannot succeed without widespread popular and political support. I am unsure where the public stands on the issue at the moment, but Phil Goff, and by extension Labour, Winston Peters, the Greens and the Maori Party have indicated support for the protestors (yes, the Maori Party – mean). Now the protestors need plurality public support. Petrobras has deep pockets and long hands, they will throw everything they have at this. It will be a hard fight… but tino rangatiratanga never comes easy.