May 31, 2011

Ka kite Ratana.... Kia ora Destiny?

As the Ratana Church continues to decline Maori politicians are now turning to Destiny Church it seems. From 3 News:

Leading Maori political figures, including maverick Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, will take to the stage in Auckland this weekend as part of Destiny Church’s annual conference.

As well as Mr Harawira, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, Labour MP Shane Jones and National associate spokesperson on Maori Affairs Georgina te Heuheu will also speak. The forum has been set up at the bequest of Destiny leader Bishop Brian Tamaki

Politically speaking, this is a mixed move by Harawira, Sharples, Jones and Te Heu Heu. Destiny is comprised of over ten thousand members – in other words over ten thousand votes – however Destiny Church is political poison. Consider this from Wikipedia:

On his website "New Zealand: A Nation Under Siege" Tamaki has declared the government of New Zealand to be "inherently evil", pointing out that some members of Parliament chose not to swear on the Bible, and one (Ashraf Choudhary) swore on the Qur'an, when being sworn in to government. In a later interview, Tamaki said Destiny was ready to wage war on "secular humanism, liberalism, relativism, pluralism", on "a Government gone evil", on the "modern-day witchcraft" of the media, and on the "radical homosexual agenda".

In my opinion, Harawira, Sharples, Jones and Te Heu Heu are, by appearing at the conference, casually endorsing the lunacy Destiny Church espouses. I cannot for the life of me figure out why any politicians would associate themselves with Destiny Church. To be realistic, Bishop Tamaki is not going to endorse Harawira, Sharples, Jones or Te Heu Heu. They’re too progressive (yes, compared to Destiny even a social conservative like Sharples is progressive). And the Church is not going to accept a non-Christian message either. However, the most significant drawback is that more liberal, sensible or moderate Maori will shy away from politicians who are in any way associated with Destiny Church and the fantasies they entertain. Any relationship, or perceived relationship, with Destiny Church does more harm than good.

I am disappointed with Hone Harawira. He should not, as a matter of principle, be appearing before these fundamentalists. After all Hone perpetuates the notion that he is a principled politician. I guess it is a matter of definition. I read Destiny Church as a toxic ideological cult that actively encourages discrimination against Takatapui and, through a bigoted patriarchal system, encourages discrimination against Wahine. However, others, including Hone perhaps, see Destiny Church as a collection of vulnerable people, mainly Maori, surrounding a charismatic and prima facie wise leader who provides a sense of belonging and spiritual and psychological security.

The media will feed off of this story if Hone is seen to say or do anything that can be construed as endorsing Destiny’s views or encouraging their weirder tendencies. His best bet is to pull out. He will not win any votes nor endear himself in the eyes of his supporters (me included). It is a strange move on the part of Harawira, Sharples, Jones and Te Heu Heu. There is nothing in Destiny Church for them.    

May 25, 2011

A few thoughts

I haven’t had time to blog much over the past few days so I’ll briefly cover a few issues here:

Labour Party Conference

The Labour Party held their annual conference over the weekend with President Moira Coatsworth emphasising the party’s commitment to the Maori seats. This is, in my opinion, promising and sensible. Retaining and regaining the Maori seats makes strategic sense. Labour needs to reduce National’s post-election options and the most practical way to do so is to weaken the Maori Party vote and loosen the party’s grip in Te Hauauru and, arguably, Tamaki Makaurau. Without the Maori Party the Nats will find it more difficult to maintain a “moderate” pretence and, ultimately, command the numbers in the House.  


The National Party has selected Claudette Hauiti to contest the Mangere electorate, a safe Labour seat. In my opinion this move represents National’s response to the increasing number of Maori turning to National. As the Maori middle class grows so to does the number of Maori voting National. The Nats are responding to this by increasing the number of Maori candidates they stand (for example Leonie Hapata in Palmerston North - UPDATE - She isn't actually Maori - my mistake), extending concessions to corporate iwi (where much of the Maori middle class is drawn from) and generally building the perception that National is no longer hostile towards Maori aspirations (think the Maori Party/National Party coalition and the symbolism that it embodies). All of this is unfortunate, the Nats, rather than formulating sound Maori policy, are relying on tokenism and symbolism to win Maori votes. Great approach to politics, shit approach to government. 

Turia on Poverty

Tariana Turia says Maori must stop blaming poverty for child abuse. What a classic Tory line. Turia is an extreme social conservative who opposes abortion and is, apparently, a strong advocate for personal responsibility. Although I find Turia’s comments one dimensional, I must admit that she is correct in one sense; poverty does not annul the responsibility a child abuser must bear. However, Turia should consider the drivers of social dysfunction before jumping ahead of herself. Poverty is, more often than not, the chief reason why child abuse occurs in Maori whanau.

Maori Seats in Local Government

A number of Councils are undertaking a Maori representation review, as required under the Local Government Act 2001. At this stage it appears the New Plymouth District Council is the only Council considering Maori seats. The chances of success appear slim though. Three separate community boards have rejected the idea and Grey Power is opposed. I am fairly gutted, yet not surprised, with the response of the community. The Taranaki is hardly a region of progressive thought and racial harmony - and this is why Maori seats are a must. There is no appreciation or understanding of Maori concerns at the Council table - only a collection of individuals who reflect the ignorance of the general community and, consequently, propagate anti-Maori policy.


Finally, cheers to Denis Welch for his generous comments on Radio New Zealand re me and this blog.

May 23, 2011

Maori Party Tai Tokerau Candidates

This Wednesday the Maori Party will select a candidate to stand against Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau (TTT). The following candidates have announced their intention to seek the Maori Party nomination:

  • Mere Mangu
  • Waihoroi Shortland
  • Solomon Tipene

On paper, all three are strong candidates. All three whakapapa to Ngati Hine and Mangu and Shortland both link to Matawaia Marae. Perhaps the most interesting candidate is Mangu, a lawyer and retired army captain. Mangu ran as an independent in 2002 and 2005 polling second and third respectively. In 2002 Mangu outpolled Naida Glavish, a prominent Maori leader, while in 2005 Mangu managed to pull almost seven per cent of the vote. This is quite an achievement considering Mangu ran as an independent in both elections.

Shortland is best known as the host of Te Tepu on Maori TV and as “Weirdo” from the movie Boy. I think it is safe to assume that Shortland, as host of Te Tepu which is a Maori language current affairs show, has some understanding of politics and Maori politics in particular.

Solomon Tipene is the co-chair of the Maori Party’s Whangarei branch. Tipene is also involved with Ngati Hine’s treaty claim. As a Maori Party member and treaty negotiator Tipene is not a political newcomer.

Although I do not know how much support each candidate enjoys on the ground, I would tentatively select Mangu as the strongest candidate. Mangu is the only candidate with electoral experience. Although Shortland and Tipene have broader political experience, for example in political commentary, neither candidate possesses campaign experience. Mangu did well as an independent. Remember independent candidates do not have access to party resources, including activists and admin support, independents also lack association with an established brand, struggle to attract media attention and find it difficult to tap donors and volunteers. With this in mind Mangu’s achievements, especially in 2002, are respectable. Having said that, a certain amount of baggage comes with losing two times. But that aside, Mangu has campaign experience and, according to Maori Party vice-president Ken Mair, a “strong profile” on the ground.

Ultimately, I do not think it matters who the Maori Party selects. Hone Harawira will win and Kelvin Davis will poll second - assuming ceteris paribus. For my take on the byelection see this post.   

May 20, 2011

The Budget and what it means for Maori

The Government delivered the budget yesterday. New Zealanders expected Bill English to deliver a strict budget, but yesterday’s dose of austerity went beyond reason. To be fair, the government is attempting to reduce the deficit and return to surplus within the next few years. However, the prescription the Nats put forward is damaging and visionless. Most New Zealanders will be worse off under this budget. Bill English has taken the knife to Working For Families, KiwiSaver, education (including student loans) and health. But what does it all mean for Maori?

Firstly, the Budget is not all bad news. Funding for community law centres will be increased and Whanau Ora will be boosted by $30m. Iwi will also have the opportunity to invest in State Assets (whether this will benefit Maori is open to debate) and there is $20m in new funding for Maori education. There is $25m in new funding for social services as well and $2m to support Maori engagement with the constitutional review.

Having said that, this is peanuts. Take Whanau Ora, one cannot deliver a high quality nationwide system with only $30m. $30m will deliver a half-caste shitty version in a couple of centres, but $30m will not deliver a nationwide revolutionary approach to social services. Take the funding for Maori education as well. The funding is spread across four years and will not address the causes of Maori underachievement. The funding is targeted at language initiatives and transport assistance. Nice to haves really. The funding should be addressing the structural causes of Maori underachievement, like whether or not Maori are suited to the learning environment adopted in most schools.

The big win for Maori, or more accurately iwi, is asset sales. The iwi leaders have made no secret of their intention to snap up shares in our SOE’s when the companies are floated. I personally think that there is more benefit for Maori in having SOE’s remain in government hands. However, I am aware that some would mount a compelling argument otherwise. The government intends to partially privatise Air New Zealand and four energy companies. Maori are big players in the energy sector, especially geothermal power, and I am sure iwi will not miss the chance to solidify their place at the top of the sector. Tainui has also, in the past at least, shown interest in Auckland Airport and Air New Zealand – two of New Zealand’s most important strategic assets. Tuku Morgan must be frothing at the mouth at the thought of the opportunity to get his hands on a small part of Air New Zealand.

In this post I also want to outline some of the big changes that will affect Maori. I’ll start with Working For Families:      

Working For Families

Working For Families cuts are not confined to high income earners. Middle and low income earners will be affected as well through a combination of lower thresholds, higher abatements and payment freezes. The changes will be phased in over seven years. A middle income family on $70,000 will be $20 worse off per week. The government provides a number of examples that show an increase in payments for low income families, however the figures do not take into account inflation. Families are actually facing a decrease in WFF payments in real terms. A large number of Maori whanau access WFF so any changes will adversely affect the standard of living for Maori. With the rising cost of living many Maori fail to balance the budget each week. With WFF cuts balancing the budget just got harder.  

Education and Health

Education and health are the big winners in today’s budget. Both will receive sub-inflation increases in funding, so in real terms both sectors are facing cuts. Yup, in this budget a sub-inflation increase counts as a win. Cuts to education and health will affect all New Zealanders, but especially Maori. Maori underachievement needs to be addressed, but there is little room in the budget to work towards improving education outcomes for Maori. Essentially, there is little in the budget beyond funding for operational costs. The PPTA claims schools will have to recover the cut in funding through an increase in fees and donations. This means low decile schools, i.e. schools with a significant Maori roll, will suffer as low income parents are less likely to pay donations or meet compulsory fees.

Maori access health care at a higher rate than other New Zealanders. Therefore, a deterioration in services will affect Maori disproportionately. DHB’s will be under further pressure to find areas to cut. I would speculate that some of the first areas to come under the knife will be health initiatives targeted at Maori. Why? Because Maori are not going to fight back.

Student Loans

Students who are in default for more than one year will have their access to student loans restricted. For example, Maori living overseas who, for practical reasons, are not servicing their student loans will not be able to return and access the student loan scheme. Furthermore, access to student loans for those over 55 will be restricted to course fees only and part-time students will no longer be able to access course related costs. This is discriminatory and unfair. Maori will be further discouraged from pursuing higher education. Thanks, National.  


The government intends to halve their contribution to your KiwiSaver account and tax employer contributions. The compulsory employee and employer contribution will also rise to 3%. This will deter many low and middle income earners who are feeling the pressure of the rising cost of living. Again, this will disproportionately affect Maori who tend to be low-income earners.

Public Service

The government has signalled an intention to trim almost $1b from the public service. Job insecurity permeates the public service at the moment and today’s budget will add further pressure to cut, cut, cut. Maori make up a significant proportion of the public sector and further job cuts will affect the Maori unemployment rate.

Overall though, Maori will be worse off under this budget. Maori will find it harder to access education, under WFF cuts Maori families will struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living and Maori will find it harder to access decent healthcare. Private debt among Maori will also increase as the KiwiSaver changes begin to take effect. Predictably, there is nothing in the budget to offset this.

Yesterday’s budget would have been the perfect time for the Maori Party to walk away from the supply and confidence agreement and send a message to the Maori electorate. The Maori Party desperately needs to steal the narrative from Hone. The Maori Party MUST steal Hone’s thunder. The party is becoming increasingly irrelevant and will remain so unless they do something in line with Maori interests. Voting for cuts, cuts and more cuts to government spending is not consistent with Maori interests. Should loyalty to the Nats come before what is good for Maori? Fuck no. But the Maori Party seem to think so. I am sick of this bullshit “best to be in government” fantasy that the Maori Party deploy whenever they do something dumb or something counter to what is good for MOST Maori. There is no harm in making a statement in an election year. There is nothing the Maori Party will achieve within the next six months as the Nats are suffering an unacceptable decline in redneck support. The Nats will not feed the perception that they are caving to the Maori Party. If the Maori Party voted against the budget they would have taken one step towards recovering the principled brand they once possessed. But no. The Maori Party have only themselves to blame. They destroyed their brand and seem resolute in not wanting to rebuild it.

If you’re Maori, book a ticket to Australia. Things just got a lot worse here. If things continue the way they are in New Zealand, then I’m out of here once I graduate. There is no future in New Zealand unless you’re Tuku Morgan or Graeme Hart.   

May 17, 2011

Kawerau Intermediate protest arrives

Around 250 students and supporters from Kawerau Intermediate arrived at Parliament today to protest against the planned closure of the Intermediate. Anne Tolley, the Minister of Education, has signalled she intends to close the Intermediate as well as Kawerau North School and Kawerau Central School. Kawerau will continue to be serviced by Kawerau South School (which will become a full primary school when the other three schools close) and Putauaki Full Primary School (my old school).

Now, Kawerau schools need to be reorganised. Structural change is needed sooner rather than later. There are not enough kids in the town to sustain four separate primary schools and two separate intermediate schools. Something has to give and the people of Kawerau accept that. However, what the protestors, and by extension the people of Kawerau, do not accept is the autocratic manner in which the Minister has made her decision. Anne Tolley made a number of assurances that any decision will be made in light of the feedback received from the community. This was an outright lie. Over 70% of the adult population in Kawerau signed a petition to retain the Intermediate, the local Council submitted in favour of retaining the Intermediate and most importantly the kids themselves have made it painfully clear that they want an intermediate school. However, the Minister appears not to appreciate any of this and has signalled she intends to close the Intermediate.

The protest itself was incredibly impressive. The children were disciplined but vocal, the speeches were articulate and reasoned and the entire group was well organised. I have to acknowledge the brilliant speech made by the Intermediate Principal, Daryl Aim, his delivery was so, so powerful and the message was perfect. I particularly enjoyed an observation he made during the protest. He commented that he saw two New Zealands today. One New Zealand was epitomised by his kids (the Intermediate kids) while the other was epitomised by a group of private school girls passing through in their “beautiful blazers”. One New Zealand has it all, including the sympathy and the ear of the current government, the other New Zealand has nothing. No prizes for guessing which is which. I thought his point illustrated a larger theme – the Nat’s are governing for their own. They don’t give a shit about poor communities and Maori communities. Some of the parents and kaumatua also delivered excellent speeches. Everyone was incredibly articulate. Not bad for a bunch wage workers from the provinces I thought.

The kids had their lines and chants prepared as well and they didn’t miss a cue. They knew what to say and when to say it and, to my surprise, they were actually listening and understood what the politicians were talking about. They knew when to cheer when a one of the politicians spoke in support and when to groan when one spoke against.

Quite a few MP’s came out to meet the hikoi. Kelvin Davis, Parekura Horomia, Shane Jones and Steve Chadwick from Labour, Catherine Delahunty from the Greens, local MP Te Ururoa Flavell and Tariana Turia from the Maori Party, Hone Harawira and local MP Todd McClay, Tau Henare and Paul Quinn from National. Davis and Chadwick delivered well received speeches. In my opinion Chadwick just cemented the Kawerau vote. Te Ururoa Flavell also spoke, but in Maori, and the reception was mixed (sorry, my te reo is negligible so I can’t tell you what he said). Todd McClay also spoke and the reception was cold. A few people heckled, but Todd handled himself well I thought. To be fair, Todd always listens to the community, the problem is his influence is limited and he is in no position to defy Anne Tolley. Catherine Delahunty was given a warm reception and delivered a speech in support of the Intermediate. By that time most of the MP’s had left bar Chadwick, Davis, Hone and Delahunty. A number of people in the roopu then started to call on Hone to speak and when he came forward there was a roar. There is no doubt that he was the man everyone wanted to hear from. Te Ururoa should be nervous. It goes to show that Waiariki is now behind Hone and Te Mana.

The protest then concluded and a small party went to meet the Minister. I hope it went well. The only MP’s to hang around were Kelvin Davis, who to his credit went through and acknowledged every single protestor with a kia ora and a hongi, Steve Chadwick also remained and moved through the group talking with the kids and parents, Hone stayed as well and spoke with some of the protestors.

The Intermediate sent a strong message today. They want to retain their school. Unfortunately, the chances of swaying the Minister are slim at best (she refused to meet the hikoi when it arrived at the steps of Parliament). But then again I don’t know. The pressure is on though. The protest is currently the lead story on (Derek Cheng was reporting from the protest), Radio New Zealand was also present and so to was John Campbell from TV3 and two reporters from Maori TV. Anne Tolley will release her final decision on June 1. I hope she makes the right one.       

Here today, gone tomorrow

Clouds are gathering as the Maori Party continues to bleed support. The latest Horizon Poll puts Te Mana marginally ahead of the Maori Party and now Marty Mars has announced he will be joining the Mana Party:

I have sent my membership into the Mana Party, and like John Minto I have never joined a political party before, but the time for sitting on the fence is over - now is the time to seize the opportunity and create history. 

Marty was one of the only Maori Party supporters in the blogosphere. By my reckoning there are no pro-Maori Party bloggers left. On the other hand Te Mana enjoys the support of my blog, or more accurately my sympathy – I do not support any particular political party at the moment, Mars 2 Earth, some authors at The Standard and Tumeke. The same is true in the mainstream media. Rawiri Taonui, who is perhaps the most prominent Maori political commentator, expressed roundabout support for Te Mana. Willie Jackson, who regularly offers commentary on Maori politics, has also expressed support for Te Mana.

What should be of most concern to the Maori Party is that they have lost their activists as well as their academics. Essentially, there is no structural depth to the Maori Party. Some of the party’s most experienced and talented activists have switched allegiances. Think Annette Sykes, Potaua from, Tim Selwyn and so on. Maintaining a core of experienced activists would have guaranteed the party’s short term survival at least. But now they must rely on the National Party and a small faction of loyalists to, among other things, run campaigns, draft advice and organise party events. Ultimately the Maori Party does not have the numbers on the ground. The party’s academics have also dropped away, for example Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu. The Maori Party must now rely on their parliamentary staff to perform extra-parliamentary work, such as policy formulation. Lastly, Electorate branches in Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki are in tatters. The party never created a youth branch, they have no presence on university campuses (where a wealth of talent can be tapped) and membership is declining as former supporters chose not to renew their membership. The prognosis is grim.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the latest Horizon poll puts the Mana Party slightly ahead of the Maori Party. Whether this becomes part of a trend remains to be seen. Now Bryce Edwards makes the point that the Mana Party can be at 2.3% and not affect the Maori Party at all. This is an excellent point and demonstrates that the Mana Party is pitching to a supplementary base. Yes, Te Mana is aiming for the tino rangatiratanga vote alongside the Maori Party, but Te Mana is also aiming for the far left vote and the non-vote (meaning the vote of people who usually do not vote). The Mana Party does not have to savage the Maori Party vote in order to reach the 3.5% target.

To conclude, things are looking down for the Maori Party. With the budget coming this Thursday things probably won’t be looking any better. The Maori Party copped a fair amount of criticism for their support of budget 2010, mainly due to the unfair tax switch, and it is difficult to see why things would be much different under what will without doubt be an austere budget 2011.

May 16, 2011

Things might be slowing down

It’s been pretty quiet here at Maui St over the past few days. It’s not that I’m too lazy or there’s nothing to blog about, I’ve just been really, really busy and will be up until the beginning of July. So things might get a little quiet around here at times, but don’t worry – I’ll try and post as often as I can.


May 10, 2011

Why Hone will win

Let’s be clear. Hone Harawira will win the byelection (assuming he forces one). In this post I want to discuss why.

But before we can examine why Hone will win, we need to understand why he is forcing, or more accurately intends to force, a byelection. Firstly, Hone intends to use the byelection as an early election year platform. A byelection will, theoretically, provide four weeks of sustained and intensive media coverage. Hone can use the byelection as a platform to launch Mana Party policy and project the party’s values, image and so on into the public consciousness. A byelection will also allow the Mana Party to direct public discourse on Maori issues and working class issues. The Mana Party is now the de facto opposition to the Maori Party (Labour barely rates a mention) and will hope to serve as the de facto opposition on working class issues during the byelection. Ultimately, the Mana Party intends to cement their place in political discourse i.e. advocates for Maori issues and advocates for working class issues.

The second yet less prominent reason Hone intends to force a byelection is to affirm his mandate.

But the central reason Hone has signalled he intends to force a byelection is to bait the Maori Party. Hone wanted the Maori Party to stand a candidate against him and they fell for it. The door is now open for the Mana Party to stand in the other Maori electorates, bar maybe Te Tai Hauauru and Te Tai Tonga. Conceivably Hone did not want to be the one to break the agreement – his strongest attribute is his perceived integrity after all. This is what Hone had to say:

"Despite massive pressure by many people to put candidates up against the Maori Party MPs, I have resisted the temptation because I believe it is important to stand behind a promise you make.

Hone wanted to maintain his honest guy image.

The Mana Party knows that Waiariki and Ikaroa-Rawhiti are marginal seats, and possibly Tamaki-Makaurau and Hauraki-Waikato. The Mana Party needs the Maori electorates as a fall back in case the party does not attract an acceptable number of party votes. However, Hone and co. did not want to sacrifice their integrity and break the deal struck with the Maori Party. The Mana Party needed to be the passive player, the guy playing a fair game, as opposed to the aggressor. The party therefore chose to bait the Maori Party and force their hand.

So why will Hone win the byelection?

Firstly, Hone Harawira enjoys a personal following – not a Maori Party following. Almost 62% of electors voted for Hone Harawira at the 2008 election while only 31% of electors voted for the Maori Party. Hone is a minor celebrity in the North and a man who commands a considerable amount of respect. He works tirelessly for Te Tai Tokerau and continues to consult his electorate with regard to his political decision and his parliamentary work.

Secondly, Hone is the incumbent. Incumbency comes with a few advantages. Hone can tap networks he has worked with in his capacity as the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, for example Hauora (Maori social service providers) and Runanga. The incumbent also enjoys name recognition and the ability to point towards a parliamentary record and a record of achievement on behalf of the electorate. The incumbent can also work from his/her electorate offices and utilise the resources and staff that come with.

Thirdly, Hone Harawira has the common touch with Maori. The Maori version of smile and wave. What many mainstream commentators do not appear to appreciate is that brand Harawira is extremely powerful. Brand Harawira, unlike Brand Key, is not refined nor entirely intentional. However, it is persuasive and attractive. Important Maori concepts, such as manaakitanga, are expressed in Brand Harawira. More contemporary Maori values are also reflected in Brand Harawira, for example Hone is “straight up” and seems to reject “flashness” yet retains a certain amount of swagger. Many Maori, especially young Maori and Maori with a tino rangatiratanga bent, like to think Hone reflects them.

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, Hone maintains functioning networks across the electorate. He has the ability to tap a ready pool of activists and organisational capabilities. On the other hand, the Maori Party does not. Their branches, committees and so on have moved with Hone. Tim Selwyn picks up on this point:  

It's mass dessertion and operational collapse here in Waiariki, so in the North it is difficult to imagine that they still have any functioning branches at all - although they will have many ambitious members who remain loyal for personal reasons who will form an electorate level committee, but without any depth.

Any branches the Maori Party retain will be cosmetic only. They will lack the numbers, connections and ultimately capabilities needed to make a serious impact.

Fifthly, the narrative is firmly set against the Maori Party. It is a well established line that the Maori Party has favoured the symbolic over the substantive, for instance the tino rangatiratanga flag and the UN declaration. The idea that the Maori Party has sold out is also firmly established as well, think the tax changes, the ETS, the MCA act and so on. The Party continues to frame itself as a party of the right, think the statement that the Maori Party can work with Don Brash and Te Ururoa Flavell’s defence of National re the AMI bailout. The attack lines are so simple and so easy. Whereas the attack lines that can be used against Harawira are personal and could be construed as an example of sour grapes. Ultimately, it is difficult to attack Harawira on his substantive record.

Finally, it has just been announced that Kelvin Davis will stand should the byelection happen. I imagine he will come a very respectable second. In a two way race I do not expect a Maori Party candidate to come anywhere near Harawira. After all, according to Hone at least, the Maori Party has approached eight candidates all of whom refused to stand (undoubtedly knowing that it is a lost cause). There can’t be many quality candidates left at that rate. However, with Kelvin Davis in the mix it is conceivable that he will come within striking distance, at worst he will come an honourable second.  Labour, like Hone, enjoy functioning and effective networks across the electorate. Labour, unlike the Maori Party, is not in disarray and have a strong candidate in Kelvin. Kelvin can run a strong campaign across the electorate and stand on his record as a list MP for the North and a rising star in the Labour caucus. I think we can also be sure that Kelvin’s supporters will actually vote, with Hone’s supporters this is less certain. Byelection turnouts are normally dismal, couple that with the apathy that permeates the Maori electoral population and the fact that Hone is almost guaranteed to win, and it becomes reasonable to assume that Hone’s mainly poor and rural and semi-rural voters will not even bother to turn up. 

To wrap up, Hone will win, Kelvin will come second and the Maori Party candidate will come third. This is assuming the byelection is held tomorrow though. I am not reckless enough to state that this will be the outcome come the election which is at least a month away. There could be any number of intervening events and major revelations.

Finally, I probably won’t be blogging for the rest of this week. I might write a few short posts, but probably nothing more.  

May 6, 2011

The Maori Economic Summit

The Maori Economic Summit has walked into a storm of criticism from Phil Goff, Meteria Turei and Syd Keepa. Keepa claims the Maori Economic Taskforce, established by the Maori Party, focussed only on how “Maori corporates can break into international markets rather than what is happening in the community”. This is good point I think. It reminds me of Tuku Morgan’s fixation with international financial markets. I remember an episode of Native Affairs where Tuku took a Maori Television team to New York to cover a glorified visit to the New York stock exchange. Tuku barked on about how Maori need to become global players and the way to do that is break into international financial markets. That is all well and good, but Maori should not jump ahead of themselves. We need to sort our own house out first – then we can worry about becoming “global players”.

As I said Phil Goff and Meteria Turei have come out hard against the taskforce and the summit. Turei called on the summit to address the needs of small rural Maori communities rather than “think big projects”. Goff ran a similar line; however he slammed the summit even before the first karakia was uttered.

Keepa, Turei and Goff made valid criticisms and suggested valid areas of concern, but I tend to think they were a bit quick in writing it all off.

Now, you might think the summit was all negative. It wasn’t. Bill English addressed the summit and he had this to say:

Maori businesses stand to benefit from the rebalancing of the economy his government is attempting, especially if they focus on exporting.

Does that mean Maori business stand to gain from asset sales, privatisation of social services and so on? Theoretically, Maori business will benefit, but do we want that benefit to come at the expense of all New Zealanders?

Economist Ganesh Nana also addressed the summit and said:

Investment in science and innovation in the Maori economy could create up to 150,000 new jobs by 2061 - while doing nothing will lead to a reduction in jobs.

This deserves serious consideration. I have always thought the Maori economy needs to refocus. The Maori economy is still based, for the most part, on primary production. I would like to see a shift towards investment in growth industries, like science and technology, rather than expanding the primary sector of the Maori economy. Essentially, structural change is required.

The central message coming out of the summit was Maori cannot afford to do nothing. According to the taskforce if the recommendations were to be followed 150,000 jobs could be created and the Maori economy could be lifted by $12 billion over 50 years. By contrast, doing nothing would cost 185,000 jobs and leave Maori lagging behind economically. It’s a clear choice.

May 5, 2011

RNZ the Panel

If all goes to plan I'll be on Radio NZ the Panel with Jim Mora at 4pm. By the looks of it Bomber Bradbury from Tumeke will be as well.

Bad call, Hone

Angry, arrogant Harawira may be gone, but stupid Harawira is still with us. From the Herald:

Hone Harawira has described Osama bin Laden as "a man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people".

Mr Harawira said on Maori Television's Native Affairs that bin Laden had "pursued independence for his people, his family and his tribe".

When asked if he was concerned about how such comment could be construed, he said he was Maori and "tributes to the dead are always appropriate" in Maori custom.

It is not that Hone lacks discipline, he is not shooting from the hip, he genuinely believes that Osama Bin Laden is freedom fighter. I am no expert on the subject, but others more qualified than I have indicated that he was not – he was in fact a cruel and oppressive man with warped religious notions. Osama did not believe in freedom in the proper sense of the word.

This is Hone’s most significant problem. He is supremely confident in his beliefs, but some of his beliefs are built upon romantic and ultimately fallacious notions. Hone Harawira immediately equates the underdog, the perceived anti-western/anti-colonial fighter with something good. This is why it is vitally important, in the interests of the Mana Party, to have people who will challenge and reshape some of Hone’s stranger views. If Hone believes something to be true he will tell you. This is a virtue of course, but problematic given Hone’s, to be polite, unconventional views.

Perhaps what is most disappointing about this issue is that it will not help Hone’s standing among his constituents. One or two Maori nationalists may hold the same view, but the underclass will not – the only image they have of Osama Bin Laden is the image of a mass murderer. His non-voter constituents will probably think Hone is mad and condones murder.

I have no problem with Hone’s view that Maori respect the dead. But respect falls short of homage. I am really, really disappointed that Hone has made this mistake. Although I did not see the Closeup debate between Hone and Brash, by all accounts Hone did well. However, he has now provided the media with ammunition to run negative stories.   

As I said, Hone does not lack control. This was not a random comment. It was a statement of genuine belief and a foolish one at that. If anything sinks the Mana Party it will be these sorts of deformed views – it will not be lack of discipline and control.

Key insults Te Whanau a Apanui

The Prime Minister has meet with representatives from Te Whanau a Apanui and Ngati Porou. From Waatea News:

Ngati Porou and Te Whanau a Apanui representatives met Prime Minister John Key today in what Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples is hailing as an example of what can be done by being in government.

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell arranged the meeting so the iwi could express their concerns over oil prospecting off the East Coast by Brazilian company Petrobras.

Well, this sounds promising, but consider this from

A meeting with concerned East Coast iwi this afternoon will not change the Government's stance on coastal oil exploration in the area, Prime Minister John Key says.

So the Prime Minister will not budge. If so, what is the point of the meeting? The Prime Minister’s position renders the meeting pointless. The meeting is not even symbolic when the main actor comes out and utterly disregards the possibility of progress.

Pita Sharples has hailed the meeting as an example of what can be achieved in government. However, nothing has been achieved. The Prime Minister has brushed iwi aside before they even walked in the door. The meeting is, at best, empty symbolism. A real achievement would be to influence the government’s position on the issue. Ultimately, the Maori Party appear determined to justify the criticism that they are merely making symbolic gains as opposed to substantive gains.

The Maori Party is in government to manipulate policy and pressure the government on Maori issues. The Maori Party is not in government to organise token gestures.   

To be fair, the Maori Party cannot influence what John Key says and kudos must go to Te Ururoa for organising the meeting (even though it is a farce). In reality no amount of discussion will deter the National Party; oil drilling is a Tory’s wet dream. Only a leftwing government will stop oil exploration and prevent oil drilling.     

May 4, 2011

Come on, Russell

I like Russell Norman, but I have to say he made an awful call re the Mana Party:

"I just don't think a lot of people are really hanging out for a Hone Harawira, Sue Bradford, John Minto, Annette Sykes kind of party ... They're looking for something progressive and forward-looking that actually is oriented to the current century rather than the last one."

This is impotent at best. The blogs have, quite rightfully, ripped Russell a new one. The above quote is, at best, superficial. It misreads the mood among the marginalised and it disregards the past. To quote Irishbill:

“We are refighting the 1980’s and the 1990’s. We’ve got a government comprised of a lot of the same people, with the same backers, running the same agendas and seeking the same outcomes”.

Russell is merely trying to secure his base. He does not want to bleed support, and fair enough, but attacking an ally is unjustified.

Maori MP's page - updated

I've finally updated the Maori MP's page for April. Unsurprisingly Hone comes out on top. He is closely followed by newcomer Annette Sykes and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples. Hekia Parata and Pem Bird occupy the bottom positions. For the full list and accompanying rationale pop over to the page.

May 3, 2011

The Mana Party

The Mana Party is here. I know I promised to blog on the Mana Party sooner, but a few things got in the way. However, I’ve found a bit of time to coalesce my thoughts. Given that I felt obligated to blog on the Mana Party this is a rushed job so apologies in advance for the length, any mistakes and the lack of links. 

In this post I want to discuss the Mana Party’s policy positions, whether the party will target the party vote or the Maori electorates and whether or not such a strange collection of ideologically dissimilar activists will hold. I will then move on to whether I think the party will meet success (in terms of the party vote and the Maori seats) what it all means for Maori voters. I will not cover the byelection.


In terms of policy, we know very little beyond a few broad positions. The Mana Party will, at this stage, introduce a capital gains tax, institute a financial transactions tax (dubbed the Hone Heke tax) and remove GST. The Mana Party will also nationalise monopolies and duopolies, evaluate Kiwisaver and move to strengthen unions.

The above positions represent the Mana Party’s core policy platform – at this stage at least. In my opinion the above is striking for a lack of clearly identifiable Maori policy. There is no mention of the Treaty, no policy directly targeted at Maori - there is little mention of Maori at all actually. This seems odd given that the Mana Party is, well supposedly at least, a “Maori led” and “Maori focussed” Party. However, with that aside I think it is still fair to describe the Mana Party’s positions as hard left.

To be honest, I am surprised that the Mana Party is focussing on class politics. The movement that underpins the Mana Party is firmly rooted in identity politics, however the party’s policy does not seem to reflect this. Identity politics dominated the last decade, however Hone, no doubt at the behest of Matt McCarten, is pushing policy firmly set along class lines. Unions, progressive taxes and so on all speak to the working class. The above policy is firmly aligned with the working poor and beneficiaries.

Many commentators believe the Mana Party has not departed from ethnic based politics. Although I agree somewhat, if one were to consider Mana Party policy only then it becomes clear that this is not the case. The party appears, at this stage, to be focussing on working class concerns, such the 90 day right to sack law. I have not heard nor seen any policy with regard to tino rangatiratanga. The Mana Party’s policy positions seem to reject Maori concerns in favour of a socialist agenda. 

So where does the Mana Party fit on the political spectrum? To the far left in my opinion. There is space on the political spectrum for a far left party. The Maori Party sits on both sides, the Greens appear to be shifting rightwards while the Labour Party occupies the centre or the soft left. I largely agree with Joshua at Maori Law and Politics who points out that the Mana Party more closely “resembles the Alliance… than it does the Maori Party”. 

In terms of parliamentary discourse advocating a capital gains tax is a progressive suggestion. In terms of mainstream political discourse advocating a financial transactions tax is almost radical. Removing GST is, again, a progressive suggestion. GST is a regressive tax and others have called for the tax to be decreased or removed.  On the other hand nationalising monopolies and duopolies is an innovative suggestion in terms of contemporary parliamentary discourse. However, where I say innovative others may say “extreme” or “radical”.

Personally, I do not quite know what to make of the Mana Party’s policy. I am inclined to say Hone has had something of an epiphany and warmed to working class liberalism. However, I tend to doubt this. It is fair to say Hone has always been an advocate for the poor, but he is a Maori nationalist before he is a working class hero. He believes in Maori customary rights and customary ownership. He believes Maori did not surrender sovereignty in 1840. I therefore find it odd that he has, apparently, ditched all of this in favour of, for lack of a better expression, the aspirations of the radical Pakeha left. This is not to say the policy the Mana Party is advocating will not benefit Maori, I overwhelmingly think it will, I just find it odd that Hone’s priorities have shifted. I would speculate that it signals that Hone is not in complete control of the party and/or the likes of Sue Bradford and Matt McCarten have influenced Hone’s perspective. I tend to think both hold true. Hone surely has the last say, but Matt controls the details in my opinion.

Therefore, policy wise, the Mana Party is about as left as they come. The party mixes the progressive with the radical.  There is a clear focus on workers and the poor.


The Mana Party will almost certainly target the party vote. I tend to think Hone and Matt want to stand candidates in the Maori electorates, but they will not pre-empt the Maori Party who have indicated that they will stand a candidate against Harawira in the upcoming byelection or the election proper. Matt McCarten is no fool, and neither is Hone for that matter, both know that there is little chance attracting existing voters. The Labour vote currently represents the party’s core, the Greens maintain a fairly loyal following and most Green voters, in my opinion anyway, represent 21st century liberalism rather than the old school leftism the Mana Party appears to be emulating and there are not many votes to suck from Alliance. The only market where the Mana Party will enjoy success is among tino rangatiratanga voters, also known as Maori Party voters. Ultimately, Hone’s appeal is confined to a small group of far lefties, tino rangatiratanga advocates and the politically apathetic, meaning the poor, marginalised etc… 

The Mana Party will have to target the young and the politically apathetic/inactive. With little room to tap existing voters the Mana Party will have to look towards the new and the indifferent.

However, the party could always turn to electorates seats. I cannot think of a general electorate where the Mana Party will have any chance. The Maori electorates are a different story though. The Maori Party appears set to tear up their agreement with Hone and stand a candidate in Te Tai Tokerau. The Mana Party could then, theoretically, stand in every seat and win. That’s a potential six seats.

Of course the Mana Party will probably focus on both the party vote and the Maori seats. Cover both bases. No harm in doing so really. Of course there is a financial barrier and the party’s target audience do not have deep pockets. Realistically, the party will have to focus on either the party or vote or the Maori seats or, alternatively, run a limited campaign in the Maori seats or the party vote. I tend to think the Mana Party will run a limited campaign in the Maori seats. Maybe contest Te Tai Tokerau, Waiariki, Hauraki-Waikato and Ikaroa-Rawhiti only. It is clear that the Mana Party seeks to be more than just a kaupapa Maori party, therefore a wider mandate than just the Maori seats is required for the party to act with any mana.

The advantage Hone Harawira enjoys is that he speaks to a constituency that other parliamentary parties cannot touch. The underclass, non voters and the absolutely marginalised. There is a deep well of dissatisfaction among these groups and Hone, I believe, has the ability to tap that well. The advantage Hone holds is that he knows how to communicate with these groups, to some extent he is one of them as well. He is clever but not intellectual, aggressive but not violent, ordinary but not average, kind but not soft. He maintains many virtues that will resonate with the poor, but more importantly he knows how to articulate their concerns.  

It is clear that the Mana Party is seeking a wider base than just Maori. The party’s policy is overwhelmingly targeted at the working poor, however the makeup of the party does not reflect the target audience.


The Mana Party consists, by my reckoning at least, of two sorts of activists. Tino rangatiratanga activists and far left advocates. The tino rangatiratanga activists outnumber the far left advocates. Both sets of activists will be fighting for primacy. The tino rangatiratanga cluster will seek to elevate Maori concerns above left concerns and vice versa. At the moment the left branch appears to be conceding i.e. taking a backseat in public. However, the policy positions of the Mana Party tell a different story. Policy seems to reflect left concerns. On the other hand the public faces of the party are advocating Maori concerns.

There appears to be a divide between the substantive aspect of the party and the propaganda aspect of the party. The substantive aspect, read policy, appears to be directed from the left wing section of the party. While on the other hand the propaganda aspect of the party appears to be directed by the tino rangatiratanga section. For example the imagery associated with the party is Maori. The Mana logo is the typical red and black, two colours with prominent meaning for Maori and the font is, in terms of character, consistent with Maori design. The party website also incorporates red and black while Maori is the default language.

There are a number of theoretical advantages to having a combination of lefties and Maori nationalists. Firstly, the lefties and the Maori nationalist group will, in theory, act as a two way moderating force. Having said that I must say this is unlikely in my opinion. It is hard enough putting two Maori in a room and asking them to agree on something let alone a Maori and a Pakeha with competeing priorities. Secondly, the Mana Party embodies, sort of, diversity of opinion and this will hopefully lead to a more robust policy discussion and a broader policy agenda. Thirdly, Matt McCarten, Sue Bradford and so on are the sort of people who will challenge Hone. I have always imagined Hone as the sort of person who does whatever the last person told him to. However, McCarten and co will act as a competent sounding board and will challenge Hone on some of his more extreme and unpalatable positions.

Common sense would dictate that such an uncompromising combination of interests is doomed to fail. Prima facie, I agree. But then again it just seems like an easy call to make and one that does not take into account the complexity of human interaction and determination of all involved to make this movement successful.

Ultimately, the danger comes when the inevitable ideological clash happens. It then becomes a question of whether or not those involved have the strength of character to compromise. I would say yes. I now think Hone appreciates that there is often a gap between rhetoric/desire and the political reality. If he compromises the Maori nationalists will follow. Matt McCarten is essentially a political pragmatist and if he compromises I believe the left group will follow. These two men are the pinnacle of the party – the two ideological leaders. 


Certainly – in the short term. Not so clear in the long term. Maori Party support is declining at a rate of knots. That decline will not flow towards Labour until they repent for the foreshore and seabed betrayal nor will it flow towards the Greens who continue to fail in articulating their message to Maori. The Mana Party is the default option and, arguably, the only other option (discounting right wing parties for obvious reasons).

If the Maori Party decides to stand against Hone either at the byelection or the election proper then the Maori seats become fair game for Hone. In my opinion the Mana Party will pick up Waiariki (assuming Annette Sykes stands) and retain Te Tai Tokerau.

The ultimate measure of success though will be how many inactive voters Mana can secure. If the Mana Party can mobilise the politically apathetic then the party would have succeeded in creating a permanent electoral force and securing their place as a serious political player. This is easier said than done of course. Matt McCarten’s Mana campaign illustrated that it is nearly impossible to mobilise inactive voters. However, we must keep in mind the fact that Mana was a byelection, the economic and social circumstances were less dire and Matt has probably learnt a number of valuable lessons that can be applied across the country. Ultimately, as I said, if anyone can speak to and mobilise the marginalised it is Hone Harawira. The man has a genuine rapport with the pohara and he knows exactly what they will respond to. The challenge then is not what messages do we run, but how do get the messages into their living rooms, their homes etc. The question will be how do we penetrate their lives?

The Mana Party is not representing a narrow set of interests either. Where the Maori Party is exclusively concerned with Maori issues and Maori policy, the Mana Party is concerned with a wider set of interests, for example working class concerns. This in turn means the Mana Party can draw upon a wider base. How much success the party will have in terms of securing a wider base is not yet known. For me it depends on whether or not Pakeha can overcome the barrier that a perceived ‘Maori party’ represents. There is for many Pakeha a psychological barrier to voting for a Maori party and there is also a more practical barrier – Hone Harawira. It will be hard for Pakeha, even the far left ones, to vote for a man who has displayed a fair amount of hostility towards their people.

We must consider another question when guessing at the possible success the Mana Party will enjoy. Will the such a group of disparate and competing interests hold? Will the lefties and the tino rangatiratanga group enjoy a stable relationship or will the party become factionalised? If internal disputes emerge then history shows the party is almost guaranteed to fail. My money is on the party holding - until they get within range of government. That is when the ideological disputes, the practical disputes and so on will come to the fore.

We cannot lose sight of the media either. The slurs have already begun. The media is attempting to portray the byelection as a ploy on Harawiras part to make a bit more cash and the imagery the media associates with Hone is always negative and sometimes scary. However, this matters for nothing. Hone’s voters don’t give a shit. Most probably don’t even watch the news let alone care what Jessica Mutch has to say about Hone Harawira.

Ultimately, the barometer will be how many inactive voters does the Mana Party secure. This will determine how successful the party is.   


Where do I start?

Firstly, Maori now have more choice. Maori have a number of different choices all of which can be clearly distinguished. There is a kaupapa Maori party (the Maori Party), a centrists and tested party (the Labour Party) and an experimental and working class party (the Mana Party). The Greens and New Zealand First also factor in a less prominent position.

The Mana Party also pits Maori against Maori. The debate will without doubt divide many iwi, hapu and even whanau. Maori, as a collective, hate to see infighting. But then again tribal politics is often plagued with infighting, so I guess for some it is nothing new.

Hopefully, the Mana Party will lead to debate about where Maori sit in the political landscape. Maori political discourse is terribly thin and I welcome anything that stimulates discussion. Maori need to ask what is the nature of Maori political participation? Can we be placed adequately on the political spectrum? How do Maori want to engage in the political process, for example are we content with been passive bystanders or do we want to inject ourselves into the political class. What sort of policy platform best advances Maori aspirations and so on.

This brings me to an interesting point. It is clear that the Maori Party wishes to inject our own into the political class and the capitalist class. The Maori Party believes this is the best way forward – working within the system essentially. The Maori Party prescription is to take on the ruling class on their terms. While on the other hand the Mana Party remedy is to deconstruct the neoliberal framework that has given rise to the political elites and the capitalist class. The Mana Party and the Maori Party both believe in integrating our indigenous systems and values into a western framework. The difference is the two parties believe in a different western framework. The Maori Party is comfortable with neoliberalism while the Mana Party would institute a move towards a more socialist regime. Maori must choose very carefully.

Personally, I applaud the Maori Party on having a model to get Maori ahead. However, I do not like that model because often it comes at the expense of others. For example asset sales. Asset sales will undoubtedly benefit iwi, however that will come at the expense of other New Zealanders. Mainly the have nots. Our aspirations should not come at the expense of others – no matter how much we deserve to get ahead.    


There is a worrying divide forming among Maori. It is a divide between the haves and the have nots. This divide is embodied by the Maori Party and the Mana Party. It is a divide between iwi that have their settlements, their land trusts and their middle class and between iwi and urban Maori that do not. It is easier for those who do have to say Maori need to get out of, and I hate these terms, grievance mode and into development mode. I will use the example of my iwi, Ngati Awa, and urban Maori. We, as in Ngati Awa, have a growing middle class, a cultural and spiritual base that we retain, we have a number of successful hapu trusts and we have a Crown apology and a financial settlement. We can move because we have our closure, sort of, and we have capital to utilise to get ahead. Our connections to the whenua remain unbroken and our Ngati Awa tikanga and kawa remains. The same cannot be said about urban Maori. They have no settlement to invest in their futures, they have no connection to their traditional lands, their reo and tikanga is almost forgotten, their incomes are falling and the government is not correcting the wrong. How can these Maori be expected to get into development mode when they have nothing and the wounds of the past are still a substantial cause of anger and marginalisation. Urban Maori have no means of getting ahead as a people. The system and society still operates against them. They have no access to capital and their culture is lost. Now where I am going with this is that the Maori Party is siding with the haves while the Mana Party is siding with the have nots. 

This has probably always existed, however it is becoming more pronounced. Inequality between Maori is increasing and this cannot be tolerated. The Maori Party is increasing inequality, whereas the Mana Party will seek to rectify inequality among Maori – or at least that is how I see it.

I have not mentioned this yet and this section seems like a logical place. The Mana Party, contrary to what some commentators believe, is not trying to be a pan-Maori party. The Maori Party’s attempt at been such a party has failed in my opinion. That is why the Maori Party is currently representing a narrow set of interests i.e. the Maori capitalist class while the Mana Party is seeking to represent poor New Zealanders. Pan-Maori parties aren’t working at the moment.  


I am not so quick to write off the Mana Party. The party will have little trouble attracting members and grassroots activists and supporters. Ultimately, the Mana Party will probably succeed because the Maori Party has failed. The Maori Party has, and I repeat this unequivocally, failed as a kaupapa Maori party. The Maori Party is captured by a corporate agenda; the Maori Party serves the interests of the few. The Maori Party has lost sight of its people. The Maori Party is now the party of the likes of Wira Gardiner and Tuku Morgan – a party of the right. A party of the privileged and the disconnected. All of the rhetoric, all of the hope, all of the expectation and obligation has come to nothing. Even worse, the Maori Party has failed its own definition of success. Maori are worse off and continue to fall. This why Mana will succeed. Because Maori want and Maori need a genuine representative. People can throw around comments like “Hone is out of control’ and “Hone is a racist”. I think sentiment along these lines completely misrepresents and misreads Hone as he is today. Hone Harawira has grown up and he has surrounded himself with some of the sharpest political minds in New Zealand. He isn’t the arrogant idiot who flunked a meeting for some sightseeing in Paris anymore. He isn’t the idiot who fired off a disgusting email to an infamous kupapa anymore. Hone Harawira appreciates the weight of expectation he now carries and, ultimately, he understands what the daily slog is like for many Maori. This is what drives Hone. Hone knows he cannot afford to shit the bed and stuff it up for Maori. He has a job and he is going to get on with it. The media, the right, the racists and the Maori Party will not get in the way.