Jan 31, 2012

Maori Party contemplates split (updated)

The Maori Party seems to have found it’s backbone. From the Herald:

The Maori Party is considering breaking from the National-led Government over asset sales.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the party will consider walking out of its relationship with the National Party if a Treaty clause is not extended to those state owned enterprises tagged for partial sale.

Ms Turia said today that the issue was similar to the foreshore and seabed issue for Maori.

"If it comes down to the wire, the Maori Party will have to consider its position with the Government."

She said the party would meet with iwi leaders to gather their reaction, although some had already made their displeasure known. She said the party was beholden to iwi and its constituents and would follow their lead.

You have to wonder whether the Maori Party intended to break from the agreement all along. The party’s decision to re-enter a relationship with National defied logic, although it was consistent with the party’s rhetoric around being “at the table”. If, and it’s a big if I should add, the Maori Party turn their back on the government Maori faith in the party will be renewed and the Maori Party will, I think, have a fighting chance at the next election.

Of course, it’s a big decision. The Maori Party built their election campaign around the idea that it’s better to be at the table, read the Cabinet table, than outside banging at the door. The party will also have to sacrifice it’s baby – Whanau Ora. The National Party will, out of spite, axe the program. Tariana Turia has spent her entire parliamentary career building Whanau Ora. With that in mind, I find it difficult to imagine her sacrificing it.

The refusal to insert a treaty clause is a significant issue for Maori. It’s about progress. Maori fought hard for treaty clauses and now that we have them we are dead set against taking a step back. S9 has been central to the Maori rights movement for the past two decades. The Maori Party realises this. After all their selling out last term, they still have a feel for tino rangatiratanga.

It will be a delicate compromise for Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia. Do they walk away and risk leaving Maori out in the cold for three years. With the Maori Party out of the picture the government has no cover when passing left wing and pro-Maori legislation – meaning the government will probably opt to pass on anything pro-Maori. After all, pro-Maori stuff doesn’t exactly play well with National’s base.

Without the Maori Party Maori funding is likely to come under the gun. Cuts at Te Puni Kokiri, cuts to Maori education, Maori health and any other Maori program that speaks to perceived “special treatment”.

The party leadership have announced that they will consult with iwi and Maori generally on whether a treaty clause is make or break. I’ve already pointed out that Maori support for asset sales is dwindling. I think the overwhelming message will be ditch the deal with National. The absence of a treaty clause will diminish the power (mana) iwi have in relation to NZ resources. The Maori elitie will not take a threat to iwi power lightly. The consensus among flaxroot Maori will echo the iwi consensus. Diminishing Maori mana and rangatiratanga is unacceptable.

Pita Sharples has warned that this issue may flare tensions at Waitangi. All governments should know by now not to give Maori a reason to protest at Waitangi, because everyone knows Maori will take it. It’s a bad look for the Prime Minister too. Minus some moments from a few fringe activists, John Key has enjoyed a positive reception at Waitangi. This year, should the government keep their current course, Key can expect massive protest as well as, rumour is having it, a hikoi later in the year. Then again, nothing will boost the PM’s popularity like a Maori hikoi.

Without the buffer the Maori Party provides John Key’s government will be fragile. Peter Dunne is a reliable subordinate, but it doesn’t take much to bring down a one seat government. Julia Gillard’s shaky coalition is a case in point. Then again, a one man majority is still a majority. This means the Maori Party doesn't hold much leverage. As I said, a walk out means the government has no cover to pass left legislation, thus compromising their centrist appeal. However, I doubt National intends to run a centrist line this term, therefore the Maori Party becomes expedient.

Anyway, I’ve dragged this out longer than intended to. The next few days will be interesting.

Iwi hypocrisy

I don’t often agree with Cactus Kate, but – surprisingly – I think she is right to take Ngai Tahu to task for selling off their land.

Ngai Tgahu know all about asset sales so should be supporting National's privatisation programme. Here are just two recent examples of Maori more than happy to flog off their assets to foreigners who need OIO approvals.

In 2010 they sold 1348 hectares in Kaikoura to an American couple for 7.5 million dollars. They paid 8 million dollars so made a $500,000 loss.

In 2011 they sold 18,000 hectares of forest to a Swiss owned family company for 22.9 million dollars. And continue to manage it. Alf Grumble reported it at the time on his blog noting the hypocrisy and lies of Tuku Morgan in relation to asset sales. Ngai Tahu sold this land under the euphemism of a "change in investment strategy". National are having that same change in investment strategy selling stakes in SOE's.

“Iwi won’t sell and the investment is intergenerational,” Morgan says.

Iwi shouldn’t be flogging off their land. It runs counter to Maori values. Ngai Tahu tipuna spent generations fighting for the return of their land. And for what? For iwi corporates to sell it off in the name of “investment strategy”. The whenua is, in Te Ao Maori, inalienable. Why don’t our so called leaders know this?

When you sell the land you also sell your rangatiratanga. Therefore, you sell your right to a place.

But most importantly, Ngai Tahu is undermining Maori in the eyes of the public. On the one hand, we talk about the land as sacred, inalienable and so on. While on the other hand we slyly flog it off for a handful of cash. Those aren’t my values and those aren’t Maori values.

Treaty won't stop asset sales (updated)

I was in a rush to write this post, so it's not as considered as I'd like. 

Despite Hone Harawira’s enthusiasm, I doubt s9 of the SOE Act can stop asset sales. From TVNZ:

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is making a bold claim that the Treaty of Waitangi can be used to stop state owned asset sales and is calling on Maori to reject the necessary law change at a series of Government-organised Hui.

The Government has planned a series of hui to consult with Maori on legislative changes it considers necessary in order to float the minority shareholdings of four State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

"Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act says that the Crown must not act in a manner inconsistent with the Treaty. And to sell off assets that Maori still have claim over is inconsistent with the Treaty," Harawira told TV ONE's Breakfast.

"The Treaty is stopping the Government from flogging off the nation's assets, so they're gonna throw the Treaty out," claims Harawira.

The Waitangi Tribunal (WT) sets out the following principles: reciprocity and partnership, active protection, equity and options and redress. The Court follows, roughly speaking, the same principles. However, unlike the WT, the Court explicitly recognises the Crown’s right to govern and the duty to consult as stand alone principles.

A Maori claimant could lodge a claim with the WT, but a WT decision would have no binding effect. A claim would have to be filed in the High Court. In my opinion, a case exists, but not a very strong one.

If I were the claimant, I’d argue that the Crown is breaching the principle of active protection. Under this principle the Crown must take active steps to ensure Maori interests are protected. The sale of SOE’s runs contrary to Maori interests as, arguably, the Crown’s ability to offer redress is affected through the loss ongoing revenue and the loss of land that could be included in any settlement. A broader argument is that Maori consumers will be affected through higher power prices and decreased government services in the long run. The late Sir Robin Cooker, NZ’s greatest jurist, held that the Crown’s duty is “not merely passive but extends to active protection of Maori people in the use of their lands and waters to the fullest extent practicable”. As you can see, a strong obligation rests on the Crown.

The sale of state power companies will also impact on Maori relationships with their taonga. The WT holds that “The Treaty guarantee of rangatiratanga requires a high priority for Maori interests when proposed works may impact on Maori taonga. If the Crown is ever to be justified in exercising it’s power to govern in a manner which is inconsistent with and overrides the fundamental rights guaranteed to Maori in Article II, it should be only in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort in the national interest”. Reducing the deficit is in the national interest, however on any objective measure asset sales are not the option of last resort.

Selling state power companies will also affect the relationship Maori have with their waterways (i.e taonga). Maori will have fewer rights when it comes to determining the status and use of rivers, tributaries, dams and so on.

The debate around what, if any, rights Maori have in relation to water is still not settled. Given the Crown does not know exactly what rights Maori have, or should have, it would be unfair to pass off water rights to private entities. It is incumbent upon the Crown to actively give affect to and protect Maori property rights and management rights, however if water rights are passed onto private interests Maori customary rights will be diminished against private property rights. Clearly, if the government passes on water rights to private interests this will run against the principle of active protection.

These are just some of the arguments that can be made against the government. I have not taken into account previous decisions of the Court that may favour or harm a claim against the government. At the end of the day, the Crown has a right to govern as they see fit. I come back to Sir Cooke who said “the principles of the Treaty do not authorise unreasonable restrictions on the right of a duly elected government to follow its chosen policy. Indeed, to try and shackle the Government unreasonably would itself be inconsistent with those principles”. Hone Harawira can hope that the Treaty will stop asset sales, but if you ask me he’s hoping in vein.

UPDATE: I should add that it makes perfect commercial sense to exempt a treaty clause, meaning a s9 type clause, from the new legislation needed to sell shares in the SOEs. A treaty clause would add some uncertainty around the assets and drive the share price down. However, refusing to insert a treaty clause in the new legislation is probably a breach of the principles.

Jan 27, 2012

Breakfast blows it on toi moko

Did anyone watch Breakfast yesterday? If so, did anyone else find it strange that Breakfast selected one Fiona Pienaar, a South African counselling lecturer, to speak on the return of the toi moko heads? The main thrust of the interview was; will Maori obtain closure with the return of the heads? Well, it’s not really about closure. Rather, returning the heads is a cultural imperative. In accordance with tikanga the heads must be returned to their people and whenua (land). I’m not having a go at Pienaar – it’s not her fault Petra Bagust conducted a poor interview. Bagust couldn’t see outside her euroentric prism and failed to grasp what Pienaar said at the beginning of the interview: the toi moko repatriation was about reconnecting the heads to the land – not relieving some sort of grief on the part of Maori. Comparing the toi moko return to Pike River was unhelpful too. Apples and oranges as they say. Bagust’s poor form continued throughout the interview. At the end of the interview she asked Pienaar, the South African counsellor remember, how Maori would be feeling. Uhhhm, if you wanted to ask those sorts of questions why didn’t you just get a Maori, Petra? Surely it’s easy to find a Maori who can speak competently on toi moko. I wonder if the Breakfast team is too lazy too find one, or they think an academic knows more than the average Maori.

UPDATE: Having said that, Lucas De Jong did well this morning covering the toi moko ceremony at Te Papa. Or at least it looked like he did - I wasn't paying much attention after yesterday's effort to be honest.

Jan 26, 2012

Eraka's blog

I forgot to mention that a few days ago I added a new blog to the Maori blog list. Eraka's blog is an anonymous blog focussing on Tainui politics. It's a fascinating read. The author provides a valuable, albeit frenzied, perspective and sheds some light on the rotten goings on in Te Arataura and Te Kauhanganui. You can check it out here.

Let a Woman speak

The Manawatu Standard reports:

Labour's Te Tai Hauauru candidate has blamed "iwi politics" for preventing her from addressing her party leader on her home marae at Ratana celebrations.

Soraya Peke-Mason was stopped from speaking during a powhiri to welcome members of the Labour, Green and Mana political parties on to Ratana Pa during yesterday's traditional political gathering.

Ms Peke-Mason, who finished second in the Maori electorate in November's election, said she was not disappointed at what happened as the message she had wanted to deliver was presented on her behalf by the chairman of the executive committee, Waka Palmer.

Ratana Church secretary William Meremere said Ms Peke-Mason had asked to speak on the marae but that was opposed by "family members".

Mr Meremere said the objection was not because of concerns about anything Ms Peke-Mason might have said, but because of tikanga.

There were protocols regarding who could speak on the marae and whether women could speak, he said.

Special dispensations had been made at times, Mr Meremere said. Former prime minister Helen Clark had been allowed to speak at Ratana in previous years, he said.

A Woman’s right to speak during powhiri is an interesting debate. There appear to be two schools of thought. One side says the rules, or kawa, of the powhiri are laid down by the Gods to protect mauri (life force) and, therefore, cannot be altered. The other view holds that the guidelines, or tikanga, of powhiri are flexible and change with time to meet differing conditions, changing norms and so on. I like to subscribe to the second school of thought, but the first school, I think, is the culturally correct view.

But cultures should be flexible and, in my opinion, there is no need to hold steadfast to the rule that women are not allowed to speak from the paepae. There is no longer any rationale for the rule, other than superstition. The role of women in Maori society is changing and the rules of powhiri should change to reflect this.

I should add that not all Marae prevent women from speaking from the paepae. I think some Marae of Ngati Porou allow women to speak, as do a number of others across the motu. One of my Marae, Kokohinau, is particularly rigid when it comes to a woman's right to speak. Even during the last night of tangi (the po whakamutunga) where a ceremony for the immediate family is held, women are forbidden from speaking. Yes, even the wife of the deceased would be barred from speaking at her own husbands’ ceremony. There appears to me no good reason for this, other than the patriarchy holding steadfast to long diminished cultural rationales.

My explanation for this is thus: given we, as Maori, lost many aspects of our culture we’re determined to keep a tight grip on what we retain. Often this means we’re reluctant to let go of or change what we have. Which is fair enough, but there some things cannot continue into the 21st century.

In 2005 Pita Sharples led the call to give women the right to speak during powhiri. It’s a shame his call didn’t gain much traction. It wouldn’t hurt us to reopen this debate.

Jan 24, 2012

Ratana celebrations begin

The poli-scramble at Ratana begins today. Labour leader David Shearer will be welcomed onto the Marae alongside much of his caucus and, symbolically, Metiria Turei and the Green’s Maori caucus. As is tradition, Labour will enter the Marae and meet with the Ratana leadership before National. If my memory serves me correctly the only occasion where National was invited onto the Marae before Labour was in 2010. Mana’s Hone Harawira will also enter the Marae this week with his Ratana Minister, Kereama Pene (unless he already has). The Maori Party’s Pita Sharples will accompany the Prime Minister when he enters the Marae (Tariana Turia is already on the Marae) and Winston Peters will visit tomorrow.

Interestingly, the Greens will accompany Labour onto the Marae. This is, I believe, a first. The decision to invite the Green’s onto the Marae with Labour signals, perhaps, the beginning of Maori acceptance of the Green’s as a party of Maori and for Maori. Prior to the election, the Greens were viewed as an outlier when it came to things Maori. The party often polled sub 5% among Maori despite strong Maori representation within the parliamentary wing, a comprehensive Maori policy statement and a consistently pro-Maori stance. In 2012 this, coupled with the ascension of Metiria Turei and serious Green candidates in the Maori electorates, appears to be contributing to an acceptance of the Greens as a Maori party.

Labour will also hold their caucus meeting on the Marae and the party will look to make maximum use of Rino Tirikatene. Rino and his whanau are well connected to the Ratana movement. David Shearer and Labour’s media team have lost no time in making this known. Louisa Wall, MP for Manurewa, is also connected to the Church.

Despite the pro-Labour mood, we should expect to see some anti-Labour rhetoric. The Marae is a place for debate and dissenting views are always encouraged. In front of the nation’s media some anti-Labour Ratana members may look to make a point.

The mood at the Pa appears, to me at least, far less favourable towards National and the Maori Party. Labour, the Greens and Mana could, if they play it right on the paepae and among the people, reclaim some of the ground lost to National and the Maori Party in previous years.

Jan 23, 2012

Ratana fawning begins

The year in Maori politics begins this week with politicians red, blue and Green descending on Ratana Pa. From Stuff:

The annual battle for political support from a Maori religious group will get under way tomorrow with opponents looking to deepen the divide between Labour and their traditional Ratana ally.

Labour leader David Shearer will make the pilgrimage for the first time since taking over the party reins.

Just before Mr Shearer and his Labour team are welcomed on to the marae tomorrow afternoon, Prime Minister John Key and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples will lead the government delegation on.

Also in the mix will be NZ First leader Winston Peters, Mana leader Hone Harawira and the Green Party's Maori caucus.

National, NZ First and the Greens will gain nothing, zilch, from the Ratana movement. Ratana will never officially desert Labour, so long as Labour remains loosely pro-Maori. Not even the Maori Party could convince the Church to ditch Labour. Maori, or more specifically Ratana followers, have too much respect for history and too much fear for the consequences of dishonouring their ancestor’s traditions to desert Labour.

To be honest, the Church is no longer a significant electoral force. Ratana claims some 60,000 members. This is, in my opinion, an inflated claim. 60,000 may have an association to the Church, but I doubt that there are 60,000 active members. For arguments sake, let’s say the Church is comprised of 60,000 active members. Even then, for the Church to exercise any real influence the leadership must ensure their followers vote in concert. However, Maori – and by extension Ratana followers - no longer vote in a bloc. Cultural change has led to growing independence – meaning Maori no longer take the word of their leaders as law. Growing political choice has also ensured that Maori can exercise their independence and take their vote elsewhere – for example the Maori Party. As Maori society becomes more secular Ratana’s influence will continue to diminish. 1996, the year NZ First swept the Maori seats, marked the end of the Ratana Church holding the casting vote in the Maori electorates.

Anyway, the point I want to make is that the Ratana celebrations are nothing more than a photo opportunity for Labour, National, NZ First and the Greens. As I said, the Ratana celebrations mark the beginning of the Maori political year. The celebrations are also the first political event of the year and a good precursor, or warm up event, for Waitangi weekend. Bar some extraordinary event, the traditional welcome for politicians onto the pa usually leads the 6 o’clock news and all of the major papers carry a Ratana piece. In previous years John Key has played the week very well. A quick google of ‘ratana john key’ brings up headlines like “Warm Welcome for John Key and National MPs at Ratana” and “Confident Key points to gains in Speech at Ratana”. If you google ‘ratana phil goff’ the first result reads “PM takes swipe at Hone Harawira” which, as you’d expect, is a story about the Prime Minister at Ratana which only gives brief mention of Phil Goff.

If a politician can do something even remotely newsworthy, they can milk the media for the entire week. John Key has done it each year. One year he planted speculation that Ratana was considering cutting ties with Labour. Another year he used his speech to outline National’s work for Maori. Last year he used the week to launch attacks on Hone Harawira. I wonder if David Shearer, unlike his predecessor, can cook up the same sort of media smarts as John Key and his team.

Jan 19, 2012

Shane Jones on asset sales and mining

You might remember Shane Jones’ bout of honesty following Labour’s election defeat. Jones came out saying that Labour got beat and beat good. Jones advocated a new approach and a period of reflection. The media and the commentariat praised him for his willingness to be upfront with the public and his party. However, towards the end of December Jones stretched his honesty a little far. Firstly, he came out effectively endorsing iwi looking to invest in state assets. A few days later Jones, as Labour’s regional development spokesperson, moved to champion mining for job starved areas.

I don’t think it was a sensible move to come out and effectively endorse iwi investment in state assets. Yes, Jones is of the northern conservative breed. He is also a product of iwi politics. But his comments go against Labour’s strong opposition and Maori opposition to asset sales. Labour does not need to cosy up to iwi. Iwi have an agenda and furthering that agenda will always involve cultivating a cosy relationship with the government of the day. Shane Jones, and the rest of the Maori caucus for that matter, would be better served advocating a different approach for iwi. Labour should publicly lobby iwi to invest in their own people. The line doesn’t mean much, but it goes down hella well with Maori.

The less sensible move was Jones’ mining advocacy. Mining is an economic solution for dry minds. It’s also bad politics. Mining is an idea that is in conflict with Maori values. It runs against the idea of kaitiakitanga and most other Maori values you can think of. It also runs against Kiwi values and Labour’s new direction. David Shearer is promoting Labour’s vision for a “clean, green, clever” economy. Surely that economy will exclude dirty extractive industries. Jones would also do well to remember that the largest protest in a generation was against mining.

Shane Jones is now the highest ranked Maori in Labour. So basically the spokesperson for all issues Maori. I hope Jones’ form recently is not something to go by. If it is, Labour’s going to have a hard time.

More trouble in Tainui

Trouble in Tainui continues with the King signalling his intentions to take over Te Kauhanganui (Tainui Parliament) and Te Arataura (Tainui Executive). From the Waikato Times:

Discussions to replace the Maori King have ramped up after he announced he wanted to take over Tainui's tribal parliament.

King Tuheitia, also the paramount chief of Waikato-Tainui, told a meeting at Horahora marae, near Rangiriri, on New Year's Day he wanted to take control of the tribe's parliament, Te Kauhanganui (TK), and its executive, Te Arataura (TA). He warned Tainui marae not to attend the next meeting of the tribal parliament, scheduled for February 26.

King Tuheitia also said he wanted to see the back of the Tainui executive's controversial leader Tukoroirangi Morgan, and demanded a new TA.

The Kingitanga sits above TK, but in a ceremonial sense rather than a legal sense. TK is, I believe, an incorporated society with its own rules that prevent the King from removing trustees and, for lack of a better term, commandeering the society. Case in point, when the King removed Tania Martin as Chair of TK the Court found that the King had no legal power to do so. Consequently, Martin was reinstated. TK’s rules state that the Chair can only be removed or instated via a tribal vote. The same rules apply to TA. Therefore, the King cannot remove Tuku Morgan.

I think it’s funny that the King wants to use his ceremonial power to remove Tuku. Last year when the King removed, or tried to remove, Tania Martin, he did so at the request of Tuku Morgan. Tuku obviously believed the King had the legal power, or more probably the mana, to remove her. Now, the shoe is on the other foot and the King is looking to use his authority as Arikinui of Tainui to remove Tuku. I wonder if Tuku will cry foul, even though he tried to have the same thing done almost a year ago.

I don’t think the King is going to be removed, nor do I think the King will do any removing. The tribe is too dysfunctional. TA is delaying the election of a new board and there are accusations of financial cover ups and crony appointments. Last year Tainui stumbled from controversy to controversy. Trouble in Tainui erupted when Tania Martin released a damning report criticising TA. In response, Tuku Morgan lobbied Kingi Tuheitia to remove Tania Martin as Chair of TK. The King subsequently sacked Ms Martin only for the Court to reinstate her. Martin then publicly released an affidavit which was a damning indictment against TA. TA responded in kind with Tuku publicly slagging Tania Martin on Native Affairs. The tit for tat battle continued with the main events been the repeated attempts by TA to block meetings of TK, a police complaint against Tania Martin and, finally, a failed vote to remove Tuku Morgan.

I’m not sure how to the tribe will fix their problems, hell, a clean out of TK and TA might be the right approach. However, this will never happen with the cunning fox Tuku Morgan on one side and the blundering bear Kingi Tuheitia on the other.

Having said that, if anyone has the mana to redirect Tainui it’s Kingi Tuheitia. However, the likes of Morgan and the rest of TA think that they’re above everyone, even the King and TK. TA won’t go down without a fight, and if they do go down they’ll bring the whole house crashing down too. I’m not seeing a clean solution to this. Last year I simplified Tainui's problems down to

Rotten personalities and toxic tribal politics. Tainui has experienced more than its share of internal political dramas, then again most Iwi have, but Tainui’s problems seem to play out on the national stage. For me this saga speaks to the unnecessary complexity of Iwi post-settlement entities and the self-interest many of the Iwi elite operate with. The Tainui Brown Table is a putrid one, one that needs to be destroyed and remade. Remade with the interests of the people at its core. The problem Te Arataura has is that they operate like a business. They treat their operations like they are a massive corporation and the people like they are expendable and marginal shareholders. In my opinion, the sooner Tuku and his mates are removed the sooner Te Arataura can go back to serving the people.

I think that still stands.