Feb 29, 2012

Funding cuts for Maori TV....

Maori TV’s awesome, one of the crowning achievements of the last Labour government, but DPF makes the point that nobody’s watching:

Maori TV has in many ways been a success story. They have managed to avoid the culture of excess that their predecessor Aotearoa TV had. They have managed to capture ANZAC Day in a way no other broadcaster has. They had some of the best debates in the election campaign, and I understand their election night coverage was very good. Native Affairs is a must watch show for those interested in politics, and they had great Rugby World Cup coverage.

But there is one big elephant in the room. The elephant is that almost nobody is watching them. And when we invest $50 million a year into them, it is an elephant that should not be ignored.

Farrar goes on to explain that on Wednesday last week there were, according to Neilsen ratings, less than 4000 people tuned in at the lowest point and around 20,000 at the highest point. For a $50m investment from the government, DPF doesn’t think this is good enough. That’s fair enough, one of Maori TV’s central aims should be to increase viewership, but they have obligations beyond gaining mass appeal.

Maori TV’s central aims should be 1) the preservation of Maori culture, especially Maori language 2) increasing accessibility to and understanding of Maori culture and 3) creating a platform for Maori to project their perspective. Ratings tie into these aims, especially 1 and 2, but ratings aren’t the be all and end all. S8(1) of the Maori Television Service Act 2003 states that the principal function of Maori TV is to is to “promote” te reo Maori and tikanga Maori and enrich “New Zealand’s society, culture and heritage”. There is not a ratings imperative in the Act.

With the above in mind, Maori TV should not be measured against ratings alone. Maori TV has, arguably, done more than any other initiative to protect, preserve and promote Maori culture.

Maori TV offers unique programming. Native Affairs, indisputably New Zealand’s leading current affairs show, is given prime time billing. On that note, Willie Jackson’s Newsbites (a political show) is also given a prime time slot. Local and international documentaries are given 8.30pm time slots, as are many art house films and local films like the Topp Twins. Politics, documentaries and art house films aren’t, in my opinion, ratings winners. However, they do serve to enrich New Zealand society, culture and – most importantly – they educate New Zealanders (or at least those New Zealanders who are watching). This is consistent with Maori TV’s statutory obligations.

As an aside, some believe ratings are misleading. It's certianly true that significant criticisms exist. Without wanting to sound conspiratorial, I cannot accept that there were so little people watching Maori TV last Wednesday. Every Maori and Maori whanau I know watches Maori TV as their main channel. I don’t watch much TV, but most of what I watch is on Maori TV. I also watch a lot of Maori TV programs on their website. Needless to say, ratings to do not measure viewers who watch a program through the internet. This is a significant flaw, television watchers are increasingly turning to the internet – especially young people - and the ratings companies aren't measuring this.

Recently I suggested that Maori TV may be in line for a funding cut or freeze. This would be consistent with the government’s attitude towards Maori funding and the government’s broadcasting ideology. The cynic in me would say that DPF is softening the ground for cuts, but that is probably a stretch too far. It’s not as if his audience need to be encouraged to support cuts at Maori TV. Having said that, in 2009 BERL found that 84% of New Zealanders thought Maori TV should be a permanent part of the broadcasting landscape.

It would be a shame to see funding at Maori TV frozen or cut. They operate on a shoe string budget as it is. The government only provides 16.6m in direct funding to cover operational costs and this amount has not changed since 2004. In Maori TV's words "the cumulative impact of inflation on our cost structure makes it increasingly difficult to sustain the current levels of delivery, continue to enhance the service and keep pace with the new technological developments in the television industry". Programming costs are covered by Te Mangai Paho and, but to a lesser degree, New Zealand on Air.  

 I’d hate to see shows like Wairua, Kai Time on the Road and Code dropped. I’d be gutted to see Native Affairs dropped or Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day coverage scaled back and New Zealand would be worse off if Maori TV couldn't do events like Rise Up Christchurch again. Maori TV provides New Zealand with a valuable service - there's no need for cuts. 

Feb 28, 2012

Shearer reaches out to Mana

In a break from the politics of Phil Goff, David Shearer is opening the door for Hone Harawira:

Labour Party leader David Shearer has opened the door to discussions with Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

Mr Shearer's predecessor, Phil Goff, explicitly ruled out any kind of relationship with Mr Harawira.

The new leader says he will respect ideas wherever they come from, including from the Mana Party.

He says he does not have any baggage with the Mana Party.

"I'll take them as I find them and if they turn out to be somebody I can't work with, I'll make that determination then."

This approach fits well with Shearer’s image as a man with no political baggage. Taking situations as they come and people as they appear. However, it doesn’t fit well with Shearer’s predicted play for the centre vote, read middle New Zealand. Harawira is, generally speaking, poison to most New Zealanders and any association, perceived or otherwise, Shearer builds with Harawira will be lower him (Shearer) in the eyes of his target market.

However, it’s in Shearer’s longer term interests to build a broad coalition of the left. Chances are Labour will not gain enough votes to govern without the Greens plus one or, if the party is unlucky, plus two.

The Harawira issue certainly isn’t going to become relevant until the polls indicate Labour is in a position to form a government. Voters will then ask whether or not they’re comfortable with the idea of a government propped up by Hone Harawira. At the moment, I imagine most New Zealanders would answer in the negative. However, voters have three years to get used to the idea and, quiet importantly, Hone has three years to soften people.

I’m glad Shearer has the foresight to engage with Hone Harawira. After all, there is more that unites Mana and Labour than there is that divides.

Tuku Morgan digs in

Tuku Morgan is refusing to back down. From RNZ:

Tukoroirangi Morgan is insisting he's still the head of Waikato-Tainui's executive, Te Arataura - and is planning to call a meeting of the executive this week.

However the tribal Parliament, Te Kauhanganui - which oversees the committee - is adamant Mr Morgan is no longer part of the executive.

It says he failed to gain enough votes in recent unfinished tribal elections.

Tukoroirangi Morgan says the tribe's rules state the executive board stays in place until the elections are completed.

Mr Morgan plans to continue doing the job of chairperson of the executive, which oversees the tribe's commercial arm, the Waikato River Authority, and its education divisions.

He says he's leading the board and he's still the chair of Te Arataura until 25 March, when the election process will be complete.

This will be a test of Tuku’s personal authority. If he calls a meeting and no one shows, that is a defeat. If Tainui staffers refuse to follow Tuku’s orders, that is a defeat. Personally, I doubt Tuku has the mana to neither retain the loyalty of Tainui staffers nor win the loyalty of the new board.

Tom Roa, apparently, has been elected interim Chairperson. Roa is the former Chairman of Te Kauhanganui (TK).

TK, and by extension the people of Tainui, have dealt Tuku a death blow. He failed to win the required 33 votes. However, one position remains. In the final run off between Tuku and Huhana Marshall both candidates received 30 votes each. This result repeated itself in successive voting rounds so TK decided to leave the position unfilled. The position is set to be voted on at the end of March. With that in mind, there remains a chance, albeit a slim one, that TK will lose its mind and vote Tuku back in.

For the record, Tuku does not have the option of lobbying the King for a position on Te Arataura (TA). The King has selected Greg Miller to as the Kahui Ariki appointee (the King’s representative on TA). Assuming Tuku is not returned, he leaves behind a legacy of toxic tribal relations, overspending, obstruction and general unpleasantness. However, under Tuku Morgan Tainui surpassed Ngai Tahu as the richest iwi. Tuku also managed to facilitate the Waikato River co-management deal. Yet despite these achievements, Tainui would probably be better off if Tuku never entered the picture.

Interestingly, Tania Martin, Tuku’s principal opponent, was re-elected Chair of TK. Good on her.

The next meeting of TK will be on March 25 and the 11th member of TA will be elected. Tuku’s a wily character, so don’t be surprised if he wriggles he way back in, but for the good of Tainui I’m hoping he doesn’t.

Feb 27, 2012

Maori cuts at MFAT

I find it difficult to get worked up about MFAT cutting their Maori Policy Unit. The obvious question is: why does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, key word foreign affairs and trade, need a Maori policy group. I can understand why, say, Tourism NZ would need a Maori policy team. Maori culture is a unique selling point. Having said that, I suppose I’ve just highlighted why MFAT needs a Maori policy unit. In terms of trade, Maori culture is a unique selling point. The Maori Policy Unit, I imagine, advocates the Maori economy overseas and helps overseas governments etc understand the place of Maori in New Zealand and so on. Without a Maori Policy Unit, there’s a hole. Most Pakeha, and by extension diplomats, have no, not even the slightest, grasp on Maori culture, the Maori economy, Maori exporters, the place of Maori in New Zealand and the like.

I guess it’s worrying. When MFAT does need Maori experts they can’t farm it out to Te Puni Kokiri. That Ministry is going to be a shell of its former self and, I think it is fair to assume, will only have the capacity to perform internal tasks. MFAT is looking to hire a Kaumatua. However, a Kaumatua will only consult on cultural aspects, I doubt the Kaumatua will be qualified to work on broader Maori issues.

All this, the Maori cuts at MFAT and the cuts at TPK, amount to a sustained attack on Maori in government. What’s next? Cuts to Te Taura Whiri? Smashing the Maori Policy Units in other Ministries? A funding freeze at Maori TV?

It’s a shame that the Maori Party and the Mana Party are nowhere on this issue. Labour, the Greens and NZ First are all over it, but taking a broader approach. They know that the majority of NZders support scrapping anything with the word Maori in front of it so they’ll tread carefully. With that in mind, it’s up to the Maori Party and Mana to oppose this.

Feb 24, 2012

Government to water down s9 (updated)

Claire Trevett reports on the Maori Party’s partial victory:

The Maori Party has claimed a partial victory after a government promise to include a Treaty clause for partial state asset sales - but will not quite abandon the possibility it will walk out until it sees the final clause.

After three weeks of consulting, the Government yesterday said it would include a Treaty of Waitangi clause in new legislation to cover companies in which minority stakes were sold to private investors.

The Maori Party warned it could walk out on the Government if Treaty rights were not properly recognised in the new legislation and said its preference was for section nine to be used or, if that was impossible, to include a new clause which carried equal weight and scope.

The Maori Party comes out of this looking strong. The party took a stand on principle and strong armed the government – or at least that’s how it looks. In reality, the government is not making a firm commitment to retaining s9. Instead, the government will use a new section that retains the “concepts” of s9. The word “concepts” is very, very vague and, if the government is not careful, could open a whole new can of worms and take Treaty jurisprudence in a direction that no one intended. S9 as it stands is well developed and well understood, so why opt for a different clause? To me, this looks like an attempt to water down the clause and send the right signals to investors. Bill English has admitted as much saying that this was not a back down, but about providing certainty for investors.

However, a new clause would provide less certainty for investors. S9 as it stands is well developed and well understood. It is more dangerous inserting a new clause as there would be uncertainty as to how it applies. In time Maori would take the issue to Court and, in my opinion, the Court would interpret the new clause broadly and in line with s9. The Courts have always taken a favourable approach to interpreting the Treaty. After all, s9, read treaty clauses, amount to a "constitutional guarantee".

The Maori Party is claiming this as an example of what can be achieved “at the table”. Fair enough, without a position in the government the Maori Party would have no leverage and no avenue to lobby Cabinet and the PM. However, this is an example of how an imperative of the table is to sell out. The Maori Party has not achieved complete victory. The new clause will, most probably, be watered down. The Maori Party claims that they’ll walkout if the clause is not sufficiently strong. Well, I’ll believe that when I see it. As Marty Mars points out, they didn’t walk on the weak solution to the foreshore and seabed, so why walk out now.

UPDATE: Joshua Hitchcock, an expert on Treaty law, blogs that s9 (as it stands) is unsatisfactory and essentially "meaningless". He provides a very interesting perspective.

Feb 22, 2012

Wedge politics and Maori

Shane Jones is driving a wedge between Labour and iwi (read the Maori Party):

Iwi leaders should spend less time dreaming of ways to profit from sales of state-owned assets, and more time on salvaging the children of their tribes, says Labour’s Economic Development (Maori) spokesperson Shane Jones.

“What we need are short, sharp solutions. In the absence of leadership from Dr Sharples, iwi leaders must focus on salvaging the children of their tribes instead of sucking at the teat of asset sales that won’t solve anything long term for Maori.

“In times gone by issues concerning our children were often seen as a responsibility for the state,” Shane Jones said. “Well, the state can’t solve everything, especially when Dr Sharples is ripping the heart out of Te Puni Kokiri. Our iwi leaders must stand up, if Dr Sharples won’t.”

As far as wedge politics goes, this is good stuff. The divide between the iwi elite, which increasingly includes the growing Maori middle class, and the Maori underclass is a source of tension in Maori politics. Jones’ is siding with majority opinion on this issue. Many Maori, read the Maori underclass, resent the fact that wealth from Treaty settlements has not ‘trickled down’. I’ve said before, many iwi take a top down approach to distributing income. For example, tribal executives are paid handsomely, a tribe’s tertiary students receive decent financial support and kaumatua and kuia often receive financial support too. However, those on the bottom of Maori soceity – for example single parents – receive no support. This approach serves to perpetuate the privileged position of the Maori elite. I should add that privileged is a relative term, meaning the Maori elite are privileged in comparison to the Maori underclass – not in comparison to Pakeha.

The largest source of tension is, in my opinion, the priorities of the Maori elite. Some iwi leaders, and others like Wira Gardiner, are enthusiastically pursuing asset sales. However, Maori overwhelmingly oppose asset sales. Many in the Maori elite also seem more concerned about maintaining their power and pay checks than serving their people, the most prominent example is Tuku Morgan and a handful of other members of Te Arataura.

The prevailing feeling is that iwi should be looking at investing more heavily in their people rather than fretting about their bottom lines. This is an idea I sympathise with, but do not agree with. Social services are the responsibility of government. Iwi have a social obligation, no doubt about that, but iwi do not have the means to offer social services. Firstly, iwi do not have the economy of scales, but most importantly iwi are not self sufficient. In other words, iwi can not fund social services out of their pocket unless, of course, they pay more attention to growing their bottom line. I hope you can see that it's a bit of a paradox. Sure, if Maori were paying taxes to iwi, then iwi have a social and moral imperative to fund and deliver social services. This, however, is not and never will be the case.

Anyway, back to the politics of this issue. Jones’ is siding with the Maori underclass here and painting the Maori Party into a corner – a corner with the Maori elite. It will be interesting to see how Jones’ plays this. I would expect to see him cultivate tensions further.

Another interesting aspect of this issue is Hone Harawira. Hone has, over the past year or so, owned this issue to the exclusion of Labour. Jones is, in my opinion, more capable than Parekura Horomia, but Hone has never lost a battle against Jones. I think it comes down to whether Jones has any credibility on this issue. For those that don’t know, Jones comes from the Maori elite. He was, in his opinion, born to rule and he was heavily involved with Maori business and treaty settlements. The same treaty settlements that have done so well in creating and entrenching a Maori aristocracy, or a Maori ruling class would be the more appropriate term. Hone, on the other hand, comes straight from the Maori underclass.
To be honest, I don't like the use of wedge politics in Maori politics, but this is a debate Maori need to have. Do iwi have their priorities right? What is the role of iwi in contemporary Maori society? Are treaty settlements creating a Maori elite and so on. 

Feb 15, 2012

Complaint template

Further to my promise yesterday, here is a generic complaint template. Just copy and paste this and bang it off to the relevant person/organisation. This template mainly applies to complaints to the Herald, but you can play around with it to make it more relevant to the Human Rights Commission. You can complain to the Press Council here and use this as a base, but you have to complain to the Herald first and then there are a number of other criteria.


Generic Complaint Template:

Dear Mr Hastings

Please consider this a formal complaint against Paul Holmes column published in the New Zealand on February 11.

1. Mr. Holmes employs unfair, offensive and discriminatory language when describing Maori. Mr Holmes describes Maori as “hateful”, “loony”, “irrational” and “greedy”. Such language serves to disparage Maori.

2. Mr Holmes characterises Maori in an unfair, offensive and discriminatory light. For example, Mr Holmes contents that “Maori” beat their children, “feed themselves silly” and live in a “perfect world of benefit provision”. This is a gross misrepresentation and does not serve any purpose other than to fuel negative sentiment against Maori.

3. The unfair, offensive and discriminatory language and characterisations Mr Holmes employs amounts to hate speech. Hate speech is not defined under New Zealand law, however the following definition is a useful guide: any communication which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic, for example race. Mr Holmes, through offensive language and fallacious characterisations, disparages Maori as a race. Mr Holmes comments amount to sustained, racist abuse against Maori.

4. The first nine paragraphs, when viewed as a whole, actively encourage negative feeling towards Maori. In fact, the first nine paragraphs serve to vilify Maori.

5. Mr Holmes does not distinguish between individual Maori and Maori as a race. Mr Holmes describes Waitangi Day as a “loony Maori fringe self denial day”. This passage clearly refers to all Maori. Mr Holmes also refers to the “hopeless failure of Maori”. Again, Mr Holmes is referring to all Maori. Mr Holmes continues saying “no, if Maori want Waitangi Day”. Mr Holmes is referring to all Maori – there is no other reading of this sentence.

6. Mr Holmes makes a number of factually incorrect statements. For example he speaks of the “never defined” principles of the Treaty. The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are, after over two decades of judicial refinement, clear, well defined and widely applied. Mr Holmes also implies that Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves when he says “no, if Maori want Waitangi Day, let them have it”. Maori have never requested Waitangi Day to be a day for Maori only.

7. When Mr Holmes speaks of his ancestors who fought in WWI he actively encourages racial division. He draws a line between Waitangi Day, which Holmes incorrectly characterises as a Maori day, and ANZAC Day which Holmes implicitly paints as a Pakeha day. No only does this encourage racial division, but it diminishes the important role Maori played in WWI.

8. Free speech is not at issue here. Mr Holmes has a right to free speech, but free speech does not extend to hate speech. The line is drawn where speech disparages another person or group on the basis of some characteristic, in this case race. When hate speech is the case, freedom of speech is irrelevant.

9. Freedom of speech must always be accompanied by social responsibility. Meaning freedom of speech does not guarantee one the right to vilify another group.

10. In publishing Holmes racist rant, the Herald failed to uphold acceptable standards of media ethics. Media organisations are under an obligation to run a range of views, but those views must meet requirements of good taste, decency and acceptability. Holmes piece did not meet these, in my opinion, low requirements. The Herald also owes it to society not to print racist rants. If they do, they legitimise that racism and provide a platform for the other racists to perpetuate their views. This, more often than not, hurts the race, usually a minority race, on the receiving end.

11. The Herald’s decision to print Mr Holmes column serves to entrench poorly informed opinions and, more significantly, drags public discourse down to the sewers. The sick comments under Mr Holmes’ piece are a testament to this.

12. Mr Holmes’ column arguably breached s61 of the Human Rights Act 1993. Specifically s61(a) which makes it unlawful to publish written material that is likely to excite hostility or bring into contempt any group on the basis of race. The racist comments under Mr Holmes column, as well as comments on many blogs, prove that Mr Holmes’ column excited hostility and brought into contempt Maori as a race.

13. Mr Holmes column may also be unlawful under s131 of the Human Rights Act 1993 – inciting racial disharmony.

14. Mr Holmes column was inaccurate, unfair, offensive and undeniably racist. The Herald was irresponsible to publish the column.

15. I ask that you sack Paul Holmes without delay. His racism has no place in New Zealand society. I will be boycotting the New Zealand Herald as long as Paul Holmes remains as a contributor. Please do the right thing.

Kind regards,
[Insert name]

Remember Hasting's email address is David.Hastings@nzherald.co.nz

More on Holmes and the Herald

We all know this Paul Holmes rubbish annoys me, but to be honest, I don’t care so much about what he said, it’s the fact that the Herald published it and that 99% of Pakeha don’t care when Maori are on the receiving end of abuse.

In publishing Holmes racist rant, the Herald failed to uphold acceptable standards of media ethics. Media organisations are under an obligation to run a range of views, but those views must meet requirements of good taste, decency and acceptability. Holmes piece did not meet these, in my opinion, low requirements. The Herald also owes it to society not to print racist rants. If they do, they legitimise that racism and provide a platform for the other racists to perpetuate their views. This, more often than not, hurts the race, usually a minority race, on the receiving end.

Holmes piece, and the Herald’s complicity, serves to entrench poorly informed opinions and, more significantly, drags public discourse down to the sewers. The sick comments under Holmes piece and on some right blogs is a testament to this. I’m not going to quote any of it, if I do I’ll probably throw up on my keyboard. Holmes has really brought the scum out of the woodwork.

Another aspect of this that disappoints me is the lax, don’t care response of most Pakeha. Sadly, Bryce Edwards (who is very sensible 99% of the time) holds that Holmes has raised legitimate views. This is a common sentiment. However, he hasn’t. Holmes is resetting the Treaty debate and taking race relations back to the 80’s. In terms worthy of the 19th century, Holmes is relitigating things that are settled. The Treaty is an accepted and important part of our constitution and society. Maori are an important part of our political system. Maori grievances are legitimate and work is progressing to heal the wounds. Historical grievances and contemporary struggles still fuel Maori anger. There is no debate over these things.

Imagine if the situation was reversed and a prominent Maori broadcaster slammed greedy Pakeha land thieves, slammed paedophilia as a Pakeha problem, slammed the propensity of loser Pakeha men to take Asian brides, slammed fraud as a scourge on all Pakeha. There would be outrage and rightly so. It’s untrue, it’s unfair and would constitute racism. Holmes rant is on a similar level. Slamming Maori as hateful, loony, irrational, fat and so on. Imagine for one second that Holmes was vilifying you. And imagine it from the position Maori are in. Powerless. No one listens (hell, no one cares), you don’t know how to respond (i.e. don’t know about complaint mechanisms, public pressure etc), the list goes on.

Feb 14, 2012

Complaint template

I've had a few people ask me to draft a complaint template. I think it's a good idea and will encourage more people to actually do something. Tomorrow I'll post a template to complain to the Press Council, the Human Rights Commission and David Hastings. I'll also post a template for you to ask our Maori MPs to stand with us on this.

Herald rushes to defend Holmes (updated)

The Herald is compounding the Paul Holmes problem with this generic response to complaints:

Thank you for your formal complaint regarding the Paul Holmes column of Saturday Feb 11. 
As you are no doubt aware, it is one of many messages we have received on both sides of the ledger since publication. Those supporting his right to his opinion have markedly outweighed those against. Having said that, we are concerned that a number of people have taken such strong exception to it.
There is no question the piece was written in a raw and provocative style. But we do not believe it constitutes "hate speech" or close to it. It is not, as many people have suggested, a commentary on all Maori people or Maori culture generally but on the few protesters who disrupted proceedings. Nor does it breach Press Council principles, which accommodate freedom of opinion in comment pieces. 
It was one of a series of opinion pieces discussing Waitangi Day and its place in New Zealand society which began the previous Saturday with a front page cover story by Buddy Mikaere and included an editorial which recognised the obvious divisions in society but supported the idea of the day as being our national day. 
The column in question was clearly aimed at the behaviour and attitudes of Waitangi Day protesters at Waitangi itself – similar to criticism by former Prime Minister Helen Clark of protest leaders as ‘haters and wreckers’, in another context. Disparaging and critical words, but neither intended to cast all Maori in that light. Holmes expressed his opinion as a columnist as he is entitled to do in a country where freedom of speech is regarded as a central pillar of public discourse. 
Although many have objected to it -- as is their right -- I hope they can recognise that the very ‘freedom’ in the concept of freedom of speech is meaningless if it applies only to speech that offends no one. As has been recognised by the Press Council, true freedom can mean the freedom to be ignorant, offensive and wrong.

The same points can be applied to his comments about anti-fluoride campaigners, La Leche and Syria. They are, as you point out in paragraph 12, opinion.
We strive to publish the breadth of opinion on major public issues and no doubt will carry strong views in the paper and on our website in response to the latest Holmes column.
Yours sincerely
David Hastings
Weekend Herald

Hate speech is, outside of the law, any communication which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic, in this case race. Holmes consistently casts Maori in a negative light, calling us, among other things, “irrational”, “loony” and “hopeless”. Holmes speaks of the “hopeless failure of Maori to educate their children and stop them bashing their babies”. Holmes continues saying that Maori should be left to go and “raid a bit more kaimoana” and “feed themselves silly”. This isn’t disparaging Maori, it’s vilifying us. I don’t know how the Herald can, in the face of this, say that Holmes’ column did not amount to hate speech. The message of the piece, whether intended or not, was that Maori are misbehaving, ungrateful, failures. The first nine paragraphs actively encourage negative feeling towards Maori. Those paragraphs describe us in offensive and unfair terms (in other words racist stereotypes) and, at the same time, perpetuate incorrect perceptions about the Treaty. If the Herald doesn’t think that what Holmes has written is hate speech, then they have glaring double standards. The Herald launched a crusade, and a crusade that continues may I add, against Hone Harawira in the wake of the white motherfuckers comments. Of course, that comment was racist and hateful and I’m sure the Herald agrees. But why are Holmes comments not? After all, where Hone’s comment was more of a throwaway than anything else, Holmes comments are sustained. He launches a systematic tirade against Maori – paragraph after paragraph. Although he falls short of using profanities, the terms he describes us in are much more hurtful.

The Herald is also claiming that Holmes was not targeting his verbal diarrhoea towards all Maori. Again, I don’t see how the Editor can make this claim in the face of what Holmes has written. In reference to Waitangi day Holmes says “it’s a loony Maori fringe self denial day”. Maori, in this context, refers to us as a group. Holmes does not distinguish. He also speaks of the “hopeless failure of Maori”. Again, Maori is referring to us as a group. Holmes continues “no, if Maori want Waitangi day”. No surprise, Holmes uses the word Maori again, and again referring to Maori as a group rather than an individual(s).

No one says Holmes shouldn’t be allowed to say what he wants, but he cannot say racist, offensive, unfair and ignorant things without consequence. Nor can he hide under the cloak of free speech. As I said in a previous post, free speech does not extend to hate speech. And this is hate speech even under the most onerous definition.

So, given the Herald’s lax response, it’s time for more complaints. Here is a link to complain to the Press Council. Remember you can also complain to the Human Rights Commission here. Finally, you can send a complaint to David Hastings, the editor of the Weekend Herald (sorry, Tim Murphy is the editor of the weekday Herald, I’m sure he forwarded your complaints though) at David.Hastings@nzherald.co.nz. Oh, and there will be a picket of the Herald’s office on the 16th. Here’s the link. Keep up the pressure and don’t let the racists legitimise Holmes’ bullshit.

(ps where is Maori TV and Maori radio on this story??)

UPDATE: for further perspectives see this from Reading the Maps, Tumeke and this from the Jackal

Feb 13, 2012

Comments on the water claim

John Roughan is a good columnist, but I think he misses the mark with this offering:

Protesters forget that Maori have to act in good faith too.

(On the partnership principle): "rested on the premise that each party would act reasonably and in good faith towards the other within their respective spheres".

Lands, forests, fisheries and treasured things were expressly in the Maori sphere. Government and good order were entrusted to the Crown. Cooke stressed that the obligation to act "reasonably and in good faith" was reciprocal. It applied no less to Maori than the Government.
Is it "reasonable" of them to ask that Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power and Solid Energy should continue to be bound by an obligation on the Crown to observe Treaty principles? I think so; the Crown will remain their major shareholder.

Is it reasonable that those companies might be obliged to consider Maori interests if they ever want to change the flow of rivers or drown land? I think so.

On the Maori side, is it acting "reasonably and in good faith" to invoke the Treaty simply to oppose partial asset sales? I don't think so.

Management of the state's assets is in the Government's sphere.

Protesters forget the Treaty cuts both ways. With good faith on both sides, the Government and the Maori Party can take another big step.

I don't agree. Maori are not invoking the Treaty for the sake of invoking the Treaty. Maori are concerned that 1) if state assets pass in to private hands the government’s ability to settle current and future claims will be affected AND 2) Maori, as well as the Crown, are unsure what rights, if any, Maori have to water resources (i.e. ownership and management rights).

Selling state assets while question 2 is still under consideration breaches the principle of partnership and good faith. The Waitangi Tribunal holds that the Treaty guarantee of rangatiratanga requires a high priority for Maori interests where proposed works may impact on Maori taonga. With this in mind, the Crown is, arguably, obliged to consider Maori interests above private interests. The Crown is also under a duty to actively protect and give affect to property rights, management rights, Maori self regulation, tikanga Maori and the claimants (i.e. Maori) relationship with their taonga. In light of this obligation, it would be inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty for the government to ram ahead with partial privitisation without 1) determining Maori interests 2) giving those interests a “high priority” and 3) actively protecting those interests.

The duty to actively protect is a serious one. New Zealand’s greatest jurist, the late Sir Robin Cooke, held that the Crown’s obligation 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”.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People also supports this position:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

To be fair, the government is consulting Maori and credit to them for doing so. First criteria satisfied. However, article 32(2) – i.e. the article above – sets a requirement for “consent”. Of course, this isn’t binding on the government, but it will guide and inform any decision of the Court.

There is legal authority to support the proposition that Maori have rights to water. Lord Cooke’s obiter statement above, where he implies that Maori have rights to water, is an example. The article above also signals that the UN believes indigenous people have rights to water too. Most significantly though, the Lands case held, roughly speaking, that if the Crown was going to transfer land that was potentially subject to a claim the Crown must take steps to ensure its ability to meet the claims is not adversely affected.

John Key seems to think that no one can own water. Audrey Young's excellent overview holds that this position is correct at common law. However, Maori can, and Te Arawa is an example, own beds, banks, and potentially the airspace above. This, however, ignores the fact that Maori did not distinguish between river beds, lake banks and so on. Beds, banks and the water itself were one in the same – not constituent parts. The Courts can take this into account, and even incorporate this notion into the common law (assuming it does not offend any common law principles), however the Courts have proved reluctant to incorporate Maori customary law into the common law (the recent Takamore case is an example). As an aside, this is unfortunate and, in my opinion, hinders the development of a uniquely New Zealand legal system.

Most significantly, as No Right Turn points out, Maori water rights could persist under the doctrine of aboriginal title, or customary title as it is more commonly known in New Zealand. Customary title is a lesser form of property right than fee simple title (freehold title) and only exists if it has not been extinguished. That's the crux of it there, I think. Was Maori customary title extinguished? I agree with I/S in that I think customary title has been extinguished through various pieces of legislation. I/S holds that this is a breach of article 2 of the Treaty which guarantees Maori rangatiratanga. Of course, we have to look at this through the principles of the Treaty rather than applying the strict meaning of the text so I'm not so sure this is correct.  

For the sake of this post, let’s accept that Maori do not have ownership rights. The Crown is sovereign and, under the Treaty principles, has the right to govern. Okay, Fair enough. Maori do, however, have management rights. The Crown has already explicitly recognised these rights under the Waikato river co-management deal. Ngati Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Raukawa and Tainui all have co-management arrangements with the Crown. Ngati Maniapoto will also, if they have not already, sign a similar deal.

Considering this, at the very least Maori have management rights and the Crown cannot move forward with partial privatisation until those rights are clarified and a regime to recognise and implement them is put in place.

Anywho, back to the main thrust of Roughan piece (you can probably tell I’m not so concerned about his column I just wanted to use it as a springboard for this discussion). I respect John Roughan, but I think he misunderstands the nature of the partnership principle. Maori and the Crown are under different, but in a few instances similar, obligations. The Crown’s obligations are similar to a fiduciary duty. This means the Crown has a legal and ethical duty as the dominant partner. Therefore, if the Crown’s duty is analogous to a fiduciary one, then the Crown must act to a stricter standard. Maori operate under a less onerous standard.

Ultimately, I think Roughan’s piece is based on a shaky premise. Maori are not opposing for the sake of opposing. There are legitimate concerns around Maori rights and the Crown’s actions. Surely, if Maori were opposing for the sake of it, then other iwi would join the fight. This isn’t the case though, in fact iwi have refused to join the legal battle, preferring instead to take a more diplomatic route. Whether this is the right choice, well time will tell, in any circumstance I think it signals the growing maturity of Maori as a people. Then again, it could mean that the iwi elite are trying to gun for private gains for themselves and their iwi, rather than Maori as a whole.

Feb 12, 2012

Holmes: morally repugnant and deeply racist

I don’t read Paul Holmes – the man has no credibility, little sense and somehow, god knows how, his arrogance jumps off the page and strangles anyone in sight. With that in mind, I wasn’t going to give this piece the time of day, but someone needs to call Holmes on his racism.

In the vilest column I’ve ever seen, Holmes comes out swinging against Maori. The column is undeniably racist. At several points Holmes slurs the entire Maori race. For example, Holmes taints Maori as “loony” and “irrational”. The offensive and unfair language he deploys and the overall message of the piece encourages discrimination. Take this, my favourite passage in which Holmes asserts the following:

“No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it. Let them go and raid a bit more kai moana than they need for the big, and feed themselves silly, speak of the injustices heaped upon them by the greedy Pakeha and work out new ways of bamboozling the Pakeha to come up with a few more millions”.

Initially, I was furious with this. Well, I was furious with the whole piece actually, but this paragraph really rarked me up for some reason. After stewing on it, I just found it sad. Sad that someone would say something so nasty, hate filled and utterly unfair. This would go unnoticed in private, but this was published in New Zealand’s leading daily – the Herald. It was totally irresponsible for the Herald to publish Holmes’ hate speech. And that’s what it is, hate speech. Holmes, in the most blatant terms I’ve ever seen, disparages and vilifies Maori, thus encouraging prejudice against Maori. That satisfies the definition of hate speech for me.

Sadly, Holmes doesn’t distinguish between individuals and Maori as a race. Although Holmes’ bases his hate on the actions of a few individuals, he taints the entire Maori race. It’s unfair and it’s racist. What also annoys me is that Holmes is furthering highly offensive and unfair stereotypes.

There is no place for racism in the media. Of course, some people are going to rush to Holmes defence. This is the saddest part. No doubt some people will prasie Holmes for ‘telling it like it is’, but he isn’t telling like it is. Holmes is basing his claims on spurious grounds. He isn’t taking into account the deeper meaning of Waitangi day, he isn’t taking into account the socio-political context and, quite simply, he is misinterpreting the actions of Maori at Waitangi. Waitangi protest needs to be interpreted taking into account the history of the day, the history of Crown-Maori relations and the contemporary political situation. You can’t boil it down to lunacy or irrationality. I guess it goes to show that Holmes mind operates on a very, very shallow level.

Others will defend Holmes right to free speech. A right he undeniably has. However, free speech does not extend to hate speech. The line is drawn when ones speech incites prejudice or disparages another. There is international consensus that hate speech is irrelevant to free speech. Importantly, hate speech is also illegal under both domestic and international law.

Unsurprisingly, Holmes also makes a number of factual errors. For example, he speaks of the “never defined principles of the Treaty”. This is a ridiculous claim. The principles of the Treaty are well defined and are, to quote a legal expert, not vague and unknowable. After over two decades of judicial refinement, the principles are unambiguous.

Holmes then takes aim at breast feeding advocates. This part of the column was just as nauseating as the beginning. No mean feat may I add. Holmes then tops it off with a crude and simplistic reading on the situation in Syria.

He must be in a bad place, old Paul Holmes. I tend to think his column was an attempt to comfort and confirm his own self righteousness. Pretty sad really. If the Herald had any sense (or dignity), they’d sack Holmes. The rubbish he produces is unbecoming of our major daily. You can make comparisons with Michael Laws, but Laws knows where to draw the line – and at least he’s literate. I suspect Holmes is not. He must go.

Over the next few days I’ll be laying a complaint with the Editor of the Herald, Tim Murphy, I’ll also be laying a complaint with the Race Relations Commissioner. Lastly, I’ll be boycotting the Herald as long as Holmes remains. I encourage you to do the same. Send the message that there’s no place for Holmes and his hate in our public discourse.

As an aside, it's interesting to compare the contrast between Holmes piece and this from John Roughan. Where Holmes is offensive, ill considered and rude, Roughan is sober, analytical and fair (even though I don't really agree with what he says, but that's for a post on Monday).

(You can, I think, complain to Tim Murphy at tim.murphy@nzherald.co.nz)

(You can also lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission here)

(For another perspective see this at Reading the Maps, this from TW.com and Danyl writes here)

Feb 9, 2012

Hangi ban? Nonsense

According to Facebook, John Key is going to ban hangi. Not National, not the government, but John Key personally. John Key is going to ban hangi - at least that’s what my newsfeed says. Of course, in reality, John Key is going to do no such thing, nor is his government for that matter.

The rumour seems to have stemmed from concerns with the Food Bill. However, it's my understanding that the bill only covers food exchanges such as selling and bartering. If this is correct, I think it would be safe to place hangi outside of the ambit of the bill - at least when hangi is being prepared and served on the Marae. It would be a different matter if, say, someone was selling hangi to fund raise.

To repeat: John Key is not going to ban hangi. Tell your friends.

Feb 8, 2012

Whanau Ora comes under fire

The Maori Party has come to the defence of Whanau Ora. From Stuff:

The Maori Party has defended a Whanau Ora grant which paid for a 'family reunion', despite New Zealand First leader Winston Peters questioning the entire premise of the scheme.

Whanau Ora is the Maori Party's flagship programme and aims to help families by redirecting funds rather than having multiple agencies working at loggerheads to each other.

In the past questions have been raised about other successful programmes being cut in order to fund Whanau Ora.

Yesterday Peters said about $6 million of tax-payer cash had been "squandered" on a Whanau Ora programme that funded "family reunions".

An official Whanau Ora report showed more than 200 applications for the scheme - known as "Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement funding" - had been accepted, he said.

You have to question the benefit of funding family reunions as opposed to funding, say, uhhm, real social problems. This is bad news for the Maori Party because it undermines the case for Whanau Ora – a case the Maori Party never really made. Although I agree with and support Whanau Ora in principle, I don’t think the Maori Party sold the idea to New Zealand. The party highlighted a structural problem in social service funding and delivery, but Tariana Turia (and to a lesser degree Pita Sharples) never really convinced the public why Whanau Ora was the right response. As a result, support for the program is soft.

Expect Whanau Ora to be a common theme with Winston Peters. Peters has been waging an ideological campaign against the program for some time now. He attacked the program during the election campaign and, more recently, managed to steer a RNZ interview on s9 and the Maori Party into a tirade against Whanau Ora. This isn’t entirely unexpected, Whanau Ora doesn’t play well with Peter’s base, nor blue collar rednecks (Peter’s wider base), but most significantly the Maori Party is an easy target. Poor performers in the House and politically incompetent, the Maori Party is easy meat for Peters. Expect more of this from Winston Peters.

On a side note, none of the Maori Party's MPs were in the House yesterday. I don't know why Turia wasn't, but Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell were attending the opening of a new Kura Kaupapa in Kawerau (Sharples is the Associate Minister of Education and Flavell is the local MP) - I don't think they were hiding from Winston like some have suggested. 

A Maori Holocaust?

The slow news week continues with this non-story:

A Maori academic has been slammed for saying that the colonisation of New Zealand resulted in a holocaust for his people.

Keri Opai, a Taranaki-based language teacher, told a Radio New Zealand discussion that Maori had been through some "awful stuff that really does break down to a holocaust".

He cited the pillaging of Parihaka - where 1600 troops burned houses after being greeted by singing children - as a damning episode, and said many New Zealanders did not realise the extent of the devastation.

There was no direct comparison to the Nazi Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed.

But Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman said calling what happened a holocaust was ignorant and improper.

"It tries to elevate Maori grievances by associating with the Holocaust, and I find it very hard to draw a comparison between the European colonisation of New Zealand and plain genocide," he said.

Firstly, the definition of a holocaust is, roughly speaking, thus: destruction or slaughter on a mass scale. According to the article above, the Maori population fell by over 40% and, as nearly everyone knows, the Maori race was brought near extinction through a combination of war, disease and state sponsored discrimination and depravation. Certainly, this amounts to “a holocaust” in a loose sense of the word. However, I see Goodman’s point. In ordinary usage, the term Holocaust refers to the systematic slaughter of over 6 million Jews. I agree that it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw a link between European colonisation of New Zealand and the Shoah (the Holocaust).

Goodman goes on to say that Keri Opai was “trivialising” the Holocaust. I think this is plain wrong. Opai was taking what you could probably say is the dictionary meaning and applying it to the New Zealand context. Certainly, using the term is hyperbolic, but what’s wrong with that? Hyperbole is a effective language tool.

It’s interesting to note Goodman has revised his statement. Imperator Fish points to the original statement:

It is totally unacceptable for anyone to attempt associating European colonisation of New Zealand with the Holocaust. This is not the first time that Maori have trivialised the Holocaust by trying to associate it with their own perceived grievances. There is absolutely no valid comparison between the settlement of the country and the organised, state sponsored, genocide that was the Holocaust. As a language lecturer Mr Opai is obviously totally ignorant of world history; as an “academic” he should know better. His words are extremely offensive to the Jewish and other communities that were the target of the Shoah.

This is insulting. It’s good to see that Goodman revised his comments, but I reckon he still holds these anti-Maori sentiments. I take particular offence with his description of “perceived grievances” – as if Maori grievances aren’t real – also note how “settlement” is used as opposed to colonisation. Settlement is a neutral word and doesn’t carry the negative implications of colonisation.

Anyway, to my mind, what ever way you look at it this is a non-story.

Feb 6, 2012

Maori issues in 2012

Last year the Parliamentary Library released a number of research papers. The papers deal with selected issues from different portfolio areas. I’ve taken a look at the Maori affairs paper, here are some key points:


It is estimated all historic claims will be settled by 2016 (not 2014 which is National’s “aspirational” date). The relativity mechanism in Tainui and Ngai Tahu’s settlements are expected to be triggered this year or next. The government is expected to respond to the WAI262 report, Ko Aotearoa Tenei, this year.


The Maori Economic Development Panel will present their report in July. The panel will produce a Maori economic strategy and action plan.


The implementation of Whanau Ora is expected to continue. TPK is providing ongoing monitoring. As part of the government and the Maori Party’s plans to restructure TPK, a new high level policy unit will be created and, according to my sources, focus on Whanau Ora.


The discussion phase of the constitutional review will begin in 2013. The review will consider, among other things, Maori electoral participation, Maori seats in government (local and national) and the role of the treaty within New Zealand’s constitutional framework. For some odd reason the only legal expert on the panel is Professor John Burrows.

Feb 5, 2012

On the farcical scenes at Waitangi and the possibility of NZ Day (updated)

News is breaking of some despicable appalling behaviour at Te Tii Marae this morning. From the Herald:

Protesters ignored pleas to show respect at Te Tii Marae this morning, where Prime Minister John Key and fellow politicians were verbally abused during ugly scenes at Waitangi this morning.

Protester Wi Popata heckled prominent Maori MPs regardless of party affiliation, calling Dr Pita Sharples, Te Ururoa Flavell and Hekia Parata "niggers." 

Around six to 10 protesters rushed onto the marae when Mr Key first arrived at 10am, knocking aside members of the media as they moved. Two photographers, including one from the Herald, were seen bleeding after the rush.

This isn’t on. What do these protestors, and I use the term protestors in its loosest sense, expect to achieve? Actions like the above serve only to reinforce negative opinions and galvanise the public against your cause. Of course, these village idiots wouldn’t know the first thing about making gains for Maori. They know how to make a lot of mindless noise, but they don’t know what progress looks like, let alone how to achieve it.

The temperature at Waitangi was always going to be high. Coming on the back of cuts at TPK and the possibility of dropping s9 from new SOE legislation. I don’t think anyone was expecting thug-like protest though. What makes the protestors' actions even worse is that they're playing right into Key's hands. The average Kiwi will sympathise and side with Key in the face of, what appears at the moment, to be thuggish protest. Public opinion was always on the PM's side and that support will solidify in the face of rancorous "Maori's".

There are suggestions that Key wanted this sort of thing to happen. After more than a week of negative headlines Key was, apparently, searching for an event to regain public sympathies. What better time to do this than Waitangi. In the run up to the weekend Key baited Maori - or at least that's how I see it. For example, he promised to talk about hot bottom issues like welfare reform at Te Tii. This intensified feeling following the TPK cuts and s9 controversy.

Anyway, I’ve said time and again, the protest generation is over. Maori have a foothold, the path goes from there. We don’t need to keep alive the fight for things we already have. Maori must work for gains from within. Within Parliament, government, the National Party and the Labour Party. Jodi Ihaka made a salient point this morning when she noted that most of the protestors of the past were sitting at the Copthorne Hotel with the PM – think the Maori Party leadership and the Iwi Chairs Forum. This is where progress will be made, not on protesting one day a year on Te Tii Marae.

These protestors risk reducing Waitangi Day to a farce. It’s all well and good to hold protests. Maori, after all, remain at the bottom on the heap and festering wounds from historical injustice remain. This is to say nothing of contemporary injustices. But you need to have a strategy – a realistic one and one suitable for 2012 conditions. New Zealanders will gladly ditch Waitangi Day for, say, New Zealand day if mindless, violent and intimidating protest continues to occur. Should a New Zealand day come about, Maori will be deprived a legitimate platform to bring attention to Maori concerns and discuss ways forward.

This brings me to another point. I don’t think we need a New Zealand day. Our nation was founded on the signing of the Treaty, therefore, there is a day no more appropriate for celebrating NZ than Waitangi Day. The calls for New Zealand day come from, more often than not, Pakeha who would rather ignore historical and contemporary injustice. People who would rather ignore the fact that the NZ government, and many an average NZ citizen, treated and in some cases continue to treat Maori like crap.

NZ day would be a backward step that would create more racial division rather than less. The significance of the Treaty would be diminished and, as a result, the place of Maori in NZ.

I’m not trying to portray Waitangi Day as a day for Maori to have a piss and a moan. Waitangai Day should be a day for reflection, discussion and, most importantly, celebration. For the past three years, probably not this year, I think we got the balance right. It’s a shame this isolated gang of fools are taking us back a decade or two.

Feb 3, 2012

New Maori Affairs Select Committee

The makeup of the Maori Affairs Select Committee (MASC) was recently announced. The opposition parties love the MASC because National doesn’t have a majority. Of the 12 seats, Labour, the Greens and Mana control six while National holds five. This gives the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell the casting vote. The members of the committee are:

  • Tau Henare (Chair)
  • Parekura Horomia (Deputy Chair)
  • Jami-Lee Ross
  • Katrina Shanks
  • Louise Upton
  • Nicky Wagner
  • Rino Tirikatene
  • Louisa Wall
  • Metiria Turei
  • Hone Harawira
  • Brendan Horan
  • Te Ururoa Flavell

Shanks, Upton and Wagner are not Maori. That’s fine with me, but, in my opinion, non-Maori are at a disadvantage when it comes to the committees work. The other members come to the committee with knowledge of Maori issues, Maori culture, Maori nuances and so on. Those members will find it easier to engage with Maori, grapple with Maori issues and produce conclusions from a Maori perspective.

No surprise to see Tau Henare as Chair or Parekura Horomia as Deputy. Simon Bridges is a notable omission, then again he now chairs the important Finance and Expenditure Committee and has been careful not to pigeonhole himself as a “Maori MP”, rather an MP of Maori descent. 

I find it interesting that the Green’s have inserted Metiria Turei on to the committee rather than a junior Maori MP like Denise Roche. No surprise to see new MPs like Rino Tirikatene and Brendan Horan on the committee. They’ll cut their teeth on what is, pretty much, a friendly committee for opposition members.

The committee is due to report on their inquiry into the determinants of wellbeing for Maori children. I don’t think this inquiry was really necessary, but it will fit well with the growing narrative around child poverty and inequality. Other than that, there isn’t too much to expect from the committee in the coming months.

Feb 2, 2012

More on TPK and the Maori Party

The picture at TPK is becoming a little clearer. Pita Sharples has finally released a statement, a short one at that, expressing his support for staff. Sharples claims:

“How the Ministry manages their fiscal pressures and efficiency dividend is of course an operational matter for management. I expect to be consulted on the Chief Executive’s proposals for how Te Puni Kokiri continues to deliver the most effective services to the public, within the budget they have been allocated,” he said.

Firstly, passing the ball to management is a cop out. But most importantly, Sharples statement is, if one reads between or beyond the lines, a couched endorsement of the cuts. The Maori Party made no secret of their intentions to reform TPK, but I don’t think anyone knew their intentions were to cut jobs.

Winston Peters continues to hammer away at the Maori Party. He accuses the party of gutting TPK as a trade off for increased funding for Whanau Ora. Parekura Horomia also highlights the inadequacy of the Maori Party’s “at the table” argument. Horomia notes that as a Minister outside of Cabinet Sharples was unable to fight for the survival of TPK when Cabinet, or the appropriate Cabinet Committee, was thrashing out the details. However, that logic assumes the Maori Party actually wanted restructuring at TPK to be neutral, meaning no cuts, no increases, just a reshuffle. I tend to think the Maori Party supported cuts all along.

The Maori Party isn’t attacking National’s decision to impose cuts, nor is the party publicly lobbying for cuts to be deferred or cancelled. Instead, the party has remained silent, bar Sharples one statement expressing support for people who are about to lose their jobs. It appears the Maori Party wanted this, they just don’t want to wear the consequences. Hence Sharples attempt to deflect this as an operational matter.

What support the Maori Party clawed back with their threat to leave National has now evaporated. I struggle to see how the party has any future post-2014.

Te Puni Kokiri to face cuts (updated)

Hone Harawira has revealed that Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, is in line for massive cuts:

The restructure of TPK is said to include:
• Major redundancies
• Closure of many branch offices
• Reducing TPK’s role to social issues (education, employment and housing)
• The removal of major responsibilities (economic development, Matauranga Maori including WAI 262, Marae Development, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights, Te Reo Maori, Broadcasting, Land and Resource Development, and Whanau Ora)

This doesn’t come as a surprise. Wellington rumour has had it that TPK was always in the government’s sights, it was just a matter of when.

TPK advises the government, including other government agencies, on all issues Maori. From Maori economic development to Maori social well being. TPK has a $60m budget, employs over 300 staff and operates, from my count, 21 offices including a head office in Wellington. Media reports so far have indicated that 50 jobs will go. This comes on top of 60 redundancies and an $8m funding cut in the last three years.

The Maori Party signalled their intentions to restructure TPK prior to the election. This was consistent with their intentions pre-2008, but upon taking office Pita Sharples backed down and assured TPK employees that there would be no cuts. I would have imagined the Maori Party’s idea of restructuring differed radically from National’s understanding of the word. The Maori Party would be thinking reshuffle, but National would be thinking redundancies. However, judging from the Maori Party's silence on redundancies one can assume that they support the cuts.

In my opinion, TPK probably doesn't need to be restructered. The Ministry has one of the widest briefs of any department, but is, relatively speaking, small in terms of staff numbers and budget. As above, TPK has already downsized significantly, but its workload has increased. In 2010 TPK was tasked with planning, implementing and evaluating the Maori response to the Canterbury earthquake. That same year TPK was given responsibility for developing, implementing and evaluating Whanau Ora.

Sure, TPK has come under fire in the past and rightly so. For example, in 2010 Leith Comer, the CEO of TPK, advised staff not to work so hard following their, in my opinion, excellent work in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake. However, that same year TPK, apparently, rated highly in performance reviews. This contradicts information from TVNZ that TPK was judged the worst performing ministry in an independent survey.

If the government decides to go ahead with a demolition job on TPK the quality of advice Ministers and government agencies receive will be poor to pathetic. The DPMC doesn’t have the in-house capabilities to properly and expertly advise Ministers on Maori issues. No other government agency has the in-house capabilities either. The result will be a government that fumbles Maori issues.

Ordinary Maori will also be hit. Many Maori will lose their jobs if, or when, regional offices are closed. Maori trying to access TPK services, like business grants and advice, will have to deal with a decreased service.

Once again Hone Harawira is on top of this. He's slammed the Maori Party and National. He's taken the high road while the Maori Party is left searching for an appropriate response. Like their response to the s9 controversy, they've found themselves on the back foot. On Closeup last night Pita Sharples didn't show, instead Leith Comer did. Actually, Sharples refused to front any media yesterday. It looks like he's running from this. The same is true today, Winston Peters and Hone Harawira fronted Morning Report and poured acid on the Maori Party and National. Labour also released a statement criticising the cuts.

Hone Harawira, Annette Sykes and even Winston Peters are landing blow after blow on the Maori Party. It's almost cruel to watch, then again they brought it upon themselves.

Come Waitangi day, the government is going to find itself in a tight spot with Maori. S9 was a big issue for Maori and cuts at TPK will be another kick in the guts. Expect a lot of noise come Monday.

Feb 1, 2012

Further comments on the Maori Party's threat

A few commentators have rightly pointed to the Maori Party’s ineptitude around s9 and the new state asset legislation. Treaty clauses are, and have been, central to Maori progress over the past two decades and the Maori Party must have known said clauses would be up for review. After all, the government was open in their intentions to sell state assets, meaning they were open about their intentions to reform the SOE act. The party must have been aware that s9 would come under review.

The party is either 1) receiving poor advice OR 2) whipping up Maori fervour for political gain. I think it’s a bit of both. The Maori Party would have known what was coming when National announced a series of hui to consult Maori. So they were in the loop only a few days ago. They sat on the information for a day, Hone Harawira then found out s9 was up for review and went public with the claim that s9 can stop asset sales proceeding. Hone hogged the headlines and threatened to own what was, in the Maori Party’s eyes, their story. As a result, they went nuclear with the threat to leave, thus reclaiming the story and positioning themselves as the champions of Maori interests. They, the Maori Party I mean, needed to shift left and reposition as the real Maori Party. The party continued to bleed support and, until now, failed to treat the wound. Meaning they continued to drift right and further right. Given this shift, the party needed to steer left and also bust the perception that the party was selling out Maori interests. The perception that the Maori Party were “sell outs” took hold last term and always threatened to sink them.

Like I said yesterday, I don’t think the Maori Party is going to walk. The Prime Minister has put what appears to be a sensible, or elegant as he terms, compromise on the table. A treaty clause will inserted, but it will apply to the government only and not private investors. It wouldn't be a massive loss if the Maori Party accept the deal. In the eyes of Maori they appear to have strong armed the government and, as an added bonus, they get to keep Whanau Ora, the constitutional review, the poverty committee and so on. Most importantly for them, they get to keep a seat at the table – after all their entire re-election was predicated on the fact that the party would occupy a seat at the table.

On the other hand, if the Maori Party cut their losses and leave their survival post-2014 would almost be guaranteed, however it would be open season on the Maori seats. Taking the principled road, read leaving National, would be a move that would go along way towards reclaiming the tino rangatiratanga vote. The Maori Party comes away having reasserted their independence and their credentials as Maori advocates.

Although, having the Maori Party in opposition would leave little room for the Mana Party. There isn’t enough real estate for two Maori Parties in opposition. With that in mind, I’d rather see the Maori Party stay. Better to have a Maori party on each side of the fence (i.e. one in opposition and one in government). Ultimately, the Maori Party will probably stay. This seems to be the opinion of most. But don’t underestimate what a potent issue this is. The Treaty has always meant far more to Maori than it ever has for other New Zealanders.

Morning Report

I'll be on RNZ's Morning Report today sometime between 8.00 and 8.30 . I'll be speaking on the Maori Party's threat to walk away from their deal with National. Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer will be speaking beforehand on s9 of the SOE Act (Sir Geoffrey was the architect of s9). You can stream the show here.

Jones advocates mining

Shane Jones is running an interesting line – a pro-mining line:

The Labour Party says it might come as a revelation to some that not all Maori are opposed to mining and oil drilling.

Maori Economic Development spokesperson Shane Jones says there is a fossilised view that Maori aren't interested or capable of making pragmatic decisions.

While he acknowledges there are been pockets of resistance, Mr Jones says there's a variety of views - not a monolithic one.

He’s right in one respect: there isn’t a singular view. However, I would guess, that the vast, vast majority of Maori oppose mining. Case in point, the almost universal opposition of the East Coast against oil prospecting, let alone oil drilling. In 2010 iwi leaders also rejected government suggestions to mine Maori land and Northland iwi sent a strong message that exploratory miners will be treated as “trespassers”. I think Dayle Takitimu’s open letter to the Maori Party represents Maori feeling well.

It’s interesting to see Shane Jones searching for what he keeps terming “pragmatic” ideas. Jones should be applauded for stepping out, but advocating mining, as I have said previously, runs contrary to Maori values (think kaitiakitanga) and David Shearer’s (read Labour’s) vision for a clean, green and clever economy.

I come back to the idea of hypocrisy. We, as Maori, share a special connection with the land and we like to remind people of this. However, Maori advocacy for mining is out of step with our claims to be the kaitiaki of the land. We cannot, on the one hand, denounce mining as a crime against Papatuanuku, while on the other hand, one of our leaders trumpets mining as a panacea.

Surely other options for economic development exist. For example, aquaculture, like this aquaculture set up in Opotiki, may provide economic growth for Maori on the East Coast. Maori have generations of experience in primary production, therefore, we probably have a competitive advantage when it comes to food production. Aquaculture products, like the sea cucumber which is a sought after delicacy in Chine, are value added products. Any operation on the East Coast would have to deal in value added products as the operation would lack the ability to produce high volumes of product. Therefore, value added products like sea cucumber, lobster/cayfish and so on fit nicely in a low intensity operation.

It isn’t harmful to have a debate about mining. Either way, I think Jones’ idea would be soundly rejected.

Tania Martin takes aim at Te Arataura

Tania Martin, the Chair of Tainui’s Te Kauhanganui, has released the latest Chairperson’s report. The report deals with a number of issues, including comments on the performance of Te Arataura at 9.9 as well as comments on the distribution of Tainui funds at 10.1. Ms Martin notes that:

“we’re (Tainui) spending more and more and distributing less and less”.

The report states that the distribution in the 2009 financial year was 48% of tribal income, but in the 2011 financial year that figure dropped to 22%. Ms Martin juxtaposes the total distribution figure against expense figures. In the 2011 financial year Tainui, or more accurately Te Arataura, spent 65% of tribal income on expenses. Expenses include operational costs like admin and contracting costs.

Ms Matin states “we’re spending more and more” and holds that this is unacceptable. Fair enough. Tribal funds should, in the main, be distributed to tribal beneficiaries rather than towards incredibly high running costs.

The report also comments on the ongoing litigation in Tainui at 11 and cites five cases that have come before the Courts. The report concludes saying that the troubles in Tainui don’t have anything to do with the structure of the tribe, rather the “people in that structure”. I agree, but I also stand by my criticisms of the ridiculous complexity of post-settlement iwi structures. Tainui is the most prominent example. Complexity breeds uncertainty and affords bad characters the ability to muddy the waters with legal obstruction.

Hat tip Eraka's blog