Sep 26, 2012

Why National Standards won't help Maori

With respect, I think Tariana Turia is plain wrong on National Standards. From Waatea:
Associate Education Minister Tariana Turia is backing the release of national standards data as a way to improve the education of Maori children.

Mrs Turia says it’s time for educators and families to step up so the next generation of Maori don’t face a future of unemployment or low-paid work.

“I think Hekia Parata is doing a really good job. People may not like what she’s saying and they may not like what she’s doing but it’s all research-informed, it is taken from research that has been carried out over a number of years, she’s saying ‘we want that for Maori kids too, and we’re going to have it,’” Mrs Turia says.

Well, that’s the thing: the release of National Stadards data will not improve the education of Maori children. The data is meaningless. Firstly, National Standards are neither moderated nor standardised. This renders comparisons between schools largely meaningless.

Secondly, a different set of standards apply to Kura Kaupapa. So when Mum’s deciding to whether to send little Hemi to the local primary or the local Kura, National Standards are a useless guide. To use a tired phrase, you’re comparing apples with oranges. Keri Milne-Ihimaera comments that standards for Kura reflect “a Maori worldview and are quite different”.

Thirdly, National Standards (as they are) tell us nothing we don’t already know. Maori kids are failing. Am I supposed to be surprised by that?

It’s also worth remembering that National Standards are not an innovative new approach to teaching, nor do they encourage new approaches. National Standards represent a yardstick. All we’re doing is measuring Maori kids against where the government thinks those kids should be. Ka Hikitia, Te Kotahitanga, Whakahau Whakamana Whakahihi; these are innovative approaches to teaching. Pity the government is underfunding them.

So, National Standards are about measurement and communication. Apparently parents want to know “in plain English” how well or not so well their child is doing. Well, what happens when the child is branded a failure and the parents are told? Nothing. National Standards, as they are, end there. The $60m spent determining who is below the arbitrary National Standards line would have been better spent on actually helping the underachievers rather than telling them they’re underachieving. Isn’t that just common sense?

Sep 20, 2012

Fisking the Dominion Post

I suspect the author of this editorial in the Dominion Post will be joining John Ansell’s campaign for a White State, or he or she might be applying for membership of the Act Party:

Contrary to the impression created by the bellicose posturing of the Maori king, Maori have not ''always owned the water''.

Scientists estimate New Zealand broke away from the Gondwana supercontinent about 85 million years ago. Give or take a few hundred millennia, that means Maori have inhabited the country for about 0.0009 per cent of the time it has existed as a distinct entity. Rain fell from the skies, coursed down the hills and found its way into rivers, streams and lakes for millions of years before Maori first hauled their canoes up onto beaches, and will continue to do so long after humanity has ceased to exist. Claiming ownership of the water is about as foolish as claiming ownership of the wind, the air or the stars.

Applying the author’s logic, ownership of anything is impossible. After all, Homo Sapiens only appeared 200,000 years ago. Even then, we wouldn’t recognise those first humans as human. That means Homo Sapiens have inhabited the Earth for 0.00004 per cent of the time our planet has existed. Prior to our appearance lava had flowed, glaciers had carved and erosion had shaped the land for 4.5 billion years. As such, “claiming ownership of the [land] is about as foolish as claiming ownership of the wind, the air or the stars”.

Yeah, you see, the author’s logic doesn’t work. We can own tangibles and intangibles and that ownership is not dependant on how long one group or another has inhabited the land. Ownership is a cultural and philosophical construct – it is dependent on what rules we as a group set.

Maori law recognised that hapu were capable of owning water. Those are the legal rules we set. Why, on the arrival of Europeans, does that change? Well, it doesn’t. The Maori legal system may have been supplanted, but that does not mean it didn’t exist and it doesn’t mean that the Maori legal system is not part of the New Zealand common law.

Many commentators think that just because they say something then that makes it so. Well, it doesn’t. You need to put your view in a historical, philosophical, cultural and legal context. That’s something that opponents of Maori water rights have failed to do. They just say “yeah, na, Maoris don’t own the water” and that’s the end of that. But that doesn’t make it so. A river cannot flow without water and an argument cannot stand without evidence.

The author continues:

Water cannot be owned; water rights can be, but they are a different thing and come with lesser entitlements. Conflating the two antagonises non-Maori, raises Maori expectations to levels that cannot be satisfied and undermines public support for the settlement of historic grievances.

Again, there is no elaboration on the point. Apparently some people think that Maori non-ownership is self-evident and they do not need to raise any arguments in favour of their points. Yeah… na. If water cannot be owned, how can the government allocate rights to water? We can attach value to and commodify water, aren’t these characteristics of ownership? How could hapu exclude others from using water if they didn't own it? Like the Waitangi Tribunal said, “property rights go to the heart of a just legal system”. 

Property rights also go to the heart of western society. The Right like to extoll the values of western society, except when those values apply to brown folk. In these situations the rules change. Take, as one example, the titan of property rights – failed Act leader and failed Minister Rodney Hide. Hide is a staunch defender of property rights, except when claimed by brown folk because that would undermine “certainty”. Hide is a fierce opponent of communal ownership, except when brown folk are claiming property rights because that would harm “race relations”.

The claim that Maori do not own water is simply untrue. We owned water under our laws and the Crown did not extinguish those rights nor did Maori relinquish them. Maori ownership of water didn’t cease to exist in 1840. After all, the Treaty affirmed Maori property rights. There is not an arbitrary line before which Maori owned water and after which Maori did not own water. In any event, the onus is not on us to prove we have ownership rights, the onus is our opponents to prove why not. And just saying we don't doesn't count. 

For the outstanding analysis on the Wai issue see this post from Tim Selwyn at Tumeke 

Sep 14, 2012

The Kingitanga hui and what it means for NZ

Well, I never would have picked it, but I’m glad to see it: Kingi Tuheitia is fulfilling the promise of the Kingitanga. That promise is the promise of unity.

Over 1000 Maori responded to the Kingitanga’s call for a national hui on water rights. Attendees included the Iwi Leaders Group, the Maori Council, the Federation of Maori Authorities, representatives from all major iwi (both post and pre-settlement iwi), hapu representatives, the Maori Women’s Welfare League and religious representatives.

What did the hui decided?

The hui passed several resolutions including a directive for all iwi to withhold from negotiating with the government only or until the government negotiate for a national solution. The King, Tumu Te Heu Heu, Eddie Durie and others will select the negotiation team. If that fails there is an obligation on iwi and those Maori groups in attendance, including the Iwi Leaders Group, to fall behind and support the Maori Council in litigation.

Speaker after speaker clearly articulated one thing: Maori always have had and retain rights and interests in water. However, there was no consensus on whether or not those rights amounted to ownership. Sir Tumu Te Heu Heu and Mark Solomon, the most powerful iwi leaders, refused to endorse the view that Maori own water. Sir Eddie Durie, Moana Jackson and others endorsed the view, implicitly and explicitly, that Maori own water. Although there was no outright consensus on ownership, opinion was heavily weighted towards holding that Maori do own water.

What does this mean for Maori water rights?

The government is cornered. Maori have explicitly rejected the iwi by iwi approach.

Maori can now take a united position to the government and challenge them to accept, negotiate or rebut. The tables have turned and, I would argue at least, Maori hold the dominant bargaining position. After all, Maori have leverage. We can invite the government to negotiate, and if they refuse, we take our fall-back position – Court action. While the issue is before the Courts an injunction would operate preventing the sale of any assets until the issue is resolved. An injunction, in contrast to negotiation, would spell the death of asset sales.

Of course, negotiation does not mean Maori will get all that the hui had hoped for. Ownership is anathema to non-Maori New Zealanders, and even some Maori, and would be a bridge too far in negotiations. If Maori push ownership, that will force the government to play their trump card – legislation. The Iwi Leaders Group know this, hence their emphasis on rights (e.g. allocations rights) and interests (e.g. kaitiaki/guardianship interests).

Assuming negotiation goes ahead, we are in a strong position to push for the creation of a national framework for recognising Maori rights and interests in water and compensating for the use and/or breach of those rights. The key, and what deft negotiators like Tamati Kruger will tell you, is not to push Pakeha patience too far. 

So, in effect, we will achieve clarity over our rights in one of three ways. 1) through negotiation 2) through the Courts or 3) through legislation. 

The first option gives Maori the most room to achieve resolution. The second option favours the Maori position, but the Courts rule on narrow legal issues. Considering the aim is for the broad recognition of Maori rights, the Courts and a legalistic approach appears unsuitable. The third option will destroy our rights, in other words the government will legislate over any rights we have. This is the worst outcome - obviously.

How will the government respond?

Again, the government is cornered. They can stand by the iwi by iwi approach, but that is an open invite for Court action. The government’s chances of winning are now less than even. Legislation is an option, but that is messy. Maori are united on this issue and will respond violently (figuratively speaking) to any legislation. Fool me once, shame on me (the Foreshore and Seabed Act), fool me twice, shame on you (the MCA Act), fool me three times, you are a dead man (figuratively speaking and in reference to water rights legislation).

Negotiation is the cleanest option and, like I discussed in a previous post, it is in the Prime Minister’s nature. He is a deal-maker.

Negotiation will shut down Maori opposition. If progress is made and seen to be made Maori can be co-opted on this issue.

The government has shown a remarkable lack of foresight. They had the chance to co-opt iwi when they first floated the idea of asset sales. Mark Solomon met with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister early in the government’s first term. The three discussed asset sales, what it would mean for Maori and how Maori would be involved. Obviously, the talks came to nothing. The Prime Minister has continually ruled out any preferential treatment for iwi. In light of recent events, this was incredibly stupid and short-sighted move.

Considering all of the options, I think the government will take their chances in a fight. Their legitimacy as a government that can govern is at stake. And, of course, New Zealanders will unite against the Maoris and their pesky rights and demands.

What will be the end result?

Too hard to call. I hope for negotiation. Although I believe Maori ownership was never extinguished, the best move is for our people to compromise and settle for the recognition of certain rights and interests. It would stupid to push the government too far. After all, Treaty partners compromise – and that cuts both ways. I do not want to see race relations “set back 100 years”. And that will be the result if Maori hold a gun to the government’s head (figuratively speaking).

Sep 13, 2012

Job losses in the Eastern Bay of Plenty

Noske Skog (NS), the main tenant at the Tasman Mill, will halve production resulting in the loss of over 100 jobs. Small job losses have occurred across the Mill for several years. The last significant lay-off occurred in the 1990s.

What the media, and politicians for that matter, have failed to grasp is the flow-on effect the cuts will have. Support industries in Kawerau and the Eastern Bay of Plenty will have to downsize significantly. There are several engineering and construction firms in the region who rely on the health of NS and the other tenants at the Tasman Mill. With this in mind, the job losses will be well in excess of the 120 set to go at NS.

Carter Holt Harvey (CHH), who also operate at the Tasman Mill, supply NS with pulp for the manufacture of newsprint. With the downsizing at NS, demand for pulp from CHH will fall 20%, at the moment NS constitutes 40% of CHH’s demand. As a result, CHH will be forced to downsize as well. This will push job losses higher still.

The Tasman Mill is the second largest industrial power user in New Zealand. The Mill is supplied by an on-site geothermal power station. With a decline in production at NS and CHH there will be reduced demand for power. This may result in job losses at the power station (which is owned and operated by Mighty River Power by the way). Again, this would push job losses higher still.

These job losses will cut a gash in the Eastern Bay of Plenty economy. The Mill is the largest single employer in the region and the source of many of the regions middle-income jobs.

Those affected by the downsizing, and the region as a whole, are crying out for government support. However, as of today, the government has failed to respond with anything substantive other than “everything will sort itself out” and "Biofuels! Biofuels!", despite his government cancelling biofuel requirements. This response fits well with the government’s non-existent strategy for the manufacturing sector and their apathy towards provincial economies. Oh, and I’m sure their response has nothing to do with the Mill workforce been entirely unionised and nothing to do with their 50 year history of union activism.

David Cunliffe spoke to Morning Report on the issue and, in contrast with the government, discussed solutions including easing volatility in the exchange rate, thus making conditions more favourable for export. The contrast between Cunliffe and the government (and Cunliffe and his colleagues) could not be more stark.    At least the people of Kawerau and the Eastern Bay of Plenty know where to place their vote in 2014.  

Sep 12, 2012

Why I'm not besotted with the Tuhoe settlement

We’ve seen some big claims over the past few days. Words like “elegant” and "monumental” have been thrown around to describe Tuhoe’s settlement with the Crown. Significant, yes, practical, yes, but I think the deal falls short of elegance and monumentality.

The deal includes a cash settlement worth $170m; this figure includes the $62m the tribe received from the Treelords deal. Adjusted for inflation $170m in 1996 dollars would buy roughly $221m today. In other words, Tuhoe have received a smaller cash settlement than Tainui and Ngai Tahu despite suffering comparable grievances. You can argue otherwise, but I don’t buy it. You can also argue Tainui and Ngai Tahu are larger, but I don’t buy that argument either. The main factor in determining the price of any settlement should be the degree or degrees of grievance.

The settlement also includes ‘mana motuhake’, or a watered down version of mana motuhake. Tuhoe will be given control of social services in their rohe, but other government responsibilities will remain with the Crown. In effect, mana motuhake is another way of saying Whanau Ora, or the devolution of social services.

Having said that, both sides acknowledge that mana motuhake might, or in Tuhoe’s view will, open possibilities to develop full autonomy and this, I think, is thoroughly appropriate. Tuhoe have always maintained that they are an independent nation. In 1896 Parliament acknowledged, or partially acknowledged, Tuhoe independence with the passage of the Urewera District Native Reserve Act. The Act provided for Tuhoe self-governance.

The third significant aspect of the settlement is Te Urewera. The government has opted for their favourite solution to Maori ownership problems – claiming no one owns it. What is now Te Urewera National Park will be vested in a new legal identity and managed by an equal number of Tuhoe representatives and Crown representatives. Positively, and in accordance with Tikanga Maori, decisions will have to be reached by consensus meaning both sides will have the power to veto.

Unfortunately, this is where Tuhoe have been forced to compromise most significantly. Full ownership has always been a bottom line. Full ownership would mean the full restoration of Tuhoe’s mana over their tribal lands. After all, Tuhoe is Te Urewera and Te Urewera is Tuhoe.

Taken as a whole, the deal is less than what many hoped for and less than I expected. The cash aspect falls short, mana motuhake appears to be another name for Whanau Ora and the “no one owns it” approach to the Ureweras does not properly acknowledge Tuhoe’s mana.

None of this detracts from the outstanding work of Tuhoe, especially Tamati Kruger who Yvonne Tahana rightly praises. Tim Selwyn points out that:

All the chips and all the cards in this game are held by the NZ government and they can deal out however many they want to whoever they want and follow whatever rules they themselves make up, so when they say "negotiation" that's not really as wholesome as it would first appear. And when the NZ government says they drove a hard bargain - as Helen Clark used to remind people - all they are saying is that from their position of overwhelming power they have screwed the Iwi over.

Viewed in this light, the deal Tuhoe have managed to drive is arguably a good one.

In the end it’s up for Tuhoe to decide whether or not this is a good bargain. I whakapapa to Tuhoe and I think the deal should and could have been better, but from what I’ve seen most Tuhoe are pleased with the deal and are optimistic. This is a new chapter for Tuhoe and many believe the first step towards their autonomy and the full restoration of their mana. Tamati Kruger is eyeing a 40 year timetable for autonomy, I’m eyeing a shorter timetable.

Sep 11, 2012

Feeding the kids

Yeehah! The Labour Party has thrown out some policy bites and they're getting a reaction.

The last two days have all been about Labour's Education policy. Feeding our starving students at school is a winner.

When National come out opposing it they'll look like child haters. When they come out and say they're already doing it, then Labour can say, they ain't doing enough. When National say that it's a parents job to feed their own children, Labour will say, "That's true, but it ain't happening, because National has let 270,000 children slide under the poverty line, and we're not prepared to let our children starve."

TVNZ Breakfast had David Shearer on the front foot and National were merely reactionary. The tables turned just like that, simply because Labour threw out a juicy morsel and waited for the hounds to pounce.

They weren't disappointed. They've received some praise, some reaction has been rabid, but most importantly Labour haven't been ignored.

Michael Laws on RadioLive got former ACT MP Debra Coddington to 'fess up that her local Decile 7 school provides breakfast for students.

Gawd, if wealthy families are starving, then it must be a famine for the low decile families this policy is going to help. John Key was meant to help our children, not starve them. How could he let this happen?

Good on you Labour, keep throwing these policy bites out and revel in the attention. I just hope there's more to come, not just in education, but hit the government where they are vulnerable - housing, health, poverty and unemployment. While National are floundering in the negativity and distraction of the water rights and state assets mess, Labour have the perfect opportunity to score more positive hits.

Kelvin Davis

Sep 6, 2012

Shame on the Maori Party

Question: why would the Maori Party say that they “don’t see the point” in attending the Kingitanga’s national hui? Answer: incompetence.

It’s a familiar pattern. The Maori Party repeat the government position, they come under attack for doing so, 24 to 48 hours later they switch sides, possibly remembering that they are the ‘Maori Party’. If this was an innocuous issue, there would be little to no consequence in endorsing the government’s position. The thing is, it’s not. This leads me to the second question, how will the Maori Party’s position effect Maori opposition. Answer: immensely.

A fragmented opposition is easier to neutralise than a united opposition. The Kingitanga and the Maori Party are power structures in Maori society. Together, they represent a threat to the government’s objective to divide and rule, split, and they represent no threat at all.

In rejecting the Kingitanga’s national hui and assuming this is “a thing iwi/hapu have to work out themselves”, the Maori Party have endorsed divide and rule. Their stupidity amazes me. An iwi by iwi approach will give the government the opportunity to exploit differences and jealousies between iwi. The result, aside from the results I outlined in the previous post, will be a reduction in the price of any bargain, especially in the case of pre-settlement iwi. A useful analogy is with trade unionism. As a collective, workers have more power and the chance to drive a better bargain. As individuals, the bargaining power is weighted towards the employer and as a general rule a lesser bargain is struck. It blows my mind that the Maori Party allow the divide and rule approach to stand.

Moving away from the Maori Party, the third question is will the Kingitanga pressure Waikato-Tainui negotiators to refuse a deal that excludes a national solution? The answer: yes.

Tom Roa, the chair of Te Arataura (Waikato-Tainui’s executive committee), has expressed his approval of the government’s iwi by iwi approach. Presumably Roa will play a key role in negotiations. However, the Kingitanga have access to Roa and their word will be persuasive.

Tumu Te Heu Heu, the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa and member of the Iwi Leaders Group, presumably agrees with Roa too. However, Ngati Tuwharetoa follow the Kingitanga too, therefore the King has the mana to lobby Tuwharetoa to switch positions.

Of the other major iwi affected, Te Arawa and Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Maniapoto support the Kingitanga. Te Arawa don’t per se, but Ngati Pikiao host the poukai (the only iwi in Te Arawa to do so). In any event this will not stop the Kingitanga from lobbying.

With this in mind, the last question is: will the negotiators for Waikato-Tainui, Ngati Tuwharetoa and the other affected iwi take heed and refuse a deal that excludes a national solution? The answer: on the balance of probabilities, they’ll take the deal.

The rhetoric from key figures in Waikato-Tainui seems to indicate they will take the iwi by iwi deal. The Herald reported that figures in Waikato-Tainui have pressured pre-settlement iwi to take a deal on ‘credit’. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of divide and rule in action. The larger iwi who stand to make a commercial windfall will pressure other iwi to take a deal as well, regardless of whether those iwi have the structures in place to negotiate, accept and manage the results of a deal. There is nothing in the public domain that supports a different conclusion.

Maori, what we need is unity, unity and more unity. Having some iwi take a deal while excluding a national solution will cause more harm than good in the long run. Having the Maori Party endorse the government’s divide and rule approach will do more harm than good. Whatever way you look at it, we’re getting let down by some of our leaders. Good on the Kingitanga, the Maori Council, the Mana Party and most iwi for supporting a national solution. Shame on the Maori Party for supporting the government’s solution and shame on some in Waikato-Tainui for putting their own interests ahead of what’s good for our people.

Sep 4, 2012

What the asset sales delay means for Maori

As the dust settles, the government’s decision to delay is looking less and less attractive. Only affected iwi will be consulted, meaning a pan-Maori solution has been rejected, the shares-plus idea has been rejected and the Cabinet have unilaterally imposed a tiny consultation period. So for iwi who are not Waikato-Tainui, this is a loss.

What the delay means for Maori

Well, we are no closer to establishing what rights and interests Maori have and how far those rights and interests extend. The Waitangi Tribunal have given us a guide, but the rejection of a pan-Maori solution means we will not receive a definitive statement.

A pan-Maori settlement would have clarified what rights and interests we have and how they should be compensated. However, an iwi by iwi approach is a buy-off process for the government. The government will, iwi by iwi, purchase their complicity.

Essentially, it’s divide and rule. The government will drive a wedge between iwi. On one end, the government will co-opt iwi who are affected by the sale of Mighty River Power, including the powerful Waikato-Tainui, while on the other end the government will marginalise iwi who are not affected. Those iwi that stand to drive a deal, think Waikato-Tainui, will then apply pressure on other iwi to drop their opposition. In effect, those iwi who are co-opted will be doing the government’s work for them.

It’s all very clever, pats on the back all round, but none of this will prevent the Maori Council filing Court action.

The legal position

The government’s decision to delay and consult is also a move to mitigate the legal risk. The Court will look more favourably on a government that appears to be acting in good faith. It’s no coincidence that the word “good faith” is repeated ad nauseam. However, the government is wrong in thinking that the appearance of good faith will insulate them against a negative Court judgment. The government’s solution, even if proven that it was conceived and implemented in good faith, is still a breach of the principles of the Treaty.

The central question, however, will be whether or not Maori have an ownership interest in water. The Waitangi Tribunal’s report answers in the positive, quite emphatically too. Even if the Court finds Maori have interests less than ownership, there are strong grounds to argue a breach of the Treaty.

After all, the Crown is under a duty to “actively protect” Maori property rights, management rights and our relationship with our taonga. To quote Cooke P, as he then was, this obligation is not “passive but extends to the active protection of the Maori people in the use of their lands and waters to the fullest extent practicable”. The government, it can be argued, has undermined Maori rights rather than actively protect.

Should the issue reach Court, and that seems likely with the government rejecting a pan-Maori solution, then Maori have a better than even chance at establishing ownership rights and solid case for establishing a breach.

The politics of the issue

The politics is chaotic. The referendum opposing the sales will gather enough signatures in the next few weeks. The signatures will be verified and that will trigger a referendum that must be held within the year. The government, however, will not be stupid enough to schedule the referendum before the sale of Mighty River Power.

However, what complicates opposition to asset sales is opposition to Maori rights. Arguably, opposition to the latter is stronger than opposition to the former. Therefore, any deal that Maori sees Maori gain a slice of MRP would increase opposition against the sales.

Most New Zealanders also see asset sales for the train wreck that it is. History, I think, will not look favourably on this government’s political management. There are further bumps to come. Court action, further tension with the Maori Party and so on. Whatever way you look at it, this isn’t going to be a clean.

What happens now?

The government will undertake a 5 week consultation period with iwi affected. Although the Prime Minister has stated that shares-plus is not favoured, Chris Finlayson has indicated if iwi can make a strong case for shares-plus then the government will listen. The shares-plus option could include golden shares, a board position(s), a place in the constitution of the company and so on. I can almost assure you that Waikato-Tainui will take the deal – they’ll do what’s in their commercial interests – while the smaller and in some cases pre-settlement iwi will bow to the pressure to do the same.

The Maori Council is the unknown quantity in this equation. The government and the Maori Party will meet with the Council. The next step, assuming the government and Maori Party cannot placate the Council, will be Court action. More iwi, I predict, would join the action too. Court action, even if the government wins, is the worst possible outcome. An injunction would operate while the issue is before the Courts, and it could be before the Courts until 2014, meaning that an injunction rather than an unfavourable judgment would derail asset sales. Whatever way you look at it, this isn't going to be clean. 

More to come as the issue progresses. 

Sep 3, 2012

NZEI adds its voice to call for compulsory Te Reo Māori

It’s fantastic to see that the NZEI, New Zealand's largest education union, has come out in support of compulsory Te Reo in schools. This follows trade minister Tim Groser’s comments in April this year when he said Te Reo Māori should be taught to all New Zealand children from when their 5 years old. Strong evidence shows that teaching children more than one language at an early age will strengthen their abilities in not just language but in education and life more broadly also.

“NZEI National President, Ian Leckie says the organization agrees with the Trade Minister Tim Groser who says every five year old in New Zealand should be taught Maori.”

The support from the NZEI for this cause is heartening and shows not only increasing tolerance and pride in Te Reo from mainstream communities but also a commitment to ensuring the continued revival of our indigenous language and culture.

Ian Leckie went on to say, "inevitably there would need to be additional resources provide for additional staff and to upskill current teachers"

This is the key point. If the Government has the vision and intelligence to start to implement compulsory Te Reo then we can train many more Te Reo teachers in the near future and provide quality professional development to the current staff. If we do this, we will be well on the way towards bilingualism as a nation.

We know that Te Reo is still in a dire situation. Implementing this policy will be one sure way of seeing Te Reo being spoken widely and comfortably in mainstream society.

The latest census figures on Māori language use from 2006, show that only about 24% of the Māori population are able to hold a conversation about everyday things in Te Reo, in other words they have a good level of fluency. Of the 157,100 people (or 4% of the total New Zealand population) who could speak Māori in 2006, 84% were Māori.

These statistics are deeply concerning, and show we need a dramatic step change in Government policy and resourcing for the Te Reo sector. I like many of the suggestions from the Government’s review panel, Te Paepae Motuhake, including establishing a ministry for Te Reo Māori, and by helping iwi to lead the revitalization effort. It’s true that iwi should lead their local revitalization with an emphasis on normalizing Te Reo in homes. But we also need a strong Government strategy, focusing on education and broadcasting.

It would be good to see some leadership on this from within Parliament. There should be a cross party approach. There is clearly a growing momentum for this kaupapa.

Asset sales delay: initial thoughts

In politics, it’s better to bend a little than to break. With that in mind, the government has decided to delay the sale of Mighty River Power until 2013. Today the Prime Minister announced the delay and signalled the government’s intention to consult “relevant iwi”, read the Iwi Leaders Group.

As I outlined last week, this was the cleanest option. Even if the government backed themselves in Court, an injunction preventing the sale of MRP would operate until the issue was settled. So, no matter what option was taken, a delay was inevitable. The government has played the best of a bad hand.

Depending on your perspective, this can be a win or a loss. A win in the sense that the government is preparing to recognise Maori water rights, or at least that appears to be so. A loss in the sense that asset sales will be delayed not derailed.

Note that there is still potential for litigation. However, litigation at this point would be an epic strategic mistake. The consultation period, even if it is not the consultation process the Tribunal envisaged, must be allowed to take its course. After all, Maori are in a strong position. The legal position is weighted in our favour. Even if the law favoured the Crown, Maori need only show an arguable case for an injunction to be granted. As mentioned, an injunction that operates beyond 2013 would derail asset sales entirely. Litigation also pushes the government closer to their fall-back position – legislation – in any world that’s a bad outcome.

The Maori Party are now more important than ever. The party must act as an intermediary between iwi and the government. They cannot fall-back on acting as a conduit for the Iwi Leaders Group. The government prefers to deal with the Iwi Leaders, but they represent the commercial interests of our richest iwi rather than the cultural and commercial interests of all iwi, especially pre-settlement iwi. The Maori Party must ensure that the Iwi Leaders don’t have a monopoly on the consultation process. More to come tomorrow.