Dec 9, 2013

The Meaning of Mandela

Mandela was part of a radical anti-colonial movement.
Pictured are heroes of the movement at the
Riviona trials.
Revisionism isn’t an event. It’s a process. A sustained exercise in narrative-building. We’ve seen it every hour since the 6th of December when Nelson Mandela died. Mandela’s beliefs and legacy have been white washed. Pun intended. 

In a report on the 7th One News recounted the toolshed version of Mandela’s life. They praised his commitment to reconciliation and added, as a conclusion, that it made him:
“An exception on a continent with a bloody history of long-serving autocrats and violent coups”.

Coming from the perspective that I do, I thought that One News was referring to the “bloody history of long-serving” colonial autocrats and thugs. But I know better than that. The idea that Mandela was above other post-colonial heads of government and state is part of a pattern. The effect is to elevate Mandela above the struggle rather than acknowledge his position as part of the struggle.

But the problem isn’t unique to New Zealand. Nor has it taken the same form every time. The trend has been towards sanctification by reconciliation. Ed Miliband touches on it in the Guardian writing that Mandela’s “spirit of reconciliation” has “been so widely acknowledged in the days since his death”, but he pushes back against that narrative – admittedly in the innocuous way that politicians do – and writes that “the liberation of South Africa was won by a movement”. But the strongest push back has come from people of colour.

Musa Okwonga has written a storming piece: “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel”. Okwonga launches a fiery critique of the revisionists who will forget Mandela’s “Malcolm X” and only emphasise his Martin Luther King Jnr. 

Yet why does it matter? Mandela was a reconciliator too. It matters because the meaning of Mandela is more than reconciliation, more than forgiveness for the oppressors. Teju Cole captured the absurdity of it all: 

“The prisoner finally dies. The torturers take a moment to praise him (to praise themselves). Then they return to work”.

A lime quarry on "The Island" where Mandela and
others would work in prison. 

In his head, his heart and in his bones Mandela was a humanist. He lived ubuntu. But his humanism didn’t only manifest in his unhuman capacity for forgiveness: it manifested in his anti-colonialism, his anti-imperialism, his commitment to armed resistance. But those aspects of Mandela are at risk of being forgotten. How many media outlets have aired Mandela’s recent views on US and UK foreign policy and the conflict in Iraq and Palestine? Very few. It may seem strange to quote Robert Mugabe, but he captures what Mandela was to people of colour: he was “the great icon of African liberation… [a] freedom fighter”.

But for the white establishment, Mandela represents something different. He represents reconciliation. Writer and historian of colour Jelani Cobb is right in arguing that, for the white establishment: 

“[Mandela’s] capacity to emerge from twenty-seven years in prison without bitterness broadcast the hope that this country’s own racial trespasses might be forgiven”. 

Framing Mandela as a figure only of or primarily of forgiveness is self-interested.

The four former colonies of the Anglosphere share a common history with South Africa.  All are former English colonies and have forged their national identities on that basis. And all have committed atrocities against their indigenous and non-white populations. Indeed, de jure apartheid was partly modelled on Jim Crow laws from the United States and the Indian Act from Canada. 

New Zealand took a different trajectory. (Less brutal, thankfully). But it’s still in the white establishment’s interest to highlight, to celebrate and to push upon us their interpretation of Mandela. Highlighting his reconciliatory aspects gives the white establishment hope that Maori might – no, should! – let go of the past and let the status quo remain.

But that misunderstands the meaning of Mandela. He knew reconciliation was a moral response, but more so it was a matter of survival. When Mandela was released from prison he entered a world that was vastly different from the one he left. Neoliberalism was ascendant and the post-colonial project had collapsed in comparator countries. In Zimbabwe capital flight had ruined the economy and incompetent government had destroyed the optimism of liberation. Closer to home the far right had armed itself and the government security apparatus was sowing tensions between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC. Although it would have been just to arrest, prosecute and imprison the criminals of apartheid it would've ended the post-colonial project by civil war. First and foremost, Mandela was a shrewd politician who knew how to achieve what he needed to achieve. 

Mandela the radical on a commerative
Soviet stamp.

So Mandela emerged at that rare moment where “idealism and pragmatism were practically indistinguishable”. The white establishment honours Mandela’s idealism because it dignifies their argument that people of colour should forget history and move on, but people of colour know that Mandela's real idealism was his commitment to the post-colonial movement.

It has to be remembered that Mandela:

“Was always a maverick within the ANC… In the 1940s and 1950s, when the ANC was the preserve of conservative ‘Black Englishmen’, he advocated taking up arms and fomenting insurrection”. 

Mandela sanctioned armed resistance right to the very end of the apartheid regime.

So don’t forget that Mandela was as much Malcolm X as he was Martin Luther King Jnr. Don’t forget that it is self-serving for the white establishment to portray Mandela as a jesus-like fount of forgiveness ready to absolve the oppressors of all crime and retain the status quo. It is true that Mandela was a source of moral authority. But don’t forget that he was more than that. Anti-colonial, anti-imperial, a liberator and a radical. Amandla!

Post script: I wrote this out of frustration. On reflection, it wasn’t the right headspace. But if I had written it in contemplation, in peace, the words wouldn’t have come. I would have liked to have written a tribute rather than a rant. But words are too small for him. The meaning of Mandela goes deeper than words can. 

Dec 5, 2013

The Golliwog is back (and still racist)

The Golliwog in a minstrel show

It's back. Scandal stalks the Golliwog. Its perpetual return is always greeted with a customary defence and the pattern repeats itself every few years. Today it was Sean Plunket's turn on the stump:

If you can't stomach it, the short version is this: a series of justifications are offered including "it is a doll", where’s the "injustice" in a doll and "we" live in a "massively" tolerant and colourblind society.

He might be right on the last point, though. But only if "we" means people of the same race and gender as Plunket. It's not right if "we" means people like Plunket and people on the margins too, the same people that the Golliwog is a caricature of.

The Golliwog’s return isn't about people of colour reappropriating a caricature. It's about white adults reclaiming the racism of their childhood. Yet the primary problem isn’t that some New Zealanders are nostalgic for the racism of yonder, but that a new generation will be brought up on the myth that the Golliwog is a cultural artifact and a childhood tradition. Generations of children have been socialised into race-relations off of the back of the Golliwog. But the reality is that the Golliwog is a form of historical and contemporary trauma.

People who want to revive the Golliwog probably don’t want to perpetuate racism. But the two can’t be divorced. The Golliwog is to playtime what blackface is to performance. They’re caricatures that are interwoven with the violent oppression of people of colour. The Golliwog was used to reinforce stereotypes about black appearance and character. The wild eyes and hair spoke to black appearance, but the real message was that blacks were wanton. The big lips represented black appearance too, but the outlandish redness reinforced the stereotype that blacks were hyper-sexualised.

The Golliwog is the politics of oppression manifest. Indoctrinating young people with caricatures of people of colour made justifications for and acts of oppression easier. That's partly why it's a false comparison to compare the Golliwog against GI Joe or caricatures of white peoples (like Plunket did). The context above puts a lie to that comparison. But the fact that some people don't get that means the Golliwog isn’t dead and buried yet.

Post script: for context, there's been comment recently on the prominence of Golliwogs in Canterbury. But what sparked the Plunket interview was the sale of Golliwogs in an Invercargill shop. Golliwogs are still sold in other parts of New Zealand too. I know of a children's store in Hamilton that was selling Golliwogs this year (and probably still does). 

Nov 26, 2013

Winning in Te Tai Hauauru

The Maori Party has revealed that six candidates will contest the nomination for Te Tai Hauauru. From the party website:

Hundreds of Maori Party members from throughout the electorate gathered at Whangaehu Marae south of Whanganui yesterday to hear from the six nominees and cast their vote... The nominees are: 
  • Frana Chase; 
  • Rahui Katene; 
  • James Makowharemahihi; 
  • Christopher McKenzie; 
  • Amokura Panoho; 
  • Pakake Winiata.

With the exception of Rahui Katene, these aren't big names. Or put it this way: there isn't a Julian Wilcox. But the party doesn't need a name candidate. Tariana Turia's endorsement and support could be enough to keep the electorate in Maori Party hands. It'd be reckless - and more than unfair - to underestimate the respect and support Tariana has earnt and enjoys. Ken Mair makes an important point, though - "we aren’t looking for a candidate to fill Tariana’s shoes. We are looking for a candidate to carve a new path".

The Maori Party needs to rebuild its identity. The Maori renaissance is over and the post-settlement era is beginning. Tariana and Pita Sharples were - and to some extent still are - central figures from the Maori renaissance. New hands are needed to redevelop what a Maori party looks like in 2013. Being loosely pro-Maori doesn't cut it when three other parties can credibly claim the same rationale (Greens, Labour, Mana).

There's increasing political choice in the Maori electorates. Labour's monopoly is over and the two-way battles of 2005 and 2008 were short lived. Four parties can credibly claim that they're contenders. In an environment where each seat is contested vigorously the Maori Party needs to have something more. New blood is better positioned to redefine the contract between the Maori Party and Maori society than the old hands. That's why the decision in Te Tai Hauauru might be the most important decision the party makes. Good luck to them.

Nov 20, 2013

Living in the age of racism without racists: Andrew Shaw and TVNZ part II

Are the "Yes" voters absolved of their racism because
they didn't intend to be racist? On TVNZ's definition - yes
H/T The Jackalman

The shovels are out at TVNZ and they’re digging deeper and deeper. But the question is who or what do they throw in the hole? The defendant Andrew Shaw, the spokesperson Megan Richards or TVNZ’s conscience and credibility? Pacific Eye Witness reports:

A TVNZ Spokesperson says they are horrified that people have interpreted what Andrew Shaw said to be “taken to mean something that was never intended – that’s why Andrew has apologised to anyone who may have been offended either at the event or after.”

Regan Cunliffe is right: how can you be “horrified that a joke about race was interpreted as being racist”? The answer is easy, but hard to swallow. We live in an age of “racism without racists”.

There’s a sting in being labelled a racist. New Zealanders want to avoid that. But too many don’t want to change their behaviour. Instead a culture of excuse making has developed and TVNZ is perpetuating it.

It goes like this: there are no racists because intent is a safe word. But if that's accepted - and it shouldn't be - then suddenly the struggle for equal rights isn’t about effects, but the intent of the abuser and, you know, 'why can’t we sort this out over a beer because you might be a reverse racist for accusing me of being a racist'. 

But no. Just no. Intent is never the full story. Intent doesn't define what racial bigotry is. Intent doesn’t absolve racial bigotry itself. And when that racial bigotry goes unchecked it helps reinforce racial oppression. 

Intent doesn't matter when a person actively discriminates against Polynesians. And that's what Shaw was doing - actively perpetuating Polynesian stereotypes. There's a history of bigotry against Polynesians - especially Polynesian immigrants - that Shaw is now a part of. 

New Zealanders are desensitised to racism against Maori and against other Polynesians. It’s encoded in our colonial memory and it holds us back. And it’s going to keep holding us back until we get over intent as a barometer of racism. Because there can be no such thing as racism without racists.

Post script: is anyone else unhappy with the silence over this? I mean, Whaleoil is pushing this issue harder than many on the left or in the media. Politicians have weighed in – h/t Sua Sio, but other than that the silence continues. And is anyone else utterly, utterly fatigued with people getting away with bigotry and casual racism? I am. Lastly, here's something of a backgrounder on racism without racists.

Nov 18, 2013

Taking the piss at TVNZ: why Andrew Shaw makes combating racism harder

That's audio from Andrew Shaw - TVNZ's general manager of commissioning, production and acquisitions. In front of an audience of 1000 Shaw "joked" that Auckland is a shithole and Wellington and Christchurch don't get enough "Polynesians".

When Throng revealed the comments and Whaleoil and others publicised them, TVNZ responded:

"We've spoken to many people who attended last night and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and for many, Andrew's presentation was a highlight of the evening. There was no indication anyone was offended and the subsequent questions [yesterday] came as a surprise."

Which misses the point. Completely. It continues:

"Andrew had no intention to cause offence and unreservedly apologises to anyone who may have been offended at the event or subsequently."

I can't put it better than Ta-Nehisi Coates did when discussing Richard Cohen: "context can not improve this. Context is not a safe word that makes all your other horse-shit statements disappear". It doesn't matter whether Shaw meant to cause offense. It's this sort of casual racism that makes confronting other forms of racism - like institutional racism - more difficult. Accidental racism is still racism and it makes parting the iron curtain between Polynesians and the rest of society more difficult. We're still talking past each other if we think intention absolves racism.

I'm not sure whether Shaw is sorry for saying the "joke" or sorry for getting caught. But what's grating is that TVNZ found the "subsequent questions... a surprise". TVNZ shouldn't have to rely on others to be their conscience. The fact that no one in TVNZ recognised the racism in Shaw's remarks is surprising. Is TVNZ a racist institution if it can't recognise the racism in joking about Polynesians being a problem and a reason Auckland is a shithole?  

And then there are the Polynesians in TVNZ itself. It must be hard knowing that workplace racism still exists. This isn't Rhodesia in the 1970s. And then there's the double standard: Paul Henry lost his job for racism, why not Shaw? I'm sure an argument will be made about degrees of racism. Henry's position was different and his racism was of a different kind (which is true). But is it really appropriate to differentiate between racism in degrees? To me, that makes the job of confronting other forms of racism harder still. 

Nov 16, 2013

It's time to talk about colour: why we have to reject labels like 'white Maori'

Manuera Benjamin Riwai Couch: a former All Black, Minister of Maori Affairs
and the first Maori after the abolition of the half-caste rule to win a "European"
(now called general) electorate. Couch is perhaps the father of the ideologies about
Maori development that run through National's Maori MPs. HT Te Ara.

We hardly talk about skin tone. That’s not because we live in a post-racial society, but because our identity as Maori is grounded in whakapapa. Aesthetics don’t define Maori-ness.

But that doesn’t mean colourism is a non-issue. The reverse is true. Colourism is encoded in our colonial memory and the heady hangover remains.

In New Zealand “half-castes” were privileged over “full-blooded” Maori. But the division between full-bloods and half-castes – or dark skins and lighter skins - wasn’t unique to New Zealand. We inherited it.

In the early days of colonialism Britain would divide its slave labour according to skin tones. In the fields of the American South slave owners would privilege light skinned slaves over dark skinned slaves. In South Africa the difference in skin tone (and other features) determined whether a person was black or coloured. Blacks had to carry dompas, coloureds didn’t. In Australia the Half-Caste Act gave states the power to remove “half-caste” children from Aboriginal care and assimilate them into white society.

Early commentary on half-caste Maori cast them in a positive light. Josiah Firth, an early New Zealand farmer, went as far as to celebrate half-castes. He wrote:

“The Half-Castes of New Zealand are in general a fine type of men and women… They are of fine physique, the women being often very handsome…” 
“I have employed Maori half-castes as stockmen, boatmen, and one, as Captain of a river steamer, and I never had better servants”.

But the full blooded or the dark skinned Maori was a paradox. Writing in the early 1900s a perplexed Professor John Brown tried to get his head around Polynesian beauty standards that didn’t value whiteness:

“The finest type of European faces might… find their match in these islands of the Pacific, [but] these were not the most admired by the dusky races, just as the fair skin that sometimes appears amongst them was not admired”.

In an effort to try and explain why Polynesians beauty standards favoured dark skin and “flat noses” Brown argued that it was a result of conquer and intermarriage by and with Melanians who were “negroid” in appearance.

From the early days of settlement and into the 20th century New Zealand society has tried to classify and understand Maori according to skin colour, blood quantum and – but to a lesser extent – cultural practice (i.e. assimilation). But the most telling factor in whether a Maori was half-caste or, well, just a Maori depended on whiteness.

I hope it’s obvious why this matters: skin tone was and is loaded with social and political assumptions. Today there’s a difference between being labelled a “white Maori” and just “Maori”. They’re categories based on appearance, but the first category carries an unearned privilege over the second. Whiteness means full integration and acceptance. Just being Maori implies browness. There are a set of assumptions attached to being brown. Think of the warrior gene.

In a Euro-centric society whiteness can be monetised. Overseas research has indicated that a relationship exists between skin tone (colourism) and upward mobility. A Brazilian study found that people with lighter skin and mixed ancestry have higher rates of social mobility. Anecdotally, the same could be said about New Zealand. Skin tone can have a tangible effect.

Rejecting this is hard. But it starts with self-identification: owning our own identity and using whakapapa as the true measure of identity. What’s external isn’t important when whakapapa is adopted as the only measure of identity. If we can cut ties with labels like half-caste, white Maori, plastic Maori and the others, then we’re half way there.

But rejecting the assumptions that come with being, say, outwardly white is more difficult. The social assumptions attached to being coloured remain. Every Maori who can pass as white has witnessed the racism that seeps through when people think they’re in safe company. Changing that requires a cultural shift. But that comes later. The first step is for us to reject classifications based on appearance and embrace whakapapa as the true and only measure of identity. Other measures minimise people's identity as Maori. Once we get over the hang over from colour in the 19th and 20th century, then we can take on the rest of society.

Nov 1, 2013

The real impediment to a Mana-Maori merger (and it's not National)

Mana Party President and tino rangatiratanga advocate Annette Sykes

Claire Trevett reports:

The Maori Party and the Mana Party have reached a truce of sorts after a meeting between the parties' hierarchy last night. 

Mana President Annette Sykes met the Maori Party's co-vice president Ken Mair last night and the two parties agreed to work framework setting out areas of policy on which they would work together. That is due to be launched in early 2014 and it likely to include areas such as Maori unemployment, poor housing, and child poverty.

Yesterday I ran through the archives of this blog. I was disappointed with the tone (and some of the substance). It was angry. But it was a reflection of Maori politics at the time.

The seeds of tension emerged in 2008. The Maori Party had traveled the country to secure the membership's consent to a supply and confidence arrangement with National. By most accounts, the party leadership won an overwhelming mandate and there was optimism in most circles. But time eroded the consensus. Difficult policy choices started to build. The party misstepped when it supported the ETS and pressure was applied on its MPs to pull their support for Budget 2010 and the GST rise.

Come 2011 the tensions had swelled and the understanding between the Maori Party's radicals and the conservatives – meaning the idea that a Maori political movement is strongest when its united - came crashing down. The rest is history. Hone Harawira broke away with half of the Maori Party and Mana was born. Political parties reap what they sow.

But a relationship accord between Mana and the Maori Party (hopefully) signals that the tide is going out on that conflict. There’s an increasing acceptance that Maori are better off because of the Maori Party’s relationship with National. It hasn't been progress, but the Maori Party has acted as a buffer against decline.

Yet one impediment remains - and it's not necessarily National. The conflict is between Mana and the Maori Party’s conception of politics. Mana is ideological, but the Maori Party acts as post-ideological.

Working "at the table" is the Maori Party's ideology. Party policy is dictated by what can be achieved at the table and what is necessary to remain at the table. There's a pragmatic logic in that, sure, but the consequence is that Maori politics is confined to what's palatable to the ninth floor. There's also an element of circular reasoning when being at the table is both the means and the end.

So if being at the table is the Maori Party's raison d'être then there's little room for Mana - a party that values external change and leftwing ideologies. After all, Hone Harawira threatened the Maori Party's place at the table and he was removed. 

Yet maybe the Maori Party is on the right side of history. The trajectory of Maori politics hasn’t been towards revolution or wholesale structural change. Leaders of the later stages of the Maori renaissance and now the Maori Party, Iwi Leaders and many others prefer integration into New Zealand power structures. The attraction among battle-weary activists and heroes of the movement is clear. But it’s not an approach that attracts Mana. And that’s the real impediment to a merger – not National.

Oct 22, 2013

Stephen Harper and the logic of colonialism: why Maori should care

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (looking far too pleased with himself)
By Remmy Steinegger

"We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them"Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. 

That's funny. In 2008 Harper apologised in Parliament for residential schools - one of the most insidious expressions of colonialism in Canada. In a moment of lucidity he explained that:

"Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal... 
Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country".

There's a galaxy between the first quote and the second. But Harper's wrong in both quotes to frame colonisation as a historical event. Colonisation is a series of events. Harper should know, but the state and its agents never admit how they came to occupy their privileged positions. Canada's economy was was built off of the back of the theft of indigenous lands. But admitting that would be to deny Canadian exceptionalism. It’s better to practice the politics of amnesia.

In 1920 Duncan Campbell Scott, the then Minister of Indian Affairs, said this:

"Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question". 

Scott is describing colonialism as a strategy. Like Harper explains, assimilation ideologies are about removing and isolating indigenous people from their culture. But that leaves some aspects unexplained. In short, the logic of colonialism is this: occupy indigenous land, subjugate indigenous people and exploit their labour and resources.

Duncan Campbell Scott, evil Canadian
In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert declared Newfoundland the first English colony. Gilbert claimed to act under the royal prerogative. That act marked the first stanza in Europe’s colonisation of Canada. Successive waves of English, French and other European colonists pushed west. Occupation begun.

But the country wasn’t terra nullius. Where indigenous people were met, they were pacified. First Nations people were never conquered in the sense of, say, raupatu. The preferred method was treating. The government derived its authority from Treaties signed with First Nations people. The core promise was equality. But (as we know) the Crown only recognises its own sovereignty. Subjugation begun.

The government wasted no time in acquiring an economic base. In 1876 the Indian Act was passed and worked to dispossess indigenous people of their land and resources. The roots of economic exploitation took hold. The parallels with New Zealand colonists, the Treaty of Waitangi and the Native Lands Act 1862 are obvious and uncomfortable.

And the pattern continues. In 2012 the Idle No More movement erupted. The movement appeared in response to Bill C-45, an omnibus bill that didn’t recognise indigenous fishing rights and reduced environmental protection. The movement also opposed a suite of other omnibus bills including the First Nations Private Property Ownership Act and the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The first act allowed private property ownership within Reserve boundaries. The second act imposed standards on First Nations governments that far exceed standards for municipal, provincial and federal officials. Underlying it all is the assimilation of First Nations people and the destruction of their culture.

The newest expression of the colonial state is the suppression of the Elsipogtog. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (including snipers) are engaged in repressing protests against seismic testing (a precursor to fracking operations). Harper knows that the "Indian problem" is only resolved through assimilation into the "body politic" or total exclusion. There's no middle ground. 

As Maori, we should play an active part in opposing colonial tactics. Why? Because it's own experience too. Colonialism isn't a historic event - it's an ongoing process. It's about being a good ally. If Harper succeeds in eliminating “the Indian question”, then maybe he can claim that Canada has no history of colonialism. History is written by the winners

Oct 15, 2013

How not to manage a crisis: why the Kohanga Board must resign

The first Kohanga Reo with Sir Eddie Durie and Paul Temm QC

Consider this: in 2012 the Waitangi Tribunal held that the government must provide "funding for property maintenance and upgrades to avoid the exposing 3,000 mokopuna to the possibility of losing their kohanga reo buildings". The head of Te Taura Whiri, Glenis Philip-Barbara, says that Kohanga are running "on the sniff of an oily rag". According to Native Affairs the number of kohanga have gone from over 800 at the movement's peak to a little over 400 today.

And compare that against this: in 2011 Lynda Tawhiwhirangi purchased a wedding dress for her daughter and in 2012 she purchased a Trelise Cooper dress. Tawhiwhirangi also purchased "a 21st present for a woman who was in a relationship with one of [her] son's and had carried out work experience at the trust" Over a number of years withdrawals were made that included $1000 for a hui that wasn't attended. Native also revealed that "$129,000 [was] given out by the trust in koha... that wasn't receipted or tracked". All the while the whanau at the coal face went and are going without.

This is a breach of trust and a breach of ethics. Public money demands a greater standard of care. In the last financial year the trust received $80m in taxpayer funding. The Prime Minister told Firstline that "this is taxpayers' money. It needs to be spent appropriately and if it's inappropriate behaviour then they'll have the book thrown at them." And he's in the right. Public money demands public accountability.

But the aspect that grates is that while Lynda Tawhiwhirangi and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi were using their trust credit cards for excessive and luxurious spending - the whanau at the flaxroot were going without. There's also an element of hypocrisy: the kohanga themselves have to follow strict accounting practices, but the same doesn't seem to be expected of some trustees and directors.

But to be fair most of the money was eventually paid back. Most. It's important not to lose sight of that in the heat. Dame Iritana is a titan of the movement too. A laspe of judgement can be forgiven. But is anyone else uncomfortable in that a pattern appears to have emerged?

The crisis provides a useful case study in what not to do when the temperature is up. Don't take defamation proceedings. That turned the anticipation-dial hot and gave the story legs of its own. Don't go to ground. That means speculation will run rife. Apologise - the issue might be cooled. If not, resign. The media and the public need a get. But on a moral level, an honour code demands a resignation.

I worry that if an independent investigation uncovers more inappropriate spending then that is an invitation for non-Maori to sort the issue. The solution will be (I imagine) greater integration with the Ministry of Education and early childhood education. I don't think that's the right approach. The trend is towards devolution (Whanau Ora, Charter Schools etc) rather than reintegration. An independent Maori organisation is better equipped to deal with Maori education. Centralised and state-led Maori education failed in the 20th century.

But the New Public Management Model created the beast. Devolving public functions to a myriad of semi-private organisations was a mistake. Devolution is justified on efficiency grounds, but many aspects of public accountability are lost. The government can also wash its hands of responsibility. The trust isn't part of the core public service nor even the wider public service.

The trust has to sort itself. If it doesn't, others will. The best way to sort itself out? Resign. Hold an election. The worst option is if the government is forced to intervene and break up the Kohanga board and remake the structure. There'll be all sorts of collateral damage in that possibility.

Oct 9, 2013

The iwi power rankings: who are the most powerful iwi in 2013?

Pita Sharples and Ngai Tahu members with reprsentatives
 from the China Development Bank

Pita Sharples claims that the Maori economy is worth $37b. BERL calls the Maori economy a “sleeping giant”. Jamie Tuuta characterises the Maori economy as a “developing economy within a developed economy”. What does it all mean? It means that the Maori economy is a synonym for Maori power.

The Maori economy can’t be separated from a discussion on iwi power. But power is more than that: it’s cultural, political and it might be esoteric. I’ve adopted a fluid definition. Iwi power is measured against three factors: cultural power, economic power and political power. Each ground is subjective – I might value profitability over asset value while another person might reverse that – but I’ve tried to apply each consideration consistently.

The Breakdown

That Ngai Tahu topped the rankings will surprise no one. In the year to June 30 2012 the tribe enjoyed a net profit of 95.7m. In the year to June 30 2013 the tribe declared a net profit of 77.9m. Ngai Tahu Holdings Corporation owns assets worth almost $1b.

But Waikato-Tainui can claim similar numbers. Ngai Tahu emerged at the top on the strength of two factors: its stability and support for its members. Ngai Tahu isn’t burdened with cumbersome governance structures nor plagued with internal warfare. Parts of Ngai Tahu Holding’s profit will be spent on funding a superannuation scheme with 18,000 iwi members. Waikato-Tainui is behind the ball on these counts.

But others made the list for different reasons. Ngati Porou only recently settled, but they exercise a disproportionate pull on Maori politics. The highest ranked Maori minister in Cabinet – Hekia Parata – is from Ngati Porou. The highest ranked Maori minister in the last Cabinet – Parekura Horomia – was Ngati Porou. Some of Maori society’s most celebrated politicians – think of Ngata – were Ngati Porou.

Te Arawa isn’t the wealthiest iwi, but Rotorua is the centre of Maori culture. Thousands of tourists pass through Mitai, Te Puia, Tamaki and Whakarewarewa. They experience a few aspects of Maori culture, but it’s Maori culture presented through Te Arawatanga. Don’t underestimate the power of that.

Nga Puhi is the largest iwi. And here’s an interesting fact: the Maori mythology that’s presented in society often reflects Nga Puhi mythology. When Mataku - the drama series – dealt with Maori death the show used the Nga Puhi perspective that spirits depart from Te Rerenga Wairua. In Struggle Without End Ranginui Walker (despite being Whakatohea) uses Nga Puhi traditions to pin point the location of Hawaiki. Nga Puhi’s conception of the Maori world has a disproportionate influence on how we see ourselves and how others perceive us.

The Rankings

List of iwi

      1. Ngai Tahu

One of the headlines of the year goes to the Christchurch Press for this effort: The Wisdom of (Mark) Solomon. Make that Sir Mark Solomon.

Ngai Tahu sits on the Land and Water Forum. The Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority is obligated to consult local and regional council and Ngai Tahu. The government is also paying out what’s owed under Ngai Tahu’s relativity clause. Solomon has been critical in each respect.

Ngai Tahu is strategic. It helps having the capital and labour (in the form of young Ngai Tahu tradies) that the government needs for the Christchurch rebuild, but Ngai Tahu knows better than any how to put its economic leverage to work.

Ngai Tahu also secured the hosting rights to the next Te Matatini Festival. It might seem insignificant, but Te Matatini is Maori Society’s equivalent to the Rugby World Cup.

Ngai Tahu’s influence reaches across South Island: from aquaculture in Southland, farms in Kaikoura, tourism in Queenstown and property in Christchurch. There’s only one other iwi with such widespread economic influence…

      2. Waikato-Tainui

On July 3 Waikato-Tainui announced its annual result at The Base – the iwi’s $99m mall at Te Rapa. Waikato-Tainui is on track to become the most important component of the Waikato economy.

Ngai Tahu tends to go it alone. Waikato-Tainui hasn’t. In the last decade Waikato-Tainui has developed strategic partnerships with Accor Hotels, Auckland International Airport and several other companies. Those partnerships allowed Waikato-Tainui to build the Novotel Hamilton and the Novotel Auckland Airport.

Partnerships are crucial to iwi development. Waikato-Tainui appears to recognise this better than most. Iwi can’t raise capital through share or bond offers. It’s also iwi policy to maintain a debt ceiling of 30% and retained earnings (the money that is retained by Tainui Group Holdings rather than distributed) are not as high as you'd immediately expect. That makes joint ventures crucial to financing iwi investments like the inland port at Ruakura.

But it’s that ambition – coupled with the notorious instability mentioned earlier – that puts Waikato-Tainui in 2nd place. Ambition could turn to overreach and internal instability could do the rest. The inland port and associated developments at Ruakura are estimated to cost $3.5b. The Herald reports that:

[Waikato-Tainui will] develop a massive commercial inland freight hub… 6000 to 12,000 jobs will be created, more than 2000 houses will be built and the Waikato area's GDP will increase by $4.4 billion.

$3.5b appears to be a cost that Waikato-Tainui’s balance sheet can’t bear. Ngai Tahu appears to be in a (comparatively speaking) more sustainable position. But I hope to be humiliated in 10 years’ time when the development is finished and it’s proven that Mike Pohio was right to say “don’t bet againt our ambition”.

      3. Ngati Porou 

Forget the economy for now. Ngati Porou is powerful for different reasons – cultural and political reasons.

Ihimaera's Whale Rider
Some of Maori society’s best are and were Ngati Porou. Best thinkers (Moana Jackson); best writers (Witi Ihimeara); best composers (Derek Lardelli); best speakers (Kāterina Mataira) and best politicians (Apirana Ngata).

Ngati Porou have had and still have a disproportionate sway over Maori society. 

When the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was passed Ngati Porou managed to negotiate a "comprehensive package of rights and protections(with the help of two of their sons in Cabinet – Parekura Horomia and John Tamihere). No other iwi did so. In fact, it might not have crossed their minds. Ngati Porou can tap its talent in government to achieve the outcomes it needs. A rare thing. 

In the current government the highest ranked Maori minister is from Ngati Porou.

      4. Nga Puhi

122,000 Maori, or around one in five, identify as Nga Puhi. Nga Puhi is power in numbers.

For much of the 19th century the North was the home of British power. Nga Puhi hosted the first Christian Mission, Kororareka became the first European settlement and the Bay of Islands had become one of the most important ports in the country. Shrewd Nga Puhi leaders took advantage of that. But power has shifted south to Auckland and Wellington, but Nga Puhi retains a pull on Maori society and the national consciousness.

Enter Waitangi Day. Arguably, Nga Puhi has the power to determine the mood of the nation on our founding day. Will it be protest and a mood of indignation or peace and a mood of reconciliation? Nga Puhi has pedigree in the Maori renaissance too. Many of its former leaders and leading lights – for example Hone Tuwhare – and current leaders – Hone Harawira – are Nga Puhi. Nga Puhi is pervasive and through weight in numbers it manages to influence Maori society iwi more than most other iwi.

      5. Ngati Tuwharetoa

Geothermal power is New Zealand’s most reliable renewable energy source and Ngati Tuwharetoa controls most of New Zealand’s geothermal fields. (For clarity, Ngati Tuwharetoa doesn’t control the geothermal energy itself - there are various statutes which deal with that – but they own the land where many bores are located).

Ngati Tuwharetoa also plays an important role in the Kingitanga. Iwikau Te Heuheu, the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa at the time, was approached to take the Kingship. He declined. In theory, the Kingitanga could pass to Ngati Tuwharetoa. After all, the Te Heu Heu whanau still play an important role in Ngati Tuwharetoa, the Kingitanga and Maori society.

The iwi is also making inroads with tourism ventures in Taupo and they’ve engaged former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen as a Treaty negotiator. Shrewd. Having already settled in the Treelords settlement and the Sealords settlement, Ngati Tuwharetoa is poised to become one of Maori society’s most powerful iwi. They sit on strategic resources and they're set for a significant cash injection. I wouldn't bet against them.

Honourable Mentions: 

  • Ngai Tuhoe
  • Te Arawa
  • Ngati Whatua o Orakei
  • Ngati Kahungungu 

Where to now? 

If Waikato-Tainui call pull off their inland port at Ruakura they'll dominate the rankings for years to come. Ruakura will be a strategic resource. It's going to be at the mid-way point between Auckland and the Port of Tauranga (New Zealand's largest freight port), located on the Waikato Expressway, built on the East Coast Main Trunk Railway and close to Hamilton (which for some reason is one of New Zealand's fastest growing cities).

Ngai Tahu will remain solid. They're in a sustainable position and the Christchurch rebuild has presented incredible opportunities for iwi development (both financial development and development for whanau through job creation, papakainga housing and so on).

The most interesting movement will be among iwi like Te Arawa, Tuhoe and Ngati Whatua o Orakei. Tuhoe are soon to settle for $170m and are in an incredible position on self government issues. In that respect, Tuhoe will be a template for other iwi. Ngati Whatua o Orakei is in an interesting position too. Auckland is growing rapidly and Ngati Whatua o Orakei are asserting themselves as a central part in that development. Watch this space.

Is Tuhoe Mana Motuhake the next step?

Defining iwi - Iwi is a modern concept. For the most part, Maori society organised itself along hapu lines. But for ease of reference I’ve used iwi in its ordinary sense. But the term becomes problematic: for example Waikato-Tainui is a confederation. It’s made up of various iwi and those iwi are made up of various hapu. Iwi is the overlay. For the purposes of this post, iwi is used as synonymous with the settlement body (i.e. “the large natural grouping”).

This isn't a wholly serious exercise: don't get carried away with this or gutted with the analysis. This isn't a definitive list. It's more of a discussion. Feel free to add your opinions in the comments section. 

Disclaimer: I primarily identify with Ngati Awa and they didn't make it - there's no bias here.  

Oct 2, 2013

Is it past time to abolish the Maori Council?

The Maori Community Development Act 1962 is up for review. Although Mana points out that the timing is suspicious, the Act remains more or less the same – 51 years later. The review is seeking feedback on the future of the Maori Council and options for improving the Maori Wardens and Community Officers.

Sir Graham Latimer (second from the left) after the
Maori Council's historic win in the Lands case. H/T Te Ara
I’m stuck on it. Maori society is becoming increasingly iwi-centric. Power is shifting from pan-Maori organisations to iwi. Movements and organisations like the Kingitanga, the Maori Women’s Welfare League and the Maori Council can’t compete culturally, economically or politically. Iwi are pushing the Maori Council out. 

But here’s the qualification: urban Maori. They’re the forgotten tribe. Iwi aren’t a catch-all. Pan-Maori organisations –think of service providers like the Waipereira Trust, the Church and the Welfare League – catch urban Maori. The Maori Council does too. If the Council is abolished urban Maori are deprived of one the few advocates that they have. 

That's a reason to keep the Maori Council. But it must be reformed. It’s a labyrinth: there are Maori Committees, Maori Executive Committees, District Maori Councils and the New Zealand Maori Council. The structure needs to be simplified. Abolishing the regional bodies and maintaining the national body could be an option. The regional bodies are cumbersome. The national body could draw its membership from regional groups - like iwi runanga and urban authorities like the Manukau Urban Maori Authority - rather than regional council's and committees. There's a perception (and maybe a reality) that the Council isn't accountable. Layers of bureaucracy contributes to that perception.

It's 2013 too. The Act's focus on social and economic wellbeing is underinclusive. The Council's focus should be expanded to include the environment and conservation. People, markets and the environment is preferable to people and markets only.

The Mahanui Maori Council in 1902. These regional groups were a precursor
to the 1962 Act. Eagle eyed readers will spot Apirana Ngata in the centre.
H/T Te Ara

In their own words:

The New Zealand Maori Council has achieved a number of gains for Maori including the adoption of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986, the reform of Maori land resulting in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, the 1989 Maori Fisheries Act and the 1992 Sealord’s Act. The review of the Maori Community Development Act 1962 should be seen as another opportunity for Maori.

Reasonable people can and will disagree with that. The Maori Council didn't work in isolation. But we might be a decade behind but for the Maori Council's work. Still, that's no reason to oppose reform. The Maori Council needs it and now. It's 2013. If they stay the same, they'll be left behind.  

Sep 25, 2013

Current reckon: the Maori Party should be worried

Maori Affairs has had a rough time. In government the portfolio is held under a minister outside of Cabinet. But under the last Labour government the portfolio was held under the fifth ranked minister – Parekura Horomia. When Labour lost government the portfolio fell with Parekura’s ranking. It didn’t recover. Until yesterday.

Shane Jones won promotion and the Maori Affairs portfolio is back where it belongs – within the top 5. Jones will take a different approach from Parekura before him and Pita Sharples opposite him. Parekura was and Pita is a relationship politician. They leverage their relationships to achieve change. Shane can build good relationships with other politicians, officials and voters – like Parekura and Pita – but Shane’s cut from a different cloth: he can and will rely on the force of his personality and intellect to drive change. Parekura and Pita didn’t and don’t exert that sort of blunt pressure.

Nanaia Mahuta won promotion too. She’s in the shadow cabinet and holds the Maori development and Treaty settlement portfolios. Nanaia can open doors. She’s experienced and knows how Maori politics works. But there’s one problem: can and will Shane and Nanaia work together? If not, Labour will forfeit its advantage over Mana and the Maori parties: stability.

The Maori caucus split between supporting David Cunliffe and Shane Jones. That might not be indicative of deep rifts – but only differences in opinion - but the perception is building that Labour’s Maori caucus is fractured. If the Maori caucus doesn’t signal that it’s going to sew up its divisions then the Greens will credibly make a claim to being the only stable kaupapa Maori party.

The other member of the Maori team is Rino Tirikatene. He retains the Associate Maori Affairs role. Rino will act as Shane’s deputy and Nanaia will go about her roles. Meka Whaitiri didn’t win a Maori portfolio. That’s a shame. I think she could have deputised for Nanaia in the way that Rino will deputise for Shane. The challenge for Shane and Rino is to find cohesion. The challenge for Nanaia is to exploit the (very few) cracks in the government’s Treaty policy. That’s not easy. Reshuffling was never going to be an outcome in itself, but it will bring a focus that the Maori Party should be worried about. There are now three Labour MPs - including two front benchers - who are coming for the Maori Party's jobs.

Post script: props to Louisa Wall and Moana Mackey. Their promotions were richly deserved. Wall steered through the Marriage Equality Act with clarity and confidence. Despite entering Parliament in 2003, Mackey hasn’t registered. That’s a shame. She works hard and is rarely acknowledged for it. In 2012 she robustly opposed the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act. She carried Labour on that count and others. Her promotion is overdue.

Sep 18, 2013

Reasserting progressive values: the Labour Party edition

In addition to my last blog post, The Left must have the courage of their convictions, I am writing a short series of posts on the need for the parties of the Left to reassert progressive values in order to offer a credible alternative to John Key and the National-led Government. First up; the Labour Party. 

David Cunliffe needs to reassert both working class and progressive values 
while modernising Labour's political platform
The democratisation of the Labour Party’s leadership election processes have provided an opportunity for party members, the union movement and the broader left to push for the reassertion of progressive values and the repudiation of the Third Way agenda of the Clark era.

Both newly elected David Cunliffe and his primary opponent Grant Robertson took to the campaign trail with promises of significant industrial relations reform, a new-found commitment to the environment, and pledges on women’s political participation and increased student support. They would “end neo-liberalism” and even distanced themselves from Helen Clark’s legacy. Even Shane Jones in some ways promoted progressive values; he committed to supporting a universal student allowance and a pushed for a breakup of the supermarket duopoly.

This has reinvigorated Labour's base to a significant degree. It is these kinds of bold ideas that will drive greater participation and involvement in the political system. 

But the media consensus proclaims that this high-minded progressivism is fit for the campaign trail, but will be discarded at the earliest opportunity; that Cunliffe will default to the centrist direction that the Labour Party has been previously heading down. This highlights two things; the media are hostile to the interests of genuine left-wing politics, and many in the media are disconnected from the realities of those struggling to survive in this land of plenty.

At Cunliffe's first press conference as leader, he distanced Labour from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and said "my challenge to John Key and his government is to put that information in the public domain so the debate can begin". This is a radical change in the direction of the Labour Party caucus, as was put so well by TPPA expert Jane Kelsey over at The Daily Blog.

So already Labour's new leader has stood up to the proponents of liberalised free trade, many of whom are a part of his own caucus. Will he continue down this path? How far will he go? What other progressive values will he reassert? 

Inequality and markets 
Inequality is at the highest point it has ever been in the history of this country. This proves the necessity for a reassertion of progressive values and there is a great opportunity for these values to resonate widely. A fundamentally new direction in the economy is sorely needed. As fellow working class New Zealanders will know, poverty and hardship are only getting worse. Helen Clark's government stabilised things in the wake of Rogernomics and Ruthanasia, but the fundamentals of her economic management allowed for continuing unemployment, high power prices, low-wages and shocking rates of child poverty.

David Cunliffe will need a great deal of courage to steer a fundamentally new course of economic management. He leads what remains a largely moderate Labour caucus; his newly elected deputy leader David Parker is on record saying "competitive markets don't need regulation", while newly appointed Shadow Leader of the House Grant Robertson said around the same time that "as we said on the day we launched NZ Power, we have no plans to intervene in any other markets."

While I'm sure Cunliffe is in favour of the market economy where it works, if he wants to significantly reduce poverty and inequality then he will need to regulate other markets as well. Competitiveness does not always lead to positive outcomes. To ensure that his vision and convictions lead the party's economic platform, he will need to take an active role in finance and economic development and not leave everything up to the likes of Parker and Shane Jones.

Social welfare
Low benefit levels, and the toxic nature of WINZ, contribute hugely to the ongoing poverty and deprivation in this country; we know that two-thirds of children in poverty are living in benefit dependent households.

But there is a deep reluctance in the Labour caucus to provide real and increased support to beneficiary families. Given National's succesful strategy of pitting communities against each other by beneficiary bashing, it's a political minefield for Labour. But this is an issue that should be above political posturing and electoral calculation.

Social welfare is a core progressive value and was at the heart of the First Labour Government's working class agenda. The welfare system itself under that government didn't have to be a huge drain on resources, as the government ensured pretty much full employment. While it does have significant financial implications in this day and age, we must also remember that we are spending $6 billion a year on preventable crime, illness and lost educational opportunities – the direct cost of keeping kids in poverty.

Thousands of families will continue to live in deprivation if the government doesn't step in. Employment must be the key aim, but children are not impoverished because of any fault of their own. They deserve compassion.

The policy for universalisation of the working for families scheme, which has been Green policy for over a decade, was adopted by Phil Goff before the 2011 election but then abandoned again under David Shearer's leadership. This is a policy that will go a long way to reducing poverty among families on welfare and should be part of a welfare tool kit for an incoming centre-left government.

Promoting both employment and social welfare as progressive values, and convincing the public that they aren't mutually exclusive, will be a real test of David Cunliffe's leadership.

Environment and sustainability
A core progressive value of the 21st Century is environmental guardianship and sustainability. However, it has not traditionally been a value that Labour has embraced. Water quality was incredibly bad under the Fifth Labour Government and has led to the current situation of 60% of monitored rivers being unsafe for swimming. Also, the process for granting risky deep sea oil permits was instituted under Labour.

Environmental protection and sustainability represent very fundamental issues that Labour must grapple with. For example, reducing river pollution to sustainable levels is going to require a rethink of the continuing intensification of the agricultural sector, one of the nation's most economically productive industries. This reality challenges not just river pollution but the very idea of never-ending economic growth.

Deep sea oil drilling and the future of wider extractive industries is another kaupapa that Labour needs to provide clarity and consistency on. There are clear divisions over this issue. On the hand, Shane Jones promotes oil drilling and mining as a solution to youth unemployment while on the other hand, MPs like Moana Mackey and Grant Robertson are much more hesitant to support these risky ventures. A massive deep sea oil spill could effectively destroy New Zealand's economy. David Cunliffe needs to make a stand on this.

And of course this all ties in with the climate crisis and our need to significantly reduce emissions and play our part on the global stage. A weak and ineffectual carbon trading scheme like our ETS will not achieve this. New thinking and innovative solutions are required.

David Cunliffe was dead right when he said:

"the nature of this crisis is far deeper and more fundamental than the standard environment-economy trade-off thinking might suppose. The coming crisis threatens more than just marine biodiversity. The species we are trying to save could be our own."

Cunliffe's Challenge 
The forces of reluctance, moderation and conservatism will do their very best to hound David Cunliffe's leadership and the opportunities for true progressivism that it represents. We need to expect more of Patrick Gower appearing on the 6 o'clock news attacking Cunliffe for stumbling on a word. He will also continue to promote the idea of Labour disunity.

Cunliffe must have an iron will and unify his caucus behind his economic and environmental vision. This will be the biggest challenge of his entire leadership in the lead up to the 2014 general elections.

Those of us who believe in a compassionate, sustainable and socially just future need to be vigilant in our support for a new direction and as equally vigilant in our critique of the forces of negativity and conservatism that inhabit both the major political parties, the mainstream media and elements of the business community.

Post by Jack McDonald

Sep 16, 2013

The hitchhikers guide to the local elections

Here’s my approach to voting: if there are two equally competent candidates, what’ll swing my vote is if one of the candidates is Maori, Pasifika, Asian, female or under 30. Maori, other ethnic minorities, women and young people are underrepresented in local government.

Local elections run from the 20th of September to the 12th of October. Consensus politics rules in local government, but without diversity consensus becomes a synonym for the politics of the middle-aged-white-male. When Maori, other ethnic minorities, women and young people aren’t represented, their (and our) interests aren’t properly served. That’s why you should count ethnicity, gender and age as a persuasive factor.

Now - if you’re unsure who you’re going to vote for - let me help:


Tracey Godfery for Bay of Plenty Regional Council

That’s my mum, obviously. She’s standing in the Kohi Maori seat. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is one of the few local authorities with dedicated Maori representation. That means it’s important that we make it work.

The Kohi seat needs renewal. Local government's often burdened with time servers whose name recognition trumps their competence. I’ll make a personal guarantee: my mum is qualified, ready and competent. But maybe I'm biased.

Mum has a background in environmental education, research and management. At the moment she teaches environmental science at Awanuiarangi. The issues that are important to her are cleaning up contaminated land – including Maori land that's contaminated with PCP and dioxin – fresh water management, resource management and tangata whenua, economic development and accountability. For a better run down you can like here Facebook page.

To vote for her you have to be enrolled in the Kohi district and on the Maori roll. 

Warwick Godfery for Kawerau District Council

That’s my dad, obviously. He’s standing for the Kawerau District Council. The same guarantee: my dad is qualified, ready and competent.

There isn't much more I can add. If you’re reading this in Kawerau, you know who he is. But I'll make this point: it’s important to vote for people who live in the district. A councillor can’t properly serve the district (or the ward) when he or she lives in, say, Ohope or Rotorua.

You can like dad’s Facebook page here. He’s about bridging the gaps. There’s an age deficit and a cultural deficit between the Kawerau District Council and the Kawerau community. Dad will help repair that deficit.

Jack Tautokai McDonald for the Paekakariki Local Board

Again, competence is important. Jack has proved his competence. Diversity should be a touchstone to guide your vote too. Jack brings two important qualities to local government: his Maoritanga and his age. Government – whether it’s local or central – should reflect the community. When it doesn’t disengagement and apathy happens. I’ll let Jack take it from here:

A lifelong Paekakariki resident, I’m eager to be a voice for the community and contribute to the Board’s work and advocacy. 
If elected, I will focus on fighting for our local democracy and ensuring community concerns are listened to, providing opportunities for youth, restoration of our local environment and fostering a strong partnership with the mana whenua; Ngati Haumia ki Paekakariki, Ngati Toarangatira and Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai. 
My experience in governance and representation includes serving on Kapiti College’s Board of Trustees, the Green Party’s National Executive and as a Youth MP.

Other voting suggestions

This isn't an exhaustive list, but a guide for wavering voters. If you want me to add your name to the list flick me an email, tweet, or a Facebook PM.

Kawerau Dsitrict Council

Miriama Postlethwaite 
Chris Marjoribanks
Faylene Tunui
Peta Ruha
Grace Stone
Stephen Tuhoro

Whakatane District Council

Fioana Wiremu (who's also standing for mayor).

Rotorua District Council 

Steve Chadwick

Gisborne District Council

Manu Caddie
Meredith Akuhata-Brown

Waikato Regional Council 

Tipa Mahuta (standing in the Nga Hau E Wha Maori constituency)
Chris Webster (standing in the Nga Tai Ki Uta Maori constituency)

Henderson-Massey Local Board

Will Flavell

Tauranga City Council

Delwyn Walker

Wellington City Council - Southern Ward

Sep 12, 2013

Shane Jones: the wedge politics edition

I'm stuck in a half way house. Somewhere between the progressive left and the tino rangatiratanga movement. Shane Jones has put me there and I'm afraid to move.

Jones' bid for the Labour leadership has opened a divide between the left and the tino rangatiratanga movement. Maori politics exists apart from the left-right divide, apparently. But I don't think that's true. Maori politics exists beneath the left-right divide.

Maori political history isn't rich with choice. Asking or telling us to wait for a more "progressive" candidate is deeply offensive. Maori have waited - and with relative patience - for the opportunity to elect a Maori prime minister for more than a century. The Maori renaissance and (more recently) the emergence of the Maori Party and the Mana Movement signals that Maori political patience has built to its limits. Carrie was right when she wrote that "the insistent hating [of Jones] overshadows a potentially major historical moment in NZ".

The Maori approach to power is changing and Jones is the most recent personification of that approach. When the left denies Jones, its denying Maori political power. It's uncomfortable. In some respects it smacks of the politics of the 20th century. When Maori stepped outside of the political role that society had created for them - as mihi men, singing women and glorified lapdogs - they were shut out. See Matiu Rata and Tariana Turia about that.

I remain ambivalent about Jones - partly for, partly against. The self aggrandising attacks against feminism grate. The struggle for gender equality shouldn't and can't be divorced from the struggle for ethnic equality. Attacking feminism doesn't empower the tino rangatiratanga movement, but weakens it. Solidarity works best when it's solidarity with all marginalised groups - whether it's women, the disabled, the LGBT community or other Polynesians - and equality works best when it's equality for the whole and not the parts.

What I'm getting at is this: I tautoko Jones because of what he represents - Maori political empowerment. But his approach to empowerment, well, not so much.  

Tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu - a person who mistreats guests has a dusty Marae. The saying captures the idea of manaakitanga. It captures the approach the tino rangatiratanga movement - and by extension Jones - should take towards friends in the left. But that works in reverse too: the left should keep in mind why Jones' run is important to our movement.

Post script: According to the latest Te Karere poll Maori prefer Jones by a large margin. And again for transparency: I endorsed DC earlier in the race.  

Sep 10, 2013

The Left must have the courage of their convictions

At the launch of his leadership bid in New Lynn, David Cunliffe was handed a bunch of roses by a supporter. He held them aloft and proclaimed in a hesitant, unsure-of-himself kind of way that: "the red rose is the international symbol of socialism!”

The mainstream media seem unable to entertain the idea that David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson might actually be honest in their critique of neo-liberalism and the economic orthodoxy. By extension it seems that they believe that socialism is a defunct ideology in 21st Century New Zealand. But in ideological terms, the history of the New Zealand labour movement is relatively typical of its counterparts in other Western liberal democracies. It is a history of socialism. It’s rise, it’s dilution and it’s near death.

The First Labour Government was a truly socialist government, and is the benchmark of democratic socialism in New Zealand. But with the collapse of the post-WWII economic boom, social democratic parties found it increasingly difficult to enact further socialist reforms due to the restraints they placed upon themselves within the capitalist framework. This led to the economic liberalisation and financial deregulation of the 1980s and eventually the Third Way agenda under Helen Clark. These historical trajectories have divorced the Labour Party from its socialist traditions and its grassroots support base. Voter engagement has plummeted. Political apathy and cynicism has never been higher among working class New Zealand.

In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and considering the climate crisis, peak oil and resource depletion, New Zealand is ready for its next ‘big change’ moment.

Evolutionary socialism: The First Labour Government
The evolutionary socialist school of thought has been the dominant and only viable socialist framework since the collapse of the USSR and the moral failures of violent revolutionary communism.

Democratic socialism was founded upon the belief that to achieve social gains, one must work within the democratic system of Parliament. Gradualists, as they were known, including the Fabian Society and Eduard Bernstein, believed their vision was inevitable because of the qualities of the democratic system itself and the truth of their ideas.

Many social democratic parties were formed across the Western world to utilise this democratic approach. The New Zealand Labour Party was established in 1916. From this early period of its history, Labour broke free from the communist movement to pursue a social democratic agenda; in 1925 a membership pledge was signed to affirm the Party’s commitment to democratic constitutional processes of governance. Yet it was clearly a socialist party; this is shown by its 1922 election manifesto which describes the Party’s key aim as the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. When Labour was elected to Government, with Michael Joseph Savage as Prime Minister and Peter Fraser as his ministerial workhorse, it enacted a wide range of socialist reforms including legislating compulsory trade union membership and passing the Social Security Act 1938, which effectively provided welfare cover from ‘the cradle to the grave’. The welfare state was expanded and entrenched under the premiership of Peter Fraser.

The second and third Labour governments continued down the same path of evolutionary socialism; egalitarianism became a mainstay of New Zealand politics from both right and left governments up until 1984. This was due to the entrenchment of social democratic principles in politics by Labour governments.

The death of social democracy: Rogernomics and The Third Way
Social democratic parties in the late 20th and early 21st Century have been embracing neo-liberal economic policies to fit within the framework of capitalist democracy.

As Dr Ashley Lavelle, an Australian political scientist, has pointed out, the solutions to the world’s problems that are being put forward by social democratic parties barely differ from the solutions of their conservative and liberal counterparts. Furthermore, the fundamental reform plans that they put forward in the 20th Century "to challenge entrenched power and privilege or redistribute the wealth have disappeared"*. 

Lavelle notes that the primary cause of the death of social democracy is the collapse of the post-war economic boom so that the return in the 1970’s of low economic growth led to the removal of the economic base used by social democrats to enact their social reform. This reform relied upon high revenues and incomes to reduce inequality and raise living standards without undermining capital accumulation. This reality required Governments and therefore social democratic parties to “remove the constraints on capital” and to create opportunities for business*. Social democrats were forced into this approach, as these were the boundaries set by economic democracies, which was the framework in which social democrats were pursuing their socialist goals.

Both David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson have pledged
 to repudiate the 'Third Way'
In the New Zealand context, it was the fourth and fifth Labour governments that implemented both the initial market liberalisation and the more moderate Third Way agenda that followed. By implementing this approach of neo-liberal policy, Labour has faced significant political consequences. They have suffered major electoral setbacks as a result of voters’ discontent with their neo-liberal economic policy and inability to stick to manifesto pledges.

Another major issue that is affecting social democratic parties is a decline in membership. This is an issue for all parties in the 21st Century but there is evidence that social democratic parties have lost members specifically in response to capitalist entrenching policy. This disconnects parties with their own history and the ideological base which gave them the mandate to exist in the first place.

The Third Way agenda of Helen Clark failed to address environmental degradation, carbon pollution and resource depletion. Centrist social democratic parties like the current Labour Party are unwilling and ill-equipped to tackle the underlying problems of our capitalist economic system.

Can Labour, on the back of the democratisation and re-invigoration of their party, redefine 21st Century politics in New Zealand by bringing its traditional values to the fore, while at the same time modernising it's policy platform?

Eco-socialism: democratic socialism in the 21st Century
Eco-socialism, which is an ideology that has roots as far back as the mid 1800s*, has the potential to become a dominant ideology in the 21st Century. Eco-socialism draws on both the ecologist and socialist opposition to capitalism.

Ecologism is founded upon the basic reality that there are natural limits to growth as we live on a planet with finite resources. This is a complete contradiction to the structure of capitalism that promotes never ending economic growth and labels environmental protection and social equality as “external dis-economies"*. Eco-socialists assert that the world is interconnected and that the economy is based on the health of the environment and those living within it.
The Greens have led a change in the political climate and
ensured that eco-socialist ideas are firmly on the agenda

It is evident that eco-socialist ideas have been gaining traction in the Western world, especially since the Global Financial Crisis. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has over the last decade lead a change in the political climate and ensured that eco-socialist values and solutions are firmly on the agenda in this country. While no longer radical in tone and appearance, the Greens champion a future economy and society that is far from the status quo.

But it's no longer just the Greens that are talking about transformative change; Labour leadership front-runner David Cunliffe, and to a lesser extent Grant Robertson, have also been articulating a vision that is starkly at odds with the capitalist orthodoxy.

Cunliffe's rhetoric in speeches such as 'The Dolphin and the Dole Queue' and 'Get your invisible hand off our assets!', represents a kind of thinking that is remarkably similar to prominent eco-socialists and the Green Party's co-leaders.

The clean tech revolution can build resilience in our economy, while protecting the environment and under the right settings could ensure full employment for our people. The scale and pace of change that we require is even greater than the situation that the First Labour Government faced. Harnessing a revolutionary ideological base combined with a democratic approach to fulfillment, the eco-socialist movement proves that socialism is a relevant ideology in the current political climate.

The real test lies ahead
For New Zealand's progressive leaders, both Red and Green, the real test lies ahead. If they follow through on their bold rhetoric and abandon the weak social democratic agenda, then the First Labour-Green Government could be as historically significant, world-leading and revolutionary as the First Labour Government that was sworn into power over three-quarters of a century ago.

While some in the media are probably right in that many see the word 'socialism' itself as an "instant turn-off"*, that does not mean that the ideological underpinnings of the candidates and the movement that they are seeking to lead won't have a huge effect on the outcome of not only this election, but also Labour's electoral platform for the next general election.

Its a no-brainer that New Zealand will remain a mixed economy, with the private sector playing a large role in our economic future. For example, both Labour and the Greens favour market incentives and price signals to address certain economic and environmental problems. But the time has come for the Left to reassert the fundamental values that built this nation.

Radicalism has for a long time been seen among the media as both a cardinal sin and a sign of electoral oblivion. But with the economic and environmental crises that engulf the world, and the massive skepticism of many people towards the political establishment, there are so many issues that require radical solutions. It could well be just what's needed to get disenchanted voters to turn around and listen.

The Left faces a host of challenges, not least of which is the courage of their own convictions. It seems that they themselves are aware of that. In the words of soon-to-be Labour leader David Cunliffe:

"We must also have leadership that has proven it can stare down vested interests – because make no mistake, the beneficiaries of neoliberalism will not give up their privilege quietly."*

Post by Jack McDonald

* Ashley Lavelle, The death of social democracy: political consequences in the 21st Century (Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited), pp. 1-2
* Lavelle, The death of social democracy, p. 2
* Bradley J. Macdonald, ‘William Morris and the vision of ecosocialism’, Contemporary Justice Review, Vol.7, No.3, 2004.
Bradley J. Macdonald, ‘William Morris and the vision of ecosocialism’, Contemporary Justice Review, Vol.7, No.3, 2004, p. 287
*Jessica Williams, 'It's just a jump to the left...',, Radio Live, accessed 09/09/2013
*David Cunliffe, 'David Cunliffe',, The Standard, accessed 09/09/2013