Jul 31, 2013

Moon and Maori: our complicated relationship

It isn’t said enough: don’t be a douchebag. Presumably no one told Paul Moon. Writing in the Herald:

Since the 1880s Whakarewarewa… has been where tourists have gone to see an "authentic", "living" Maori village…

Whakarewarewa is not a "village" in the conventional sense. Its main reason for existence is not the social needs of the community but the gaze of outsiders.

Whakarewarewa is a home. It might have a dual purpose – as a home and as a tourist attraction – but that doesn’t negate its authenticity. Its residents won’t take kindly to being told that their lifestyle is not authentic. More broadly, Te Arawa identity is woven in the history of Whakarewarewa. If their ties to Whakarewarewa don’t lend authenticity, heaven knows what does.

The whole contrivance is a throwback to Victorian preferences for the role and placement of native peoples: smiling performers of their "primitive" cultures rolled out for the entertainment of the "civilised" visitor… The natives are locked in a state of perpetual but picturesque decrepitude. The result is an overwrought form of exotica - culture packaged to tantalise the imagination of spectators.

Perhaps paradoxically, I agree with Moon. 19th and 20th century expectations of Maori culture are weaved throughout several tourist attractions. Not so much Whakarewarewa, but others. Take the Tamaki Maori Village. The Village is a glossy representation of pre-European Maori society. The Village plays to the expectations or, more cynically, the prejudices of its customers. But that’s what happens when culture is commodified for consumption. It’s packaged for the dominant group. Another article quotes Moon arguing that:

The use of the haka on the sports field, he said, had turned it into an entertainment spectacle. 

"Is it appropriate for a sports match? This is a professional team, a business, performing a haka as part of the entertainment."

The Haka and sports is different. Ka Mate and the All Blacks is a prominent example of cultural reappropriation in New Zealand. In its former guise, Ka Mate was used to satisfy the “Victorian” expectations of New Zealand and New Zealanders. It was used disparagingly. Ka Mate’s reclaimation was a form of socio-cultural empowerment. The haka is now an empowering ritual across New Zealand sport.

Moon… said he cringed at a powhiri he attended at a government department.

"There was not one Maori involved in the whole process, and I was sitting there watching it and thinking, there are two groups of Europeans engaging in a process about which they know very little.

"I'd hesitate to use the word 'fake', but there's certainly an element of the culture being corrupted."

This is more difficult. The situation where a room full of non-Maori are performing a powhiri opens difficult questions around whether powhiri is a part of New Zealand culture or, cynically speaking, is it a form of PC appeasement/liberal guilt/cultural appropriation/etc. I prefer the former. Personally, I don’t find any issue with non-Maori conducting a powhiri in a New Zealand context. Odd, yeah, offensive, no. Do you agree?

Post-script: this isn’t an attack on Paul Moon. He does good work, if sometimes (well, a lot of the time) he takes an offensive tone and many Maori disagree with him. His book - Tohunga: Hohepa Kereopa - is very interesting. 

Jul 30, 2013

The ethics of a walk out

Youth Parliament sat last week. In response to a speech from one of the Youth MPs, 30 others staged a walk out. Tariana Turia weighs in:

Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says youth MPs were wrong to walk out on a speech by one of the Māori Party’s representatives to last week’s youth parliament.

[Redacted], who was Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s selection for the event, spoke against the marriage equality law.

She said her elders had never told her gay marriage or being gay was OK.
Mrs Turia says [redacted] is entitled to an opinion.

Two points: firstly, the speech was delivered in Parliament. Parliament is the heart of our democracy. Opinions - however odious - have a right to be aired. Parliament wouldn’t function if MPs staged a walk out in response to odious opinions. The Youth MP was entitled to an opinion and a platform. A Parliament that censor the views of its members is no Parliament.

However – and this is the second point – odious views don’t have an absolute right to be heard and taken seriously. MPs and Youth MPs aren't entitled to a captive audience. The walk out represented a powerful condemnation of homophobia. Too often homophobia is minimised as 'an opinion'. Cloaking the offensive behaviour as 'an opinion' compounds the hurt. Homophobia is homophobia, racism is racism, sexism is sexism, ableism is ableism and so on.*

The Youth MP wasn't articulating the Maori position, but imposing a personal prejudice over that position. That can't stand. 

Post script: I think naming the Youth MP adds a level of stigma that's unacceptable. Hence I'm not linking to the article or the speech itself.

*A quick note: I’m always disappointed when members of one marginalised group, like Maori, don’t stand in solidarity with other marginalised groups, like the LGBT community. I think it’s a duty and it hurts to see it broken.

Jul 18, 2013

Powhiri: the sexism edition

Consider this from Voxy:
While Youth MPs were sworn into parliament today, Labour’s Annette King showed outrage over a gender segregated Powhiri.
One hundred and twenty one Youth MPs participated in a traditional Maori Powhiri whereby males spoke from various iwis and were placed in front of females who completed the welcoming call, otherwise known as Karanga.
Labour MP Annette King said she was not comfortable with the "segregated nature" of the welcoming.
And this:
I think it's wrong to impose a western conception of sexism on Maori protocol. Maori views don't have to conform to western norms. To argue that they should is to impose a particular worldview as the only truth. It stinks of the cultural imperialism of the 19th and 20th century. The rationale behind the arrangements is clear, but those rationales might not have existed for as long as many people assume. Reverand Chris Huriwai explains:
After sounding out others, it appears that powhiri were "organic" occasions. Can anyone else explain further?

Jul 17, 2013

In defence (well, sort of) of Whanau Ora

Tariana Turia has announced significant changes to the Whanau Ora model. Kate Shuttleworth reports:

Whanau Ora will be governed by a new Crown-iwi partnership group and three non-government organisations will be set up as part of the process, the Government has announced. The new partnership group will be made up of senior ministers, iwi leaders and experts.

A cynics’ view (or a leftist view): the government’s devolving power to the private sector. An advocates’ view: communities are best placed to determine community needs. I subscribe to the latter view.

The top down model – read the status quo – doesn’t work. It’s paternalistic. The system is responsive rather than preventative. Whanau Ora is a bottom up model. Firstly a preventative model, secondly a responsive model. Whanau Ora is designed to provide whanau with the skills and tools they need to resolve issues internally. The rationale is that the state should be divorced from the process – whanau are best equipped to deal with issues within the whanau. Paula Bennett has adopted this thinking, though with a focus on communities rather than whanau, in the social sector trials. Anecdotally, Whanau Ora and the social sector trials have worked.

Whanau Ora isn’t without flaws, though. The programme must be covered under the OIA. Public money demands public accountability. The argument for devolution is that the private sector – or in this case the community sector – is more efficient (and effective), but efficiency doesn’t negate accountability. There are also competency issues around delivery and monitoring. Proven providers appear to be the exception, not the rule. This appears to be a teething issues, though, rather than a structural issue.

Jul 12, 2013

Labour and National tag team on the MASC

I’m disappointed. RNZ reports:

The Maori Party is staggered at Labour and National's decision to put a stop to a proposed inquiry into how the 2007 Urewera raids affected local communities. 
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell says the parties gave no explanation about why they don't want an inquiry into the aftermath of Operation Eight.

Shane Jones offered an explanation to Waatea:

Labour’s Māori Affairs spokesperson, Shane Jones, says getting the commissioner of police in front of the Māori Affairs Select Committee will be more useful than an all out inquiry into the Operation Eight Urewera raids.

A Maori Affairs Select Committee inquiry would reflect poorly on the last Labour government (and taint the current Labour opposition). An inquiry would reveal the human cost of the raids and the trials. Labour has to oppose the inquiry out of self-interest.

National’s motives aren't noble either. An inquiry is an opportunity to “terrorise [their] political opponents”, but an inquiry that revealed the extent of the suffering and injustice would strengthen the moral and legal claim to compensation. Compensation – if it happens – must be given on the government’s terms.

Te Ururoa has taken a principled stand. Credit where it’s due. Labour’s solution - an interrogation of the Police Commissioner - is not the same as investigating the effects the raids and trials had on the affected communities. It's a weak excuse. The Independent Police Conduct Authority released a damning report into the legality of the raids, but if the Police are to be held properly accountable against their actions the extend of the human suffering must be revealed.

Jul 9, 2013

Egalitarianism, conformism and the Pakeha Party

There’s a great contradiction in the Kiwi heart: a conflict between equality in theory and equality in fact.

Egalitarianism is New Zealand’s founding myth: sometimes a symbol of Kiwi exceptionalism, other times a cultural touchstone in “the cultureless society”. Often a driver of social innovation and progress, but never offered on another person or groups terms. If Maori want access to New Zealand’s egalitarian sympathies, they must assimilate. There’s no room for Maori participating as Maori.

And so the Pakeha Party is born. David Ruck whitesplains to NZN:

"I know that there's huge issues to do with the Treaty and the history, but this isn't really about that. It's when certain Maori start asking for things that only they will be entitled to - that's what's annoying me, and obviously a lot of other people out there as well."

“It’s when certain Maori start asking for things”. Certain Maori. Ruck doesn’t enjoy John Ansell’s rhetorical flair, but he’s adopting the distinction between Ansell’s grievers and achievers. Ruck is pushing the distinction between Maori who advocate for the right to participate in New Zealand society as Maori and Maori who conform.

New Zealand society fluctuates between progressive social policy and provincial and suburban conservatism. Women’s suffrage, the welfare state and Treaty of Waitangi advances weigh against 6pm closing times, weekend trading bans and the Springbok tours (which cut both ways, to be fair).

However, there is a constant: assimilation (now better described in its less connotative and 21st century form - conformism). New Zealand society extends its benefits to those who conform to its norms. However, for many Maori that is not an opportunity worth taking. Maori battled against assimilation ideologies in the 19th century, integration ideologies in the 20th century and the option of conformist ideologies in the 21st century is neither dignifying nor sensible. The Maori renaissance demonstrated that Maori can participate as Maori, even if we failed to convince parts of New Zealand that this a good thing.

None of this is to say that the Pakeha Party – or any of its many sympathisers – is attempting to destroy Maori culture or Maori themselves. In its simplest form egalitarianism is about equality in theory rather than equality in fact. Dedicated representation for Maori (to use one example) grates against the notion that no man, woman or group should enjoy more or separate rights. Dedicated Maori representation might lead to equality in fact (Maori interests in the electoral system are protected and expressed in the Maori seats), but (technically) it isn't equality in theory. Maori enjoy a form of representation that is closed to non-Maori.

The reality the party misses is that the law makes distinction between people and groups all of the time. Distinctions based on age – think of the pension and various statutes that extend rights to children (e.g. the Children Young Persons and their Families Act). Distinctions based on relationship status – think the disparity in treatment (legal and social) between couples in de facto relationships and married couples. And distinctions based on ethnicity. The list doesn’t end there. If the Pakeha Party’s logic is extended to its natural conclusion the party must be arguing for less employment, more crime and lower life expectancy. What about abolishing the age of criminal responsibility? Special treatment for kids after all. The vicious irony of the Pakeha Party arguing for the law to treat them the same as children would be lost on no one.

The party will come to nothing. The 1Law4All party already exists, but with a more coherent set of principles and ideologies (if woefully misguided). Lew Stoddart pointed out on Twitter that a Facebook like isn’t equivalent to real world support. It’s hard to determine what a like means. Is the person liking the page to take the piss, to keep up with what’s being said (even if he or she disagrees with the page) or a casual indication of support? A like is easy and safe and Facebook is a petri dish of trolls. Eddie at the Standard outlines the issue well too.

The best thing to do: forget about the Pakeha Party, but think about the Kiwi character and how that gives rise to anti-Maori sentiments. Kiwi egalitarianism cuts both ways - it's a force for progress and regression. 

Jul 8, 2013

The Maori seats: submit!

Here's my submission on the Maori seats. Feel free to use this as a guide but please don't copy and paste. My submission on the Bill of Rights (posted the week before last) is here with a few rules for submission writing. 

This is the draft version. I need to expand in places, reference, add macrons and so on. The guts of it is here, though. 


1.    The Maori seats must be retained.

1.1  The Maori electorates embody the Treaty partnership between Maori and the Crown.
1.2  The Maori electorates represent constitutional recognition of Maori as tangata whenua and act as a constitutional safeguard for Maori interests.
1.3  The Maori electorates are, after 146 years in existence, an inalienable right and are part of the fabric of Te Ao Maori. 
1.4  Retention or abolition is a decision for Maori voters.
1.5  The Maori seats are not an affirmative action measure. The Maori seats are an expression of the guarantee to “rangatiratanga” in Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi.

2.    The Maori seats must be entrenched.

2.1  Entrenchment will insulate the Maori seats against majority tyranny or the unprincipled use of an ordinary Parliamentary majority.
2.2  The provisions in the Electoral Act 1993 that regulate general electorates are entrenched. The provisions regulating Maori electorates are not. The difference in treatment cannot be justified.
2.3  Dr. Ranginui Walker argued that the Electoral Act 1956 – which did not entrench the provisions regulating Maori electorates but did entrench the provisions regulating general electorates – was “perhaps the most discriminatory measure of all in the application of the law to Māori representation”. He was right and the criticism also applies to the Electoral Act 1993. (Walker, 1992).
2.4  In obiter remarks in Taiaroa v Ministry of Justice McGeChan J held that the Maori electorates are a “Treaty icon” and are “entirely consistent with the Treaty”. That is correct. As an expression of the Treaty, the Maori electorates must be entrenched.
2.5  The provisions regulating the Maori electorates are constitutional provisions. Constitutional provisions must be afforded the highest protection (i.e. entrenchment).

3.    The Purpose of the Maori electorates must be clarified.

3.1  There is a misconception that the Maori electorates are concerned with achieving equal representation for Maori (i.e. electoral equality). This is not the Maori electorate’s contemporary rationale.
3.2  The Maori electorates protect Maori interests in the electoral system and are an expression of the Treaty partnership.
3.3  The Maori electorates allow Maori to participate as Maori in an electoral system that is, in all other respects, a western system.
3.4  Maori have been beneficiaries of MMP, though only in the sense that Maori representation in Parliament is equal to and in some Parliamentary terms greater than the Maori share of the population. However, proportional representation has not guaranteed that Maori interests are adequately protected. The Maori electorates have.  

4.    The Maori option must be extended.

4.1  The existing five month window too short. The window should be extended to six months or longer.
4.2  A provision imposing a positive obligation on the government of the day to “effectively” (rather than “reasonably”) advertise the Maori electoral option must be enacted.
4.3  I support in principle the private members bill from Te Ururoa Flavell MP that would automatically enrol New Zealanders of Maori descent on the Maori electoral roll.

5.    Dedicated Maori representation in local government must be investigated.

5.1  I accept that it would be wrong in principle to impose dedicated Maori representation on local governments.
5.2  However, dedicated representation must be discussed. Maori interests are not adequately protected at local government level.
5.3  Provisions regarding Maori input in the Local Government Act 2002, the Resource Management Act 1991 and so on are inadequate. Maori interests must not only be heard, but be afforded the appropriate weight.

5.4  Where dedicated Maori representation is rejected, local governments must be compelled to investigate alternative methods that include Maori perspectives in the decision-making process.  

Jul 3, 2013

Maori politics: crises, opportunities and the Greens

I was born in 1991. In 1991 Pita Sharples was working across the public service and he was a visiting professor at Auckland University. In 1991 Pita Sharples was working with and for Maori. In the decades before 1991, Pita Sharples was working with and for Maori. He’s still working with and for Maori. For that, he has my deepest respect.

Though service is the rent we pay for living. Pita Sharples’ record of service is long and it's his time to step down.

Crisis versus opportunity

There are two views on Pita’s resignation: that it represents a crisis in the Maori Party or that it presents an opportunity for political renewal.

Well, political crisis’s trigger resignations, but vacancies come with opportunities.

Generational change will create a break from the political period that Turia and Sharples embody. The post-settlement era is close and the Maori renaissance era is closing. The Maori Party must use the leadership change (and the ideological and personnel openings that that change creates) to renegotiate the contract between their party and the Maori electorate.

That means recreating the Maori Party’s political identity. The party was founded in opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and based on the premise that the party wasn’t left or right – it was Maori. 

In other words, the Maori Party was a pan-Maori political party. That has failed. The Maori political landscape has fragmented (Mana has split to the left, Labour might be “rising” and the Greens are emerging). The Maori Party doesn’t have to accept the left/right dichotomy, but it must carve a coherent position (e.g. tino rangatiratanga for the post-settlement era). There is space for a kaupapa Maori party – that is independent (and is seen to be). The Maori Party, in its current arrangements at least, is not (and is not seen to be). A leader who doesn’t hold a ministerial warrant (e.g. Te Ururoa) is better positioned to reclaim the party’s independence.

However, the great barriers are that the Maori Party is accountable against its record and Pita Sharples helps anchor the Maori Party’s remaining support. He’s Papa Pita – one of the most trusted Maori MPs. Pita has to leave on his own terms. If his resignation is seen to be forced that will compromise the mana of the man and the party. In that sense, the resignation poses its consequences.

Who deserved the blame?

It’s unfair that Pita has shouldered the blame. Na Raihania’s poor placing in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection was not solely a reaction against the leadership battles in the Maori Party. The party’s troubles are more deep rooted.

If you view politics as a horse race it’s tempting to identify leadership battles, disunity and the back-and-forth of the political process as reasons for the poor showing of party X or politician Y. Reality is more complicated.

Doubts developed in the Maori Party’s first term. The party entered government on a high. Te Tai Tonga elected a new Maori Party MP and a “mana-enhancing” deal was reached with the Prime Minister and the National Party. After the conflict of the previous four years, 2008 felt positively peaceful.

When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in government, don't always do as the government. From 2008 to 2011 the fatal narrative crept in and solidified: that the Maori Party wins had been more symbolic than substantive and that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National. Colin James encapsulated it well in arguing that the Maori Party is and was seen as National’s “proxy” in the Maori seats.

The party swallowed its defeats, but its wins weren’t seen to neutralise the eroding trust that the defeats had triggered. The debacle over the Rugby World Cup broadcasting rights, a defeat for Maori seats on the Auckland Council and bad faith in the Tuhoe settlement negotiations contributed to the idea that the Maori Party was part of a mana-diminishing deal. The party also voted for unpopular pieces of legislation (e.g. the ETS) and (consistent with their supply and confidence agreement) a budget that Maori opposed. The Maori Party’s strength is that it’s independent and accountable to Maori (c.f. Labour). But its independence was beginning to be questioned.

In 2010 the negative narratives started developing and the consensus within the party begun unravelling. Hone Harawira tried to cross the floor against budget 2010 and he appeared increasingly isolated. In early 2011 the consensus broke when Hone – after taking a swipe against the Maori Party in the Sunday Star Times – was expelled. The Maori Party split right and Hone (soon to become the Mana Party) split left with prominent Maori Party members (including Annette Sykes, Angeline Greensill and Mereana Pitman) too. The narrative that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National solidified and Maori politics divided along class lines. Mana carved a position for the Maori working class and (mostly by omission) the Maori Party was seen to be the party for iwi and the Maori middle class.

Accepting a deal with the National Party was always a risk. Although Labour’s vote had been trending downwards, the Maori electorates remained overwhelmingly left. There was little affection for National, but a grudging acceptance that Maori should operate across the political acceptance. Tough circumstances (e.g. high Maori unemployment) took that acceptance to its limits and in 2011 it broke. With this in mind, the decline of the Maori Party is best traced to 2011 – when the narratives solidified, Hone steered half of the party left and broke Maori politics along class lines - rather than contemporary leadership trouble.

Te Ururoa is the heir apparent

Te Ururoa Flavell is the ideal leader for the contemporary Maori Party: pragmatic and respected across the left and right. He also offers continuity post-Turia/Sharples and a generational change.

However, the party must consider whether their interests are better represented by an external leader. A leader who isn’t tainted by the debacles in 2011 or the leadership disunity in 2012 and 2013. Rawiri Taonui has identified Naida Glavish as a potential leader. If she were elected that would be a platform for her to succeed Pita in Tamaki Makaurau.

Alternatively, a co-leadership arrangement. Glavish as the female leader and Te Ururoa as the male leader. That gives Te Ururoa the position he has been seeking for (literally) years and Glavish represents a break from the toxic period 2008-2011. Rahui Katene has indicated that she is interested in co-leading the party too. However, Rahui wasn't reelected as the MP for Te Tai Tonga in 2011. She does not represent the clean break that Glavish does. Glavish is the clean break, Te Ururoa is the continuity.

Tamaki Makaurau has fallen

Unless the Mana and the Maori Party come to a deal, say the Maori Party runs Glavish and Mana runs a party vote campaign, then Tamaki Makaurau will fall to Labour.

In 2008 Pita won a 7000 vote majority and the Maori Party secured 28% of the party vote. In 2011 Shane Jones came within 1000 votes of unseating Pita and the Maori Party secured 14% of the party vote. The Mana Party secured (literally) half of the Maori Party’s 2008 vote.

The new Maori Party candidate is not guaranteed to inherit Pita’s vote. The vote will fragment further and the Labour candidate (Shane Jones isn’t guaranteed) will storm through the middle. If Mana and the Maori Party want Tamaki Makaurau to remain with a kaupapa Maori Party then they must come to an arrangement.

Te Tai Hauauru might not fall
Ken Mair has been named as a potential replacement. I think he can win. He has the name recognition and the reputation (he is a respected activist and isn’t tainted by association with the National Party).

Of course, it all depends on how strong the field is. A stronger Mana candidate might cannabilise the Maori Party vote and Jack Tautokai McDonald (assuming he stands again) is well placed to increase his share of the vote. It’s too early to call, but I think Te Tai Hauauru remains winnable for the Maori Party.

The Greens are rising?

The beneficiary might not be Mana or Labour, but the Greens. Mana could be perceived as too close (and partly responsible for) the toxicity in Maori politics. Labour is stable, but associated with the foreshore and seabed era. The same is not true of the Greens.

The Greens are now an accepted part of Maori political discourse. The Treaty is at the heart of the party and its policy is aimed at equality. After 173 years of inequality, Maori are hungry for structural change and the equality that the Greens promote.

The party affirmed its commitment to Maori in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti belection and Metiria Turei has been a consistent and prominent voice on Maori issues. If Maori voters are shopping around for a replacement, the Greens are the best alternative. The Greens are rising? 

Jul 1, 2013

Ikaroa-Rawhiti breakdown

I've posted my preliminary analysis of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection at The Daily Blog: 
Labour’s revival has been limp. After losing four seats in 2005 and another in 2008, Labour has regained one (Te Tai Tonga in 2011). Ikaroa-Rawhiti was and is a Labour seat. Its retention isn’t surprising. In 2008 – off of the back of the Urewera raids and the foreshore and seabed – Labour secured 57% of the party vote in. In 2011 – the same year the party’s national vote reached a historic low – Labour secured 50% of the party vote in Ikaroa-Rawhiti. 
In that context, 42% of the candidate vote is not exceptional.
You can read the entire piece here.