By Audrey Young
The divisions in the Maori Party caucus over the foreshore and seabed repeal bill hardened over the weekend at the party’s conference in a very public way.
Maverick Maori Party MP Hone Harawira vowed he would turn up to the select committee hearings on the foreshore and seabed repeal bill despite being dumped from the committee.
And co-leader Tariana Turia said that her and Pita Sharples’ leadership had been undermined, and the mistrust in the party had to stop.
She also challenged the party to decide if it wanted to be part of the parliamentary process and be clear about its role as a party.
On a conciliatory note, she publicly apologised to Mr Harawira for not “standing by him” during the crisis that ensued over his email to [former Waitangi Tribunal director] Buddy Mikaere.
Mr Harawira said later that she had done so privately a couple of months ago.
But he eschewed any conciliatory stance in his speech: “You’ve gotta know that while I’m not on that select committee I’m going to go to as many of those select committee hearings as possible to tell people I oppose this bloody bill.
“Everywhere I go people are saying to me, ‘Good on yous, you fight that bloody bill, Hone,”‘ he told the conference at Omahu Marae near Hastings.
“This ain’t about Hone but it is about that somebody has got to step up and say, ‘Hell, we don’t buy this shit, not today, not ever.”‘
The Maori Affairs select committee will begin hearings in about three weeks.
The split is not just in the caucus. A contender for the presidency, Mereana Pitman, said she was standing to support Mr Harawira.
Murupara Kura Kaupapa principal Pem Bird, who supports the bill, won the presidency.
The debate over the bill and Mr Harawira, including a speech by lawyer Annette Sykes, was forceful and emotional at times but it was largely controlled, if not amicable.
Ngati Kahungunu leader and Maori Party member Ngahiwi Tomoana politely questioned the party’s support for the bill.
He said that if the party was swallowing a dead rat “we should say so”.
“The underlying perception is that we’ve sold out.”
An elderly delegate known as Koro Waru spoke out strongly in favour of the bill, saying elders had died fighting for what had been achieved and just as they had it, the younger generation wanted to pull the plug.
“What the hell’s wrong with them?”
Mrs Turia in an impromptu speech said the party had to think about whether it wanted to be part of the political process or not.
Referring to criticism of the iwi leadership group by Annette Sykes, Mrs Turia said, “I won’t have anyone in this room, and I’ll only say this once, I will never allow you to speak against our iwi leadership.”
She said the party did not hold the rangatiratanga for whanau, hapu and iwi.
“We don’t. We are part of kawanatanga [government]. Our job is to try to be the most powerful advocate that we can be on any on day in that parliamentary environment.”
TRANSCRIPT FROM TARIANA TURIA’S SPEECH
I just want to say that at no point, at no point have we as a political party agreed with the line that the Government has taken on this issue.
We have argued vigorously in all the meetings that we have had at which all of us in our caucus have been.
We’ve had the Minister for Treaty Settlements at our table on a weekly basis and Pita and I have met with the Prime Minister, his deputy to talk through these issues.
In the end, I think it is a really important consideration for us to think about: do we want to part of that political process or not because we know that in Parliament, everything is about votes and you win or lose on the vote that is taken on any one day.
The difficulty for us, we have five votes and if we can’t garner enough to get 63 votes it becomes very difficult on any issue on any one day in that environment.
But I don’t want you to think that we sit there and we roll over on these issues, we do not. We do not, and we never have.
Despite what may be going out into the public arena I want you all to know that I can put my hand over my heart and say that we have not sold out.
In terms of the role of the iwi leadership group, I have always been very clear about my role.
The moment I signed up when I went into Parliament, I knew that I was now part of kawanatanga and my job was to enable those whanau, hapu and iwi to maintain their rangatiratanga by enabling them to get to the table of the Government and we have done that.
Now while some of you may say that the kind of people who have got through that door are not the right people, I will tell you that we have had people from a whanau level right through to the iwi leadership group come to that table.
I’ve got 17 iwi within my Te Tai Hauauru boundary and I haven’t had one iwi raise its voice against what it is that the Maori Party has been doing.
Now that makes it very difficult when we come into hui – and I totally support Kahungunu’s right to speak for Kahungunu, I support that right in the same way as I support the right of those other iwi leaders to speak for their people too.
And I find it really difficult when we come into hui and we listen to people denigrate those of our iwi leaders who have sat at that table.
And I want to speak more particularly about my own iwi leader, Archie [the late Sir Archie Taiaroa] and I won’t have anybody in this room, and I’ll only say this once, I will never allow you to speak against our iwi leadership.
You have no right to.
I think the korero that went on earlier about each iwi speaking for themselves I totally support because in actual fact rangatiratanga begins at the hapu and iwi level.
And if we as a party don’t understand that and respect that, why are we there?
Why are we there? Do we think that we hold the rangatiratanga for whanau, hapu and iwi? We don’t. We are part of kawanatanga. Our job is to try to be the most powerful advocate that we can be on any one day in that parliamentary environment.
There is not a day goes by where we are not having a stoush about something and so we should. That’s what we have been put there for. But let’s not get our roles mixed up with those of the hapu and iwi and let’s not keep denigrating those of our leaders who do get to the table.
I’ve sat at the table at every single one of those hui and I have never once heard any of those iwi leaders speak against the rights of whanau and hapu as the rightful owners of areas of foreshore and seabed or any issue for that matter.
And so you know sometimes we come out and we listen to people making huge statements which basically not only undermine Pita and I as the leaders in the parliamentary environment but I have had to sit through hui after hui where people have undermined the leadership of matua Whatarangi [past president Whatarangi Winiata] and I want to tell you that those days are over. Those days are over.
All of us have to stand shoulder to shoulder for one another and I’ve made my mistakes in the past and I acknowledge that and I apologise to Hone for not standing by him on the issues when he was confronted with them.
And I just want to say that none of us that are here can hold our hand over our hearts and say that at times we haven’t made mistakes. We have.
But I do want you to know that while we may do things in Parliament that you don’t approve of, I can promise you that we listen to what you say, and that we advocate what you say and there are times when we lose. And that’s our reality.
Now we can either decide that that is not good enough and shouldn’t be there and we shouldn’t be participating or we should be in opposition basically just throwing stones at whoever the Government is.
Well I haven’t got much longer in my life actually and I’ve had my days of sitting on opposition benches moaning about everything and getting nowhere.
And I think that what we have got now is not the greatest deal in town but I will tell you that it wouldn’t matter who the Government was. The fact of it is that National and Labour, their voting public is what we call middle New Zealand and they are the ones who actually rule the Government.
Those Governments go out and they poll every week to see what middle New Zealand is saying and do you really think from your experience out there at home that they are on our side.
That’s why it is so difficult. It doesn’t matter what our take [issue] is, be it te reo, be it whatever, it is always going to be an uphill battle. But hey, watch this space because over the next 40 years Aotearoa is browning up and it will be at that time that our mokopuna will come back and they will take their rightful place as leaders in this land and they are the ones who will take us forward.
All we can do is do what we can do today.