Opinion: The Year for Maori (a 2010 recap)

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(By Rawiri Taonui) The battle for dedicated Maori seats on the new Auckland City Council dominated the first half of the year. Maori made strong arguments based on a Royal Commission report on Auckland governance a proposition the government rejected in favour of a consultative board simply put, many Pakeha while comfortable with Maori culture are not yet ready for that level of equality.

Maori also have much to learn about equality. Just two of nine (20 percent) board members represent more than 80 per cent of Aucklands so called urban Maori. Most accept mana whenua is entitled to majority representation for historical reasons but seven of nine seats stretches fairness. Manawhenua also choose the urban representatives – which reminds of a time when only Pakeha could nominate Maori MPs. One does not emancipate by silencing the majority a 50/50 would be more equitable.

Under the tutelage of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples the Maori Party continued to dominate the political stage fending off internal implosions in the wake of the white mf affair and ructions over the foreshore appeal. Hone Harawira remains a necessary thorn in the side of unity as a voice for disenfranchised Maori – Maori politician of the year, for sheer guts.

The Maori Party has come to symbolise Treaty partnership in governance with whoever wins whatever election in multiple alliances across successive governments. Their rise has facilitated the rise of others as mainstream parties compete for the Maori constituency that is now key under MMP. Hekia Paratas inexorable elevation in National and Louisa Hall, the first Maori to secure nomination in a safe Labour seat, are the result. Ms Parata has a shot at very high office, proof that behind every great woman stands a good man.

Shane Jones got caught red-handed alone but will be back.

Debonair Winston Peters is back reapplying anti-Asian one-liners that blitzed the 1996 election in new anti-Maori guise describing the Marine and Coastal (Takutai Moana) Bill as a charter for extremists, mischief makers and manipulators. Expect him back in Parliament in 2012 but without ministerial baubles of power – although MMP often offers something for smartly attired opportunists.

Increased fees next February will undo much good work to increase Maori participation in pre-school. An Education Review Office report criticised schools for a lack of commitment to the Ka Hikitia strategy, few secondary schools had plans, fully 80 percent had no active initiatives. National numeracy and literacy standards in schools are placing pressure on heavily loaded bilingual and immersion providers struggling to meet cultural demands and find teachers and resources.

Caps on student numbers, increasing expulsion regimes for struggling students, decreases in TEC equity funding and restrictive regulations barring access to Maori courses are suppressing opportunities for M?ori in universities. Autonomous Maori led units in partnerships with iwi, and able to bypass cultural conservative mainstream bureaucracies, are developing postgraduate capacities rivalling traditional university monopolies – Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi has 200 Maori MA and 60 PhD students more than double most universities. In another bright spot, Maori women now makeup 22 per cent of all tertiary enrolments although one might ask what is going on for Maori men who are well behind.

Whanau Ora is set to deliver better results for Maori in health, however, a crisis looms over numbers of Maori medical staff just three percent (300) of all doctors are Maori from a population of over 600,000, one set to grow 30 per cent by 2026 to 810,000.

Maori life expectancy continues to inch towards that for non-Maori; however, Maori suicide rates 25 per cent higher than for non-Maori and there are alarming rises in the rates of Maori breast cancer and hospital admissions for Maori children, the latter a result of the economic downturn. The horrific death of Tyla Flynn, allegedly at the hands of Rikki Hopa, and the torture of a 9-year old girl in West Auckland raises the sceptre of high 1990s post-Rogernomics Maori child homicide rates.

Benji Marshall, the mercurial captain of the Four Nations Champion Kiwis, was named international Golden Boot with two other Maori players, Sean Kenny Dowell and Jason Knightingale, making the coveted final 13. With victories over England and Ireland the M?ori rugby centenary celebration delivered sensational results but with just three games and none in major centres was anticlimactic as was the befuddled NZRFU apology for excluding Maori players from the 1960 South African tour. The Maori laden Black Ferns crushed all at the womans World Cup but where was the television coverage?

Winston Reids strike for the All Whites at the World Cup meant Maori players have scored the three most important goals in New Zealand football history Wyton Rufer against China in 1982, Rory Fallon against Bahrain in 2009, and Reid against Slovakia for credibility and the pathway to winless undefeated glory. Quote of the year goes to a young New Zealand Asian spectator at an All Whites game who leap to his feet chanting Stand up for your Whites.

The Commonwealth Games saw the return of Temapara George to help grab gold in the best netball final since she graced the 2003 world championship. The games also witnessed the rise of squash player double medallist and Maori Sportswoman of the year Joelle King. Hosea Gear grabbed a sevens gold medal, the Supreme Maori Sportsperson Award and a Grand Slam to emerge as the number one All Blacks winger – it took the selectors some time to appreciate what Maori already knew.

In the entertainment world, Taika Waititis multi-award winning movie Boy stormed the box office overtaking Once Were Warriors and Whale Rider as the countrys most successful home-grown production. Not to be outdone, blonde haired 8-year old Hinetapora Short became Nestles new Milky Bar kid.

A Waitangi Tribunal report raised alarm about the future of te reo with the proportion of children studying the language at school steadily declining. The report criticised a failure by government departments to engage with the language and questioned the availability and quality of te reo teachers. Kings College holds an answer make te reo compulsory.

Don Brashs Orewa 2 speech and the Coastal Coalitions paranoid vitriol about loss of rights for Pakeha on the beaches represented a low in race relations. Minister of Treaty Settlements, Chris Finlayson, didnt help with comments that Maori protestors are stupid and can go to hell if they dont use processes. There is not one Treaty process that doesnt owe something to historical protest movements.

Air New Zealand takes the cultural clumsiness award the first run of its new pink uniform an ill conceived jumble of distorted Maori designs the more stylish final edition wings it.

Treaty settlements are on track to be finished by 2014 because of improved processes. Although each humiliates Maori by returning less than one per cent of losses they kick start iwi development. The Ngapuhi process emerges as the most important because it considers whether or not the Treaty of Waitangi ceded sovereignty in 1840 – the answer may have long term ramifications.

The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill dominated the second half of the year. M?ori have strongly objected to the test requiring proof of an ongoing connection with the foreshore since 1840. This may result in an amendment. This issue will not be resolved until a Labour-Greens-Maori Party coalition drafts a new Bill sometime after the 2015 election, and, only if each party is led by a Maori. This will likely spark a Pakeha hikoi to which Maori could apply a brown backlash equal rights are choice.

Rawiri Taonui is a political commentator and academic rtaonui@xtra.co.nz

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