It copped some harsh criticism for its support of the act.
Lawyer Annette Sykes accused Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell of betraying his people.
That was especially significant given she was formerly one of Flavell’s strongest supporters.
Huirangi Waikerepuru, one of this country’s most renowned kaumatua and a strong supporter of Tariana Turia, said that Maori sovereignty and authority had been lost because of the new law.
And lawyer Moana Jackson, an undisputed expert on these matters and former adviser to the Maori Party, has condemned the law, saying it’s no better than Labour’s foreshore and seabed legislation and is discriminatory and racist to Maori.
Adding fuel to the fire were professors David Williams, Margaret Mutu and Jane Kelsey who have all been supporters and contemporaries of Pita Sharples but are firmly in the Moana Jackson camp.
Despite the criticism the Maori Party has convinced itself it is on the right track.
And while it is right to point out that issues like jobs, housing and health are far more important for Maori today, it would be silly to underestimate the anger and disappointment that its support for the new act has caused.
The act is being paraded as a Maori Party triumph but it’s nothing more than a Clayton’s act because it reinforces the injustices of the previous legislation.
The new act allows Maori to contest their rights in court but once there the door is firmly shut if they are unable to prove undisturbed use and occupation of their foreshore since 1840.
It’s an impossible condition for 98 percent of tribes whose foreshore and lands were taken by the Crown.
It’s hard to fathom why Turia and Sharples supported this act. Their relationship with National would not have collapsed if they had simply followed Moana Jackson’s recommendation which was to repeal the previous legislation then put a moratorium on things for two years.
Whereas few would have questioned their commitment and courage in fighting for Maori interests in the past, they now have lost support and raised serious questions over their judgment.
It remains to be seen whether the party will be punished at the ballot box. But it now faces its biggest test in its short life. The test will be whether it is able to not only survive but thrive without the support of some of the key academics, kaumatua and supporters who helped build the party. It’s a test I’ll be closely watching.
– Manukau Courier