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Mana's main challenge is unity - Dr Rawiri Taonui

Mana’s main challenge is unity – Dr Rawiri Taonui

The arrival of Te Roopu Mana confirms that Maori political views are as diverse as those of Pakeha.

Alongside the rise of Maori in National and Labour, and Metiria Turei’s leadership of the Greens, it is naive to think the Maori Party can accommodate all Maori views.

Mana adds choice along a spectrum from National and Labour’s centre right and left, the Maori Party’s centre cultural nationalism, the Greens left environmental position, and New Zealand First’s across-spectrum option wherever baubles are.

Far right Act is not an option, except for the Maori Party who oddly will work with Don Brash to oppose Act.

Mana and new Act are equal but opposite reactions to the current economic downturn. Act wants aggressive economic policies benefiting business and the rich, Mana defends the poor.

Mana is the first left-wing vehicle with a tangata whenua heart.

The challenge will be Maori-Pakeha unity. John Minto, Sue Bradford and other lefties are natural allies but one recalls divisions – the Springbok Tour, Donna Awatere’s Maori Sovereignty, and the Alliance-Mana Motuhake implosion.

The party understands emerging inequities within Maoridom, such as an increasing gap between rich and poor Maori, and an Auckland statutory board that excluded 80% of the city’s Maori urban population from the appointments process. Mana faces a challenge translating dated class rhetoric into a more relevant language.

The negative reactions from the Maori Party, National and Labour suggest an immediate by-election is the right strategy. Elected as a Maori Party candidate, Harawira needs to secure a new mandate. The puerile sniping with the Maori Party is ongoing and much has been said about the National partnership, the foreshore issue, his character and his treatment in a sham disciplinary process. It is time for voters to decide the rights or wrongs.

Win and Mana goes one up against the Maori Party while setting a strong platform for the election. Re-elected as a party leader Harawira will also secure more resources and extra rights in Parliament.

The Maori Party is in a difficult position. If it stands a candidate it will lose – obstinate tribal loyalty will ensure that. If it does not, the party will be accused of chickening out.

Despite Phil Goff’s suggestion that Kelvin Davis might stand, now is not the time, Labour is better riding a widening Mana v Maori chasm. If both Labour and the Maori Party stand, they will split any anti-Harawira feeling.

There will be a strong swing to Labour at the general election because of dissatisfaction with the National Party deal. Despite important gains such as removal of the Maori seats from the MMP referendum and Whanau Ora, for many, the Maori Party mantra of being at the seat of government is wearing thin, especially when objections to the GST rise, low minimum wages and East Coast drilling went nowhere.

Maori voters are strategic.

At the last election they elected five Maori Party candidates while passing party votes to Labour.

This time tribal, rather than party politics, will decide several Maori electorates, returning Tariana Turia in Te Tai Hauauru, Nanaia Mahuta in Waikato-Hauraki and Harawira in the north. Te Tai Rawhiti will go to tribal candidate Parekura Horomia if he stands. If not, Mana has an edge on the offshore drilling issue. Te Tai Tonga will likely go to Rino Tirikatene for Labour.

An even contest in Waiariki between tribal candidates Annette Sykes and Te Ururoa Flavell will be the litmus test of the Harawira-Maori Party saga.

Iwi are strong in Auckland but outnumbered four to one by nga mataa waka urban M?ori. With  a significant middle class but bigger working class possibly voting in different directions, this looms as the hottest three-way non-tribal contest.

Philosopher George Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. In 2004, Labour passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Most Maori opposed it. Labour’s Maori MPs said it was the best that could be achieved. Turia, then a Labour minister, was given leeway to speak against it, but chose to resign, forcing an unopposed by-election that paved the way for Maori Party triumph in 2008.

In 2011, the Maori Party and National passed the Takutai Moana Act. Most Maori opposed it.  The Maori Party said it was the best that could be achieved. Harawira opposed the Act, was disciplined, resigned, and is now forcing a by-election.

Maori voters will decide the rest.

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