May 7, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

The Cost of Trust

4 min read

Trust. It is one of those essential elements that bind whanau close together, alongside love, respect, responsibility and support.

With trust, you can rest easy knowing that your deepest secrets remain held in confidence. With trust, there is a sense of protection and an expectation that you can rely on that person to back you up and to work alongside you. With trust, you often say very little between each other because you both know what each other is thinking and is about to do.

Without trust however, nothing feels safe, suspicions can grow and intentions are often clouded by judgement, real or imagined, as confidence diminishes between all parties. The recent Maori Party AGM held in Hastings brought up these exact feelings, prompting us to ask what lies ahead for the Peoples Movement.

The Maori Party has always been a dream in the minds of generations of Maori. While the Declaration of Independence (1835) and the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) affirmed our rights as Maori to determine our own political course, the spectacular influx of Europeans over the proceeding 200 years did little to enable our growth. Maori were half-heartedly given the franchise to vote and suffered limited representation for more than 100 years.

The cracks emerged when the Labour Party, who had enjoyed a tight political partnership with the Ratana Movement, lost seats to NZ1st and then the Maori Party in 2005. Maori could finally feel the chains of political stagnation start to shake free. The Hikoi to protest against the Foreshore and Seabed Bill ijn 2003/4 showed the split between Helen Clark and Tariana Turia and brought to light the lack of trust between the once harmonious grouping.

Fast forward to 2010 and the Maori Party AGM. What started as a hui to bring the members back up to speed on the inner workings of the Party and to thank Whatarangi Winiata for his exemplary service as President turned into a series of issues related to back trust.

Of the many kaupapa raised, the key issues were the way in which the coalition between the Maori Party and National had developed, the lack of transparency around the selection of Hauraki-Waikato candidate and the unjustified intervention by one of the co-leaders gave cause for concern, the issue of selecting Pem Bird as President (while Pem was offered the Presidency in 2009, he stood down to focus more on the P problems in Murupara which in turn prompted another person to stand who was embarrassed to learn he was not even considered), the negative perception around one of the senior members of the Party and his tyrannical nature and scathing criticism from the floor toward the efforts of the co-leaders. It was here that Tariana Turia commented We are at a turning point where we must ask ourselves the hard questions – are we committed to the collective good? Are our people driving us forward? How can we demonstrate our connections to those who have given us their vote, and who have placed their trust in the Maori Party? The word trust was mentioned 5 times in her korero and today, it is at the heart of re-examining our relationship with the Party and essentially, with each other.

In a way, many Maori do not trust that National and the Maori Party have done the best they can to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act the Takutai Bill has been denounced across the country but is still being touted as the way forward. Many Maori no longer trust Labour (as seen by the bare win of Kris Faafoi in Mana) but trust National even less. The claim that a trip by Maori to China helped to create economic opportunities did not wash with those concerned about Chinas human rights records and overlooked local Maori efforts to build economic momentum.

Essentially, we are at a crossroads around whether we as Maori can trust a group of politicians who we put in Parliament to represent our best interests. We understand that politics often requires compromise but what if that compromise means having less trust in our leadership? There are already a great number of voices who dislike the fact that the Iwi Leaders Group have access to Parliamentary leaders but remain unaccountable to whanau.

And there are growing concerns that personal integrity is being traded off for political survival. To replace Hone Harawira from the Maori Affairs Select Committee looking into the Takutai Bill over claims that he had already made up his mind seemed a slap in the face, just like disallowing Moana Jackson the right to speak to the Takutai Bill at the AGM was a slap to the man and all those who supported him during the initial Hikoi. So with all these trust issues challenging the Maori Party at present, it will be interesting to see what will happen over the next 12 months and whether trust will be restored or further eroded. Time will most certainly tell…


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