May 18, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Compromise vital to ensure survival | Rawiri Taonui

3 min read

(Source | Rawiri Taonui) HONE HARAWIRAS Facebook dickheads description of those keen to expel him from the Maori Party is an improvement on his infamous foul-mouthed tirade of a couple of years ago, but it still undermines the goodwill from last weeks meeting with Te Ururoa Flavell.

The outburst was probably an expression of frustration over the disciplinary process he faces, one many Maori commentators have expressed equal exasperation over.

One hui was cancelled, Flavell and Harawira were asked to leave a National Council meeting rather than discuss the issue, Maori Party officials said they werent invited to a meeting on a northern marae an odd claim given the openness of marae, and Flavell refused to attend a second meeting.

Party leaders appear afraid to face Harawiras iwi.

The schism has its roots in three decades of Maori renaissance that gave rise to an educated and dedicated Maori middle-class across the Greens, Labour, NZ First, the Maori Party, National and Act – and where Maori lead three of those parties.

The partys strength is engagement with whomever forms whatever government using their Maori numbers, which stand independent of any P?keh? dominated caucus which was the root cause of a lack of progress under the R?tana Church Labour Party accord, Harawiras is a reminder of the lowest common denominator in Maoridom.

Neither side seems to appreciate it needs the other.

The National partnership is not perfect, but neither was it with Labour where after Rogernomics Maori income levels relative to Non-Maori did not return to 1980 levels until 2005.

There is no nirvana scenario for Maori – there never is for minority partners. The future lies in cyclic partnerships, some better than others, but each better than the situation for Maori before 2009.

The single greatest gain by the Maori Party with National has been removing the future of the Maori seats from the MMP referendum at this years election. The latest Te Karere digipoll shows 87.8% of Maori support the seats and 71.8% support MMP. Had the question not been removed, there may well have been no Maori seats to squabble over by 2014.

The future of an independent and effective Maori voice in parliament is at stake. Both sides will lose in any parting of the ways.

The digipoll shows that while 48% of Maori Party voters support the relationship with National, 45% are opposed.

More widely, more than half of all Maori voters think the government – and therefore the Maori Party relationship – is heading in the wrong direction.

The concerns are valid. Maori unemployment stands at 15.5% – 38.4% higher than in September 2009, and over 300 per cent than for Pakeha.

There are other warning lights. Support for the Maori Party has dropped to one point below Labour. NZ First, which didnt register with Maori voters a year ago, has jumped to 4.3% on the back of Winston Peters resurrection rhetoric against the National-Maori Party accord.

Many would follow Harawira out of the party. He could hold Te Tai Tokerau but be a lone voice. Talk of a new left party will only repeat the subjugation of Mana Motuhake within the Alliance a decade ago.

The Maori Party could lose any chance of taking Te Tai Rawhiti and Tainui, and a backlash could well see it lose Waiariki and Te Tai Tonga. On another front, Harawira and the Maori Party have fallen into a trap of their own making.

Many Pakeha in the media and in blogs have supported Harawiras honesty. But many neo-liberals do so because they want rid of the Maori Party for aligning with someone other than Labour.

If unity is paramount, both need to compromise. Only 23.6% of Maori support the foreshore and seabed repeal, the fulcrum of current dissent, while 38.7% oppose it. A credible Maori political party can not support it. A discriminatory vehicle for Maori, it compromises other indigenous peoples by setting a new precedent in international law.

Harawira has to play with and for the team. A best solution rests in a balance allowing him to criticise policy but keep party politics in-house.

The meeting on Tuesday has a distinct un-Maori feel to it. A Pontius Pilate exercise in self-absolution emerges, with the party forcing a decision to crush Harawira via a hefty suspension. One wonders what impels two principled groups toward mutual self-destruction.

Dr Taonui is a M?ori political commentator and academic. [email protected]

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