May 8, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

A Trail of Broken Promises | Dr Rawiri Taonui

4 min read

The hikoi arriving at parliament today to protest the Takutai Moana (Marine and Coastal) Bill will not have the numbers mustered in 2004.

The Maori Party will claim this reflects widespread support for their Bill. Party President, Pem Bird, and co-leader Pita Sharples have already claimed overwhelming support for the Bill in different electorate meetings.

However, there is a world of difference between meetings manned by electorate memberships and the opinion of all Maori voters in the wider electorate.

The recent Horizon Maori Research poll showed Maori support for the Bill had halved to just 11 per cent since the last Te Karere Digipoll, while opposition has risen 6.2 per cent to 41 per cent. Seventy-one of 72 iwi and hapu submissions to the Select Committee opposed the Bill with 75 per cent requesting substantial amendments or postponement until a more enduring solution is found.

Why so few on the hikoi? The large hikoi of the 1980s, 2004 and the battle for Maori representation on the Auckland Super City were driven by an upwelling against Pakeha racism. In this instance, the hikoi is marching against other Maori. Maori Party support for the Bill has stunned M?ori into silence rather than action upon an execration for mobilising against other Maori.

The build-up to this protest has been eerie. There are many repeats of history. The main opposition to the Bill has come from one M?ori MP, Hone Harawira, just as it did in 2004 when Tariana Turia opposed the original Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Labour allowed Ms Turia to speak out it 2004 although that ultimately forced her resignation. This time around the Maori Party forced Hone Harawira to resign.

In 2004, Parekura Horomia and other Labour Party MPs said the foreshore legislation as the best that could be achieved under current circumstances. Ms Turia has said the same about this bill.

Both groups of Maori MPs have criticised each other for promoting separate insignificantly different Bills, in the name of good for Maori. Maori reject both.

There is an air of sadness and betrayal about the hikoi as it marches forth along a trail of broken promises by a Maori leadership who also evoke great respect.

The original Act denied access to the courts to determine customary title. This Bill restores that right but constraints the courts from using precents in domestic and international common law by pre-defining customary title in a way that denudes it of significance.

The Maori Party has reneged on a promise to withdraw support for the Bill if Maori opposed it.

There is resistance in some areas to the hikoi particularly among the higher echelons of Ngati Porou and Tainui, who negotiated shadow settlements before the last election. One expects National and the Maori Party to expedite coastline settlements for them as soon as possible. National and the Maori Party will see this as a way of defusing any backlash from both the Bill and dumping of Mr Harawira.

There will be a backlash. In addition to more Maori opposing the Act than supporting it, the last digipoll showed 50 per cent of Maori voters were dis-satisfied with the relationship with National, including 45 per cent of Maori Party supporters. Robust settlements will go some way to mitigating that.

Hikoi numbers are also affected because the split between Mr Harawira and his colleagues reflects a wider schism emerging within Maoridom between a new middle class that is willing to compromise with government in the name of progress and a larger Maoridom who feel left out of claimed gains.

The Horizon poll showed that although 70 per cent of Maori care about the foreshore issue, however, 45 per cent were either neutral or dont care about this particular solution. This is directly related to the more than 70 per cent of Maori felt they were left out of treaty issues at an iwi level.

Many remember the 10,000 that marched against the denying of dedicated Maori seats on the new Auckland Super City Council only to be given a 9-member board that gave mana whenua who make up 20 per cent of Aucklands Maori population 80 precent of the seats and the unilateral right to decide who represented the 80 per cent urban M?ori.

Over 20,000 marched on the 2004 hikoi. Many thousands more voted for the Maori Party on the promises of a greater justice. That promise has not been fulfilled. The Maori Party is supporting a Bill because it has become too wedded to the idea of obtaining utu over Labour for what it did in 2004, overly wedded to the relationship with National and the charismatic John key, and simply wedded to power.

Todays small hikoi makes an important statement about an unjust piece of discriminatory legislation driven through parliament with indecent haste and the widening gap between the Maori haves and have nots.

Dr Rawiri Taonui is a Maori political commentator and academic [email protected]

1 thought on “A Trail of Broken Promises | Dr Rawiri Taonui

  1. Right on Rawiri! Good to see that someone noticed the widening gap. We don't need a middle class dictatorship in New Zealand either.

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