May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Every thought that travels my mind carries the responsibilities and knowledge of whanau and its for this reason I have to write this small korero.

When we first heard about the Maori Party, we were at Waikato University, organising committees to host the 2004 Hikoi and getting our own flat ready for our newly born son, Atutahi. These were exciting times as activists busily criss-crossed the country, lobbying, debating, looking back, walking forward. We felt like it was our time.

We were definitely caught up in the moment. Nikolasa and I joined Tracey King, Sophie Tauhara, Wikeepa Wihapi, Nicola Smith, Gareth Seymour, Angeline Greensill and Hinemarie Burton. Our small crew formed the Tauira Movement and we supported the bi-election of Tariana Turia after she crossed the floor to vote against the Labour Party, triggering a massive reformation in Maori politics. The weeks leading up to the bi-election were electric and we felt that our efforts had helped put the dreams and aspirations of Maori to the forefront of a new millennium.

The 2005 elections saw Labours support plummet amongst Maori. Hone Harawira won Te Tai Tokerau from Dover Samuels; Pita Sharples narrowly beat John Tamihere. Tariana Turia comfortably won Te Tai Hauauru and Te Ururoa Flavell gained mass support in Waiariki to beat Mita Ririnui. We knew change was here. Following the elections, our whanau traveled to Parliament to work as Executive Assistant to Hone. From all accounts, it was a failure. I barely lasted 6 months because I felt that no systems were in place for any Maori with tino rangatiratanga at the heart of their kaupapa in that House. And me and Hone clashed regularly. It was a mix of both.

We stayed a little while longer in Wellington, working at the Waitangi Tribunal where I sat and learned about the primary motivator in my life – Te Urewera. Some of my first memories were attending the 12ths with my Koro Ginger (Te Rangiawniwaniwa Rakuraku). These were sacred ceremonies started by Te Kooti, continued by Rua Kenana and followed by the Ringatu faithful. Inside these rituals sat Te Urewera and the theft of Tuhoe lands by colonial and settler governments. Initially I thought working in Parliament would help facilitate the return of our lands; it didnt. It was at the Waitangi Tribunal that my efforts were reinspired.

Like I said at the start, every thought that travels my mind carries the responsibilities and knowledge of whanau.

We returned to Rotorua in 2007, working at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, before stepping out into our own business, In 2008, we again went back into campaign mode by supporting Angeline Greensill in her effort to win the seat of Hauraki-Waikato. It was again amazing to be involved in the Maori Party – to hear the kaupapa being discussed, strategy being formulated. Though we lost the election, it did bode well for me at least, that the Party was moving into the future in a strong position.

Then came talk from friends and whanau about concerns that had with the Maori Party. It started with gay students approaching us and saying how disappointed they were that Tariana had voted against the Civil Union Bill. Takataapui students had played a big role in organising on most campuses and we had now lost their support. Over the coming months and now years, more and more support would be lost. From the passing of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to the Takutai Act, whanau left the party in droves. At times, it felt like we were the only ones in our crew left standing in the whare.

Then 2 weeks ago, a friend was talking to Tariana about an IT kaupapa. When she asked who the Maori Party could speak with, he mentioned my name, mostly as we have been in the IT space for some time now. This is how he relayed the korero to me:

Bro, I mentioned this person and that person and she looked happy and then I said your name. Her expression suddenly changed. She leaned back and said hes disappointed us, so no.

My bro was surprised so asked me what did you do?.

I knew.

For many moons now, more and more whanau were unhappy with the Maori Party and had tried to approach their MPs to raise matters. One was a branch letter to Rahui Katene opposing the Takutai Bill – they got shut out; another was a once trusted staff member who opposed the ETS – she left. Every time whanau got no love from the Party, they came to us and asked if we could print their korero. We did because so few mainstream organisations printed our panui – most of them would filter and sensationalise Maori stories so from the beginning, we said we would print all Maori whakaaro. As opposition to the Takutai Bill grew, so did the public challenges and so did the amount of stories questioning the Maori Party. We still printed press releases from the Party but these were now being off-set by anti-Maori Party sentiment.

So in essence, we were the messenger and I was getting shot.

Then Hone left the Party. Or more, was pushed. Nearly every activist I had lived with over the last decade was now out. Nikolasa had been doing mahi with Hone so now, even my own home was split. My head was still with the Maori Party but my heart had now stepped out…

At the passing of my koro Rangi Rakuraku a couple weeks back, one of my uncles asked how I was doing. We talked for a few hours and the Maori Party came up. He said boy, when John Key promised that Te Urewera would be returned but then changed his mind the night before and worse, made fun of Tuhoe over in Ngati Porou, where was the Maori Party then? Where was Te Ururoa, our MP? Sure you have friends who left because they were hurt and disappointed – but this one not only slapped you – it disrespected everything we all know. If you stay with them, well, then you agree that the Crown, the Government, this system is right and can humiliate us every single generation. I know you are loyal but are they?

Damm, I thought. I went to sit in our urupa to think about things for a while.

When I returned, I vowed to remember all I had learned and to make sure that I stuck to the kaupapa. Taking everything into account, I decided to leave the Maori Party in heart, mind. body and soul. After talking to other whanau who had left, they said not to bother talking to the Party as the responses they had received were all negative and at times, insulting.

So last night, I drove with 30 others to hear Hone speak in Tauranga. The energy was real; the issues were local and the determination to put kaupapa Maori back to the forefront was alive. Sure there is no official Party but the need is there. There is no name but many communities are talking, discussing and deciding on their favourite. We have no money but have we ever? What I saw was the people again taking the responsibility to raise the conditions in our own lives and to re-energise our whanau, our hapu, our marae – without compromise to the National Government or any Government, for that matter.

Today though, it leaves me in an new, empty space. Everything that I had given for the past 6 years, was over. The future looked like more hard work but we were ready to give it. Heck, our old people had done the mahi for over 100 years to regain the Urewera. It wasnt about taking the money and leaving the situation for future generations – the challenge was to address the injustice and to restore our homelands. So Hone Kii, whakarongo boi…

Ae ra – now, like our whanaunga Marama Davidson and Rawiri Paratene, Im going to put my korero out there. It is mirroring and reflecting on my thoughts today. Its also that if I get run over by a bus at lunch time, at least my kids can look back years from now and understand why so many people thought their papa was a crazy hard out with fire in his belly and a mission in his eyes. I must say that I have lost a job recently because the bosses thought I would be politically risky (which to my whanau meant, the Maori Party influenced your sacking) but I lost a job back in 2006 for a similar reason so meh. Sure it is more about the kaupapa than the personalities but we must always remember that as the living face of our tupuna, it is them we carry and if our kaupapa is being put on the backburner, then its up to us to leap into the fire and pull it out.

So, the 2011 elections are coming. Some of my friends are now calling me enemy – kei te pai, I still love you. Some of our enemies will use every trick in the book to slap us down – hard luck cuz, we already down and the only way is up! But over the next 6 months, will continue to print Maori stories from all over nga motu and the world, Nikolasa will continue to join committed Maori activists, community leaders, single mums, working dads, the unemployed to help Hone Harawira put the train back on the tracks and to keep the kaupapa of mauri Maori and mana motuhake alive and I will be there, rising my right hand as Ringatu do and fighting to get the Urewera returned cos like our whanaunga William Wallace said Freeeeeeeeeedom!!

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi. Engari taku toa he toa takitini.


11 thoughts on “Why I left the Maori Party by Potaua

  1. Na Mihi nui kia koe Paitama,

    I can understand what you've been through, You may know of My moko who stood with Angela the last election, after the 2004 hikoi he became a candidate in the General election for the Maori Party, moving from Hamlton to my home in TamakiMaakarau on the advice of the Party forming peers back then

    He did well for his first try for the Party, you would know that they cut the General candidate after so he moved back to Hamilton to continue his personal goals,when the second elecion came up with Angela who you know won the Candidate..
    After all the work we did and fundraising for him, he suddenly said he was throwing Politics up… got a shock to learn he was not really needed maybe next time as he was still young to try again and wait..

    I had to counsel him that people can sometimes use you or stand on your mana just to get ahead so i hope like you he may learn to step around those who use and tramp on your mana and move on to higher levels in life..
    Leader,s are those who walk the talk and see the needs of our Iwi an Kiwi across the board and do their utmost to help met those needs in Aotearoa..

    Koa Ora..

  2. Maku koe e tautoko e Potaua.
    It's easy to see that your decisions have not been made lightly especially in light of your long held conviction to the Maori Party cause. Difficult decisions need to be made and in doing so, courage is required. The land and the teachings of our ancestors will remain behind long after we have past and we will all be judged by history. If we can all look back and honestly say that, by virtue of our thoughts and deeds, we have left our whenua and whanau in a better position than when we came to be, then we have made good our time on this earth.

    Thank you for your courage and conviction but most of all thank you for the love that you share for Te Ao Maori.

    Heio ano, noho ora mai,

    na Brent Reihana

  3. kia ora-realise that we are free and sovereign-the treaty was a fraud ,the English version tacked on after the port waikato signing-its illegal folks(was never ratified)-(smoke and mirrors) our ancestors never ceded the declaration of independence(NZs true founding document)even the indigenous version of te tiriti o waitangi gives away nothing-neither absolute leadership(tinorangatiratanga) or sovereignty-the pakeha just has you bamboozled-wake up..!!! we are free….!!!

  4. The Maori Party serves the interests of IWI. It is in IWI interests only, to keep the Maori Party in power. Neither, serve the interests of whanau.
    Our challenges must include, the courage to confront and remove those self-appointed IWI leaders who excel at nothing more than mediocrity and greed, and to rid ourselves of a political party that climbed its way into parliament on the backs of whanau, and having arrived there, betrayed them.

  5. Teenaa koe Potaua

    I commend you for not allowing the disappointments to define you, and for keeping the people as your kaupapa.

    True leadership is measured not so much by those who follow you, as it is by those you empower to walk beside you.

    Thank you for sharing and empowering me with your experience. Proud to be walking beside you.

    He mihi mutunga kore
    Tania Martin

    Me hoki a Urewera ki toona Iwi.

  6. Kia ora e hoa! Lovely words, from the ngakau. I just so happen to agree with your ngakau and I admire your courage. Love to you and your whanau.

  7. You are a courageous example of a leader born to follow….
    Freedom and Liberty is your creed
    Ngati Pikiao and Tuhoe are your mantles to protect
    Lasa and your tamariki are your soul keepers
    The world is yours and ours to keep

    Nga Mihi e te hoa, e te rangatira hai pupuru i te kaupapa Mana Rangatiratanga

  8. kia ahou me tautoko tona te pati maori nga te mea kei roto ratau te wharemiere kaore take a maori ki waho, me ana kaore tatau e pirangi e nga tangata e roto
    whakapoti ki waho > he korero tenei noiho ? taha kia Hone,ko tana waha kangakanga. te raruraru kei raro aia te panekoti o tana whaea ,kei nui o tatau kei te
    mohio te korero ngawari

  9. T?n? koe Potaua, te rerehua, te rangatira an? hoki o ng?u whakaaro.

    I find myself "ng?kaurua" too. I supported te p?ti M?ori but their continual tautoko to support te p?ti Nahinara and not being a m?ngai M?ori is just too much to carry now. It pains me to see what this party is doing now.

    Au?, au? hoki!

  10. Kia ora Potaua. Thanks for your korero, I think your words and emotions reflect those of many others. I am unsure which way I'm going to vote myself but I am seriously considering the Greens. I appreciate the work that goes into your website so kia kaha, keep up the good work.

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