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The Kermadecs, a fishing settlement, and the Long Forgetting.

The Kermadecs, a fishing settlement, and the Long Forgetting.


I imagine John Key must have had a lovely warm feeling as he announced before the world  (well, the UN in New York) that New Zealand was finally going to set up an ocean sanctuary at the Kermadecs, the gorgeous smattering of islands in our exclusive economic zone about halfway between here and Tonga. I had a similar feeling when I heard the announcement. What’s not to love?  The world’s oceans desperately need protection; various studies have been tolling mournful tidings about all kinds of grave problems facing our oceans’ health. By one stroke, NZ is now set to better meet our international obligations on protecting coastal and marine spaces.
Our Cabinet, a few days before Key’s speech at the UN, had decided to do what Titanic director James Cameron and the current US Secretary of State John Kerry had been asking us to do. And once the announcement was made, the Left was falling over themselves to remind us that the Greens submitted a private member’s bill on that very issue a few years back, and that Labour had a policy horse in that race too.
Why is there a problem with such a winning idea? Because the Kermadecs, as a part of New Zealand exclusive economic zone, comprises an area from which deepwater quota is currently sourced. So that means the forthcoming sanctuary (comprising a gargantuan 620,000 km2) will be excluded from all fishing and mining. Māori will not be able to source our commercial quota from that area. Nor will there be any opportunity to expand fishing operations in that area. In simple terms, this contravenes the 1992 commercial fisheries settlement. The “Sealords Deal”, as it became known, provided to Māori in recognition of claim settlement 10% of the quota in the QMS as at 1992 (and 20% of any new quota. Plus a bunch of cash and other stuff. Iwi were allocated the quota on a coastline basis, and Aoteroa Fisheries Limited was set up to manage assets on behalf of all iwi, not just those with coastline. Yes. All iwi have a stake in the commercial fisheries settlement.
It didn’t take long for the first rumblings of Māori discontent to surface at such loss of opportunity to appear. Nor did it take long for non-Māori commercial fishing interests to voice opposition to the Crown’s plan. Māori (including Te Ohu Kaimoana) and those other commercial interests have now filed lawsuits against the Crown.
OK, I can’t pretend to be an expert in these (or any other) matters, but it’s pretty easy to see why the Government has got itself into trouble, and yet more litigation, with Māori over this sanctuary. It was inevitable.
The Gummint had simply, it appears, forgotten to remember the Maoris. Again. Well, almost. On the day before Key gave his speech, months, maybe years after the germ of the idea for a sanctuary had developed, weeks after Cabinet sign-off, Dr Nick Smith made a couple of phone-calls to Ngāti Kurī and Te Aupouri as a courtesy to let them know about the announcement Key was to make in a few hours. Smith affirmed:
I do not claim, and have never claimed, that that was consultation.
Indeed. And Te Aupouri and Ngāti Kurī have been allocated seats on the proposed governance  body and support the initiative, despite disappointment at the lack of consultation. However, this is an issue that goes well beyond those 2 closest iwi. In the Cabinet paper, commercial Māori fishing quota rights (as established in 1992) were mentioned as ‘nominal quota’. As an ‘administrative quirk’ because no-one had been using them (see para 50 here).

According to Smith & Key, Māori have not fished in the Kermadecs for at least 10 years, and in any event, only about 20 tons are caught there every year anyway. If Māori are losing rights, that’s OK, because ALL quota holders are losing rights. And anyway, just like anyone else, Māori can pick up their quota OUTSIDE the Kermadecs. Cos, well…fish swim, yeah?

Indubitably, fish do swim.

It may well be quite right that Māori will be practically untouched in their current daily lives by the creation of this sanctuary.  And actually, the exclusion of fishing from the sanctuary might just make the quota fish caught outside it MORE valuable to Māori. So maybe, just maybe, Māori should just get in behind, support the sanctuary, which is a public GOOD after all, and quit looking like a pack of greedy opportunists.
Now wait a minute. Where have I heard talk like that before? It was just over a year ago, when Dr Nick Smith (what, him again?) unveiled plans to sell off Crown land in Manukau for housing purposes. It was a very welcome move; Auckland desperately needs land for housing development. Except that some of the land to be sold off was subject to a Treaty settlement whereby Ngāti Whātua were to have rights of first refusal in the event of sale. This decision ended those pre-emptive rights. Pre-emptively. Court action ensued. A few months later a new agreement was entered into, and High Court action was withdrawn. And Ngāti Whātua now has first rights to develop housing on the land.
Come on, Nick. these two situation are analogous to some degree, surely. A public outcry and massive pressure to DO SOMETHING ABOUT A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE. Dr Nick Smith comes up with a fantastic solution that will create a public good and a warm feeling for all. Except for that pesky (what was the word? oh yes…) “quirk” of a legislated settlement in place, with a right legislatively bestowed (regardless of how it was used) upon Māori in compensation for earlier loss. A unilateral decision from you (well, and Cabinet) to kill off said right in a defined area. Aggrieved Māori. Surprised and disappointed Government. Court action.  We know what comes next, right? Settlement, a new suite of rights or some kind of compensation for the loss of opportunity, or something similar. Remember the foreshore and seabed anyone?

Ultimately, the sanctuary will go ahead with Māori support, because Māori too understand that we need our oceans to be looked after for future generations. But as Marama Fox rightly said in the first reading of the Bill about the furore that erupted in the wake of the announcement:

All of that could have been avoided, had the conversation been had in the first place. So it is with some trepidation that we support the bill through this first reading stage. We are happy that we are going to have a taonga for all of Aotearoa to enjoy, but let us do our homework properly so that there is nothing to come back on us in the later years and we find ourselves having to relitigate this entire issue.

True, there was no legislative duty upon the Crown to consult iwi in this matter. Regardless, the Treaty relationship continues, despite the existence of ‘full and final settlements’. To paraphrase and subvert Bill Clinton’s campaign team’s slogan from the presidential campaign in 1992: what’s one of the most important thing facing Māori voters today? “It’s the relationship, stupid!”

So Dr Nick…the next time you have a bright idea can you uphold the mana of the Treaty partner by talking deeply to some real live Māori people who are not in the habit of forgetting our social, political and legal history before you go to Cabinet?



[Dear Reader, an earlier version of this post is available on E-Tangata.]

Waitangi & the Unsung Virtue of Uncertainty

Waitangi & the Unsung Virtue of Uncertainty

It’s never very far from my memory; the time in 1988 I took a taxi to Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast with a couple of army friends of mine. All I can really recall is shrinking down into the back seat, between my companions, in bemused horror as the taxi driver proceeded to tell us all about how the Tasmanian Aborigines were exterminated, and that, on the mainland “they should have finished the job”. I was 18 and working at Expo 88 in Brisbane at the time, in a year of bicentennial celebrations of the European settlement of Australia. I was doing my bit back then to contribute to Australian patriotism and until that moment I had never really given the other side of the story another thought.

If you are a social media type with a New Zealand Facebook account you will likely have had a few interesting or disturbing posts on your feed in the lead up to Australia Day on 26 January, marking the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships to Sydney Cove in 1788. This Day is intended to be a celebratory one:

On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. It’s the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It’s the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.

In my case the social media posts I saw were less than celebratory (see here and here for examples), and largely consisted of withering criticism of Australia’s treatment of Aborigines. Invasion Day provided another view of a day intended to celebrate the formation of Australia as a nation. In truth, I shared the odd post myself.

At times like this New Zealand discussions about race relations between the majority populations of Australia and New Zealand and their respective indigenous communities takes on a competitive tinge. We New Zealanders are just SO much better than Australians at ‘dealing with’ indigenous peoples, and every year Australia Day gives us that lovely frisson that comes from revelling, for a moment, in the feeling of a job well done. There is, after all, some evidence to suggest that our race relations are better (such a quaint term that, ‘race relations’ a time when we rarely talk of ‘race’ anymore). Smugness is sterile though; each country has quite a different political, cultural and social history, not to mention a vastly different linguistic and demographic landscape.

And any little sense of complacency we might have been lured into by way of Australia Day on Jan 26 is soon obliterated by our own tortured anxieties (for some, at least) about Waitangi Day on Feb 6.  Usually there is some issue or take that demands protest and attention, for which Waitangi Day becomes a kind of cultural and political lightening rod. This year it is the approaching local signing of the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement). Some Māori have promised protest at Waitangi, while the John Key proclaims  his normal state of resolute relaxation about any such protests.

And, on cue, a few weeks out, Pākehā Media Personality Angst Against Waitangi (PMPAAW) kicks in. In 2012 it was Paul Holmes who delivered up an absolute doozy against which the Press Council upheld complaints. Paul spluttered:

I wouldn’t take my three great uncles who died at Gallipoli and in France – Reuben, Mathew and Leonard – to Waitangi Day and expect them to believe this was our national day. I wouldn’t take my father, veteran of El Alamein and Cassino, there. Nor would I take my Uncle Ken who died in a Wellington bomber, then try and tell him Waitangi Day was anything but filth.

No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it. Let them go and raid a bit more kai moana than they need for the big, and feed themselves silly, speak of the injustices heaped upon them by the greedy Pakeha and work out new ways of bamboozling the Pakeha to come up with a few more millions.

The same year Richard Long had a go. in 2014 Cameron Slater jumped on the train, Peter Dunn reiterated calls for a New Zealand Day to replace Waitangi Day in 2011. This year, it was Mike Hosking’s turn, although on TV rather than in print. ‘An annual ritual of abuse, anger and ignorance’, in Mike’s view. Well, I’m not sure which ritual he was referring to, the one at the lower marae, or that perpetrated by PMPAW.

Snarkiness aside, I have never had any problems with dissent about Waitangi Day, from any quarter. These protests, complaints and flagellation are absolutely necessary. New Zealand must never, in my view succumb again to a comfortable view of itself. This uncertainty about our national identity and our connections between our communities is absolutely essential if we are to function well as a nation in the future.

The seeds of this uncertainty were sown in the years between 1835-1840 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi, and only in the past 40 or so years have those seeds begun to bear fruit more obviously in the public consciousness. But make no mistake, in regards to Crown-Māori relations uncertainty has been our national lifeblood. The Treaty of Waitangi is but only one agreement between the Crown and Māori among hundreds in our multi-textual legal history. These agreements included deeds of cession, confiscation agreements, and regional pre-emptive agreements each agreement opening up new relationships, new portals for negotiation, new sites of political uncertainty.

In fact, the single most enduring and salient feature of political constitutionalism in colonial NZ has been Maori insistence on treating any agreement with the Crown as never final, but, in the words of Mark Hickford, only as:

‘punctuated moments in conversations without end’.

Time and again, year after year, decade after decade Māori have insisted on negotiation, compromise, recognition and political space. Sometimes they have got it, oftentimes not.

So, from the perspective of what we could call political identity formation, or constitutionalism, the Treaty of Waitangi generates a kind of positive uncertainty. We don’t actually know what the future will bring in the relationship between Māori, the Crown, and the peoples of New Zealand. We cannot take solace in the presumption that what has been always will be. There are new settlements, new agreements, new cultural landscapes and new relationships forming and dissolving every year. None of this is comfortable.

I like comfort and moderation. So I have some sympathy with the call for the simplicity of a New Zealand Day, such as that called for many times by MP Peter Dunne:

“We have so many wonderful things about this country that we should be celebrating; we have achieved great things as a nation and continue to do so. We need to be proud of all of that and celebrate what it is to be a Kiwi.

“Waitangi Day is not doing that and has not for a long time.

Mr Dunne said Waitangi Day rarely leaves Kiwis feeling more “united, positive or upbeat”, and non-Maori avoid the day.


Dunne and those like him seem to wish for a simpler, more certain idea of what being a New Zealander is; something more like an Australian Day celebration (without the messy complications of stolen generations and drunk NRL players).

I think we can celebrate and be pissed off at each other. Why are these things mutually exclusive? They can’t be for me, my Pākehā and Māori ancestors collectively got me into my current situation as an urban born Māori who has had to learn what being Māori even means.

So, arguably, Waitangi Day has a far different function than a mere “National Day”, it is a reminder of uncertainty, and to be frank; a safety valve. As Tim Watkin observed in 2012:

I want to hear the anger, not least because silence leads to disenfranchisement and ultimately to violence. It’s when the shouting stops that the bomb-making begins, so let’s celebrate that our national day encourages citizens to speak their truths rather than kill for them.

So wherever I go and whatever I do this Waitangi Day (more likely to be blobbing rather than protesting) I will at some point take a moment to be grateful for our national uncertainty. The alternative is more frightening.

[Please note this post is available at E-Tangata in a slightly edited form.]



Te Ururoa and Shark Week on Māori TV

Te Ururoa and Shark Week on Māori TV

Right. Disclosures. First up, I voted Māori Party in the last election and have personal relationships with one or more people connected to this story. Make of that what you will.

What do we make of the allegations of interference in MTS programming by Te Ururoa Flavell or his staff? If you haven’t caught up on the emails here they are. In them, Māori TV approaches Te Ururoa’s office to ask for his participation in a panel to discuss Whānau Ora in a forthcoming episode of Native Affairs. The mail trail alone is not particularly spectacular, or rendolent of scandal. David Farrar is of the opinion that these are ‘absolutely routine’; there can indeed be quite intense negotiations between MP staffers and media people about the nature of appearances made by those MPs on TV programmes. And then there is the added pungence of a meeting scheduled with MTS executives and Te Ururoa, after which the decision was made to cancel that particular show. To summarise:

  • MTS asks for Te Ururoa to appear on the show.
  • Te Ururoa’s press secretary says (effectively)  “Minister happy to come on, but I’m not sure of the format. Why speak to a whole bunch of politicians, including from New Zealand First? Have you considered talking to Whānau Ora practitioners instead? Would you like some phone numbers?”
  • For their part MTS says “Please can the Minister come on? Yep, we are considering those perspectives, it’s important to get this kaupapa aired.” “Really glad he can come on.”
  • [meeting between Te Ururoa and MTS executives]
  • MTS: “Oops, hang on, show has been cancelled, our apologies.”
  • Press secretary: “Oky-doke, thanks for the update.”

So. Just as DF says, right? No drama, just a polite negotiation. But of course, Te Ururoa is not just an MP, he’s a Minister. He’s one of THE Ministers responsible for MTS. This doesn’t change my own opinion that there was no political interference whatsoever, but I can see why this exchange might warrant a second glance. So, here is my second glance. The first port of call is to go the the legislation: the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act 2003

10     Independence of Service

  • (1)The responsible Ministers, or any other Minister, or any person acting by or on behalf of or at the direction of any Minister, or Te Pūtahi Paoho, or a member of Te Pūtahi Paoho, or a director acting without the authority of the board, must not direct the Service, or any subsidiary of the Service, or any director, officer, or employee of the Service in respect of—

    • (a) a particular programme:

    • (b) a particular allegation or complaint relating to a particular programme:

    • (c) the gathering or presentation of news or the preparation or presentation of current affairs programmes:

    • (d) programme standards.

I’ve bolded the relevant words where issues might be said to arise in this case. This is where the tyre hits the tarmac for Clare Curran, and Andrew Little who is rapidly sniffing large rodents as they both trumpet that Te Ururoa “broke the law”. The key word here is “direct”. The Minister must not direct the Service, for example, in respect of ‘a particular programme’ or the gathering or presentation of news or current affairs. The most basic rules of statutory interpretation mean we have to take the natural and ordinary meaning of words, and we also need to see how the word is used elsewhere in the statute and not just to impose a convenient meaning that best fits our desires. So, according to the Concise Oxford ‘direct’ means to ‘control the operations of’..something, and ‘to give orders to’ someone. The Act doesn’t define the word ‘direct’. But it does use it elsewhere. And the word gets used gives us clues as to what Parliament meant by its use. What do the responsible ministers direct? Did you know the responsible Ministers and the chair of Te Putahi Paoho may ‘direct the board to amend its statement of intent’ under s16(1)(d)? Neither did I. Even more fascinating:

under s24B(1)(a)  responsible Ministers must— (a) direct the Secretary for Radiocommunications to, and the Secretary must, transfer from the Crown to Te Pūtahi Paoho management rights to two 8 MHz ultra high frequency ranges, within the limits of 502 to 694 MHz, for the period from 1 December 2013 to 30 November 2033

and back to that ol’ statement of intent thing, under s34(1)(a) [and (3)]

the responsible Ministers and the chairperson of Te Pūtahi Paoho jointly direct an amendment to the statement of intent…

It looks to me very like the word ‘direct’ has been chosen by Parliament to reflect a notion that the Minister has very limited powers to direct certain things to happen, and then, ‘direct’ is restricted to the sense of  “give  orders” to inferiors in the decision-making process. Directing, in the context of this Act clearly means to order an inferior. This is what the Ministers MUST NOT DO in s10, as set out above.  I don’t think the word’s relevant meaning in the context of legislation is intended to stretch to include statements of opinion, or advice or suggestion. Simply put, the Ministers must not give orders to MTS about any of its programmes, or about the gathering and presentation of its news and current affairs.

OK I realise context means something, and that the person receiving advice or suggestions might perceive an order in there somewhere. That’s why I don’t object to the questions being asked, I just can’t see very legitimate grounds for finding that there is any kind of ‘directing’ going on in the email exchange. It’s a pretty long bow to draw to claim the following statement even begins to emulate where a Minister’s proxy/employee might be considered to ‘direct’ MTS in respect of a particular programme or in the gathering of news ect:

I’m just not convinced that you’ll enlighten your viewers by having a panel of politicians talking about Whānau Ora. Have you considered interviewing whānau, providers or the commissioning agencies as well? Or iwi/other Ministers on the Whānau Ora Partnership Group. Happy to help with contacts if you want them.

Not only is this not ‘directing’ as the Act seems to use that word for what the Ministers do, I don’t even see how this reaches a threshold for political interference. The programme was being planned, the talent was prepared to go on, regardless of the presence of other MPs. I’m really struggling to see political interference. What I see are common sense suggestions. Why not have fewer pollies and more practitioners on a show like this? The emails alone are bolstered by the temporal coincidence of the planned meeting between Te Ururoa and the MTS executive. It was after this meeting that the show was canned. I can’t speak for the meeting from any kind of direct knowledge, but Te Ururoa stated in Parliament:

I met with the chief executive officer of Māori Television once in May 2015. The meeting itself had been confirmed in my diary since February 2015, when I believe I had my first meeting with him. I did not discuss, and do not discuss, planned news items or editorial decisions, as those are matters for the staff of Māori Television to consider.

Sorry to be unfashionable but there is nothing here to persuade me to think this meeting was anything other than the two participants said it was. Because Clare Curran has helpfully provided evidence to confirm this statement in releasing the memo from Pāora Maxwell to staff setting out what was discussed:

On Wednesday I met with the Minister of Māori Development the Hon Te Ururoa Flavell. It was an opportunity to outline our plans for the coming year. We talked about our strategic pillars, partnerships and alliances, people, communications/brand content and multi-platform. The minister was very interested in our progress and supportive of our direction of travel. He has very clear objectives around Māori language speakers and he wants Māori TV to be part of that journey.

[Actually, of far more concern was Paora’s observation a couple of paragraphs down that Find Me a Māori Bride “might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s important that Māori TV caters for everyone’s tastes”. If that’s not damning with faint praise I don’t know what is!]

So we have a meeting with a clear ‘reporting’ agenda and a series of emails about setting up an interview, and a provision is an Act whereby a responsible Minister may not direct MTS about a programme. These puzzle pieces don’t fit. Not unless you force them and slather them in Krazy Glue. You want want puzzle pieces that do fit? The long parade of resignations of high profile journalists at MTS and the chopping and changing of current affairs/news programme content by MTS executives. There’s a common denominator there, his name is Paora. Now there’s a story. Not that anyone at Māori TV can tell it.

Why my vote may not be that important after all. (Gulp)

Like a lot of bloggers at the moment I have been toying with the notion of writing a piece encouraging my Dear Readers to get out and vote. Indeed, I found myself starting to get all worked up about how IMPORTANT OUR VOTE IS. And how I OWE IT TO MYSELF AND MY WHANAU to use my  little vote wisely. Then I had to check myself, and tell myself to ‘settle, petal!’ Cos actually, it’s easy to get sentimental about voting; as if it is our one big ritual by which we discharge our duty of civic citizenship. Actually, that’s kind of rubbish, really. That kind of thinking might even verge on fetishisation of voting, potentially at the cost of all the other things we can do to keep democracy alive in this country. Plus, it invalidates the conscious decision made by some to not vote at all, and yes, that too can be a civic and political choice, even if not one I favour. And for so many Maori who are or consider themselves, disenfranchised from national politics, what…are we condemning them to a kind of democratic purgatory when they don’t vote in national elections? In the immortal words of the Black Eyed Peas: Is that all there is [to democracy]? In short, no, it’s not. In my view it’s civic decision making that characterises democratic behaviour: participating in decision making that affects not just me, my whanau and my immediate kin-network, but the whole of my local community, and beyond. I don’t just mean generating a whole lot of heat and light about issues that affect those communities such as we have seen at public fora in this election campaign. Protest alone, or ecstatic hollering at Moments of Truth meetings don’t comprise civic decision-making, for example.  Of course that kind of engagement can often be critically important precursors to people then carrying out democratic actions. Would, for example, thousands of people have joined up to the Maori Party and later, the Mana Movement, were it not for the foreshore and seabed hikoi in 2004? The hikoi alone was not democracy in action, no matter how fondly we might imagine that it was. It was the other stuff, such as the birth of new political parties, the creation of fresh avenues for civic decision making, among other things, that comprised democratic action. Turning up to vote at settlement ratification hui, at local body elections, making submissions to commissions of inquiry, or to Parliamentary select committees, or to local iwi authorities, or other local bodies, giving evidence before the Tribunal, any, all, or other such actions affect what decisions can be made that have an impact on our communities more broadly. And Māori have such an extraordinarily rich, complex and fascinating history of civic engagement throughout New Zealand history. Our focus on the Big Election Every Three Years allows some commentators to bemoan the lack of Māori engagement in some aspects of national politics (re Māori voter apathy, for example), while completely ignoring Māori civic engagement and decision making where it does occur. There are numerous observations from the early and middle decades of the 19th century referring to a specifically Maori democratic practice. As used elsewhere on this blog site, here’s a quote from Francis Dart Fenton from 1857 (when he was a resident magistrate) talking about Maori runanga making decisions:

No system of government that the world ever saw can be more democratic than that of the Maoris. The chief alone has no power. The whole tribe deliberate[s] on every subject, not only politically on such as are of public interest, but even judicially they hold their “komitis” [committees] on every private quarrel. […] In case of a war the old chief would be a paramount dictator: in times of peace he is an ordinary citizen. “Ma te runanga e whakatu i a au, ka tu ahau.” “If the assembly constitutes me, I shall be established,” is an expression I heard used by a chief of rank, and perfectly represents the public sentiment on the question.

Maori civic decision-making processes led to the establishment of Kotahitanga parliaments, the Kingitanga, the Maori War Effort Organisation during and post-World War II. And today, within parliamentary representation, the operation of Maori land law, the Waitangi Tribunal hearing process and the Treaty settlement process we can still identify a large contingent of Maori individuals, tribal groupings and other polities that are deeply invested in using whatever power may be available to them to effect legal and political transformation of the New Zealand civic and political landscape. This, among other things, is the Māori exercise of democracy. Yes, I’ll be voting tomorrow. I’ll be taking my kids down to Newlands School, and kinda chuffed, as I usually am at election-time. But instead of merely asking ‘who I am going to vote for?’ on this last day before the nation goes to the polls, I’m also going to ask myself: what am I going to do after this election? What am I going to do, in the wake of all the sheer volume of information that we ordinary voters have been subjected to, to just….participate in civic decision making? Or will I slip back into my three-year slumber? Mind you..with the way my head is hurting from information overload from the past few weeks, it’s tempting!

Confessions of a moderate Maori voter…(If that’s OK with you, that is).

On my Facebook feed this morning I read the following status update written by a friend. It made me wonder. This was a cry from the heart for something that Māori have apparently lost. This woman was just..

[r]emembering the days when we weren’t separated by our political beliefs but were connected through kaupapa, whakapapa, hope, and making Aotearoa a wonderful and amazing place to live.

The many likes and comments on this status showed that quite a few people were agreeing with this thinking: Māori have become too politically divided, too self interested, too disconnected from this things that really matter, too divorced from the kaupapa. Māori live in a fallen, individualistic world. The answer to the fall is somehow to rediscover cohesiveness between ourselves as a people, remember the ties that bind us, to reject those things that divide. That’s a pretty powerful vision, especially for a people, such as Māori who, research and our own discourse tells us, are more likely than Pākehā to adhere to collectivist practices and values.

True to my own bloodymindedness I read the question above and thought…’ I don’t remember that time, because I’m not sure it ever happened.’ I think that if we apply the microscope to any period of Māori social and political history what looks like unity and cohesiveness mutates and disappears before our very eyes. Māori value collectivism, including securing collective outcomes (even if only at the expense of other Māori collectives) sure, but that has never translated to hive-think. Our mythology is suffused with stories of conflict, especially between siblings or cousins, and between grandchildren and grandparents, Tāne separating Rangi and Papa in the face of opposition from Tāwhirimatea, Māui’s enduring conflicts and collaborations with his brothers in fishing up Aotearoa and slowing Tama-Nui-te-Rā, and in Māui stealing his ancestor’s jawbone, Tāwhaki overcoming the hatred and jealousy  of his cousins or brothers-in-law, and tricking his grandmother by filching her taro tubers in his and his brother’s quest to ascend to the highest levels of heaven.  And so on. Any number of other myths show intense rivalry, conflict  and sometimes desperate cooperation before fundamental change is able to take place. Māori mythology does not present us with homogeneity. The towering figures of these narratives are intimately bound by whakapapa, but fight furiously for different visions of how the world ought to be. Māori mythology gives us a pretty good template for modern Māori politics and, in that light, makes the split between Hone Harawira and the Māori Party seem positively pre-ordained. I’m not sure what the template would be for the coming together of the disparate elements of Internet Mana, but hey, there would be something in there somewhere…maybe.

A couple of the comments on the status I mentioned above refer to a dismay that Māori are not only divided, but can to be seen across the political spectrum. As one said: ‘Frustrating I would say! Look at our mates in every camp!’ This reminded me of the many comments made in the wake of National releasing its list in July. With 2 Māori women in the top 10 (Hekia Parata and Paula Bennet) some comment was made on the left of the spectrum of those women’s betrayal of Maoridom by their alliance with National. As one Facebooker commenting on Annette Syke’s posted link sharing the list wrote:

Yes agreed and to be honest if getting a promotion up the ranks is a result of screwing over your own people then it’s not really something to be proud of.

The tenor of such comments reflects once again the dearly-held notion that a true Māori political vision is a unified one, and those who cross into other political fields, away from the perceived locus of Māori political cohesiveness, are betraying Māori. I just can’t buy that. But that’s because I’m a hopeless political moderate (more on that below)

So while Māori political representatives are spreading throughout the political spectrum more easily in MMP times what can be said about the other part of that equation: Māori voters?

It is probably not a terribly original observation that our voting behaviours (and not-voting behaviours) can reveal a lot about us and how we became formed as individuals. Voting itself is an intimate thing; no matter the promises you make to others, or the signals you send out to the world at large and the people who care to listen, the moment in the voting booth is just between you and your conscience. Of course, we can never know exactly how people vote, we can only know what people choose to tell us about how they voted.

Still it might be good in the lead up to this election, in the wake of all the Dirty Politics palaver, to take a quiet moment or three to work out why we vote as we do (or don’t vote, as the case may be). For some of us our inner voter/non-voter might have been created by a coherent set of political principles held from an early age that we adhere to through the years. Perhaps we vote because of how our whānau and our tupuna voted. Political beliefs might be analogous to a religious belief, in these kinds of cases. Only a crisis of faith caused by some true political upheaval (like the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the consequent rise of the Māori Party, for example) might cause a deviation for these kinds of voters.  Were there identifiable moments in our pasts, discrete incidents that sealed our voting fates? Were there moments that forced us to give up an old allegiance or create a new one? How might these events have helped create us as individual voters or non-voters? Or is it a messy accretion and conglomeration of experiences and beliefs that have created our voting personas?

There are some limited things we do know, or think we know, about how Maori voters behave. We know, for example, that about 55% of Māori are enrolled on the Māori Roll, with 45% enrolled on the General Roll. Young Māori are more likely to be non-voters, and there is some evidence to suggest that Māori enrolled on the Māori roll are more likely to be involved in Māori communities and more likely to vote. Māori in Australia are more likely than New Zealand-based Māori to be politically apathetic. We also know that Māori are far more likely to give their party votes to Labour, but also, to vote split.

But the stats and research don’t tell us anything really about how Māori voters and non-voters arrive at their voting decisions.

So how are Māori formed into the Māori voters or non-voters about to participate in, or ignore, the coming General Election? I’d love to see your whakaaro on this in any comments you might like to leave! This is not so much a question about how you intend to vote (or not vote), but what set you on that path. Karawhiua!

And now for the confession part…(cos that’s what it says in the title)

The unpalatable truth, for what it’s worth, is: I’m a moderate centrist. So moderate as to be infuriating to anyone with actual political conviction. I’m sure if former PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer was to describe someone like me he would say ‘She is an irredeemably moderate person.’ (In case that sounds odd, I’m referring to the time he once called NZ an ‘irredeemably pluvial country’, meaning: it rains a lot.) In my view this centrism means I prefer a political vision that takes most people with it. Therefore I eschew the edges of mainstream political thought that serve few people.  But, until Māori have a full economic role in this country, we will continue to fall short of all we can be as a country. And, no, I have not made my mind up yet on who to vote for.

But even for an horrifically moderate centrist like me, there is a kind of whakapapa to my (and everybody’s) voting persona. Why am I so resistant to that which is beyond the political mainstream?

I remember our home’s ‘carless day’ from the Muldoon era circa 1979. It was a Monday. I was 9. I didn’t care. Nor did I care about things Maori in those days, although I sporadically went to ‘Mahrey Club’ (Te Kotahitanga Juniors actually, with the extraordinary and extraordinarily scary (to me) Tihi Puanaki)  because my brother did.  Not long after, prices and  wages were frozen for a couple of years. I had no idea what that meant either. All I do remember was my mother’s heartbreak when Labour won the 1984 election. ‘Not those bastards!’, she groaned. Muldoon had been an economics whizkid, he was on the board of governors on the IMF! And the World Bank! (I was just impressed that there was such a thing as a Bank of the World..) What the hell did that upstart from Manggerry know about running an economy?! The choice New Zealand voters appeared to have, in my mother’s view, was between control and, well, absence of control. National represented for me, in those formative years, stability, familiarity and economic knowhow in the obvious absence of my own knowhow. Labour represented the fly-by night government that would only last one term. I really internalised my mother’s distrust of the Left. I rebelled against her in so many other ways, but not in my politics. I learned as a kid to distrust politicians that I perceived (regardless of the objective truth of the matter) to be unstable and inexperienced.

For my first election (1990) I had no understanding then of what Māori may have stood to lose or gain from the policies of political parties. I don’t think I really had, throughout my teenage years, a concept of Māori as, in part at least, an identifiable voting bloc.  Those of us who were Māori  at our overwhelmingly Pākehā high school were too busy trying to be Māori enough to be distinctive, but not so Māori as to fright any well-bred horses. My first brush with actual politics came when I met David Lange in 1988 when he came and spoke to a bunch of us somewhat start-struck teenagers working at the Brisbane World Expo about how how he and his government had brought the winds of neo-liberal change to our previously stilted and fun-less lives. We were the vanguard of change, apparently.  Us and our shiny newness and our eagerness and our willingness to believe that we could do anything and be anything we wanted. But then I shook his hand and he wouldn’t meet my eyes. So there went my vote. I then became wary of what I saw as larger than life political personas. The eyes might just be empty.

I was on the Māori roll by then, not because I had any idea of what Māori political aspirations were, or need were. I just wanted to be able to identify in a civic manner, that I was Māori. I became one of a handful of outliers to vote for National in the then Southern Maori seat in the 1990 election. The following years saw me drift slowly Left, and I’m I’m not even sure why. I don’t think I knew why I voted why I did. There was no epiphany.

The final moment for me came in 2004 on the day of the Hikoi to Parliament on the Foreshore and Seabed debacle. Two moments actually. One came in the grounds of Parliament hearing and seeing the veneration expressed for Tariana Turia as the leader of a new age. I saw the huge posters of her smiling face, and I had another Lange moment. I didn’t want to put my trust in a saviour for Māori who would rescue Māoridom from the Pākehā Pharaoh. The second moment came from hearing two Pākehā ladies at my work, after the Hikoi, sneer at the marchers, one of them saying something that sounded suspiciously like ‘If I had a gun…’. That moment solidified for me that Pākehā mainstream politics could not deliver good outcomes for all Māori without Māori being part of designing and delivering those outcomes. Voting for parties pursuing a Māori vision then became possible for a centrist like me. But I have no illusions that that Māori vision requires homogeneity of thought and a harmonious unity that has never really existed, not even in our mythology.

Pita & Tariana: legacies and looming threats

What a week it has been for the Māori Party, and for Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples in particular. Today (9 July 2014) marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Māori Party, (even as the party’s survival becomes increasingly subject to question). On Thursday last week Pita introduced the new Māori Language Bill to Parliament. On Monday Tariana launched Te Pou Matakana  the new North Island commissioning agency for Whānau Ora. Not bad for a week’s work.

Both the Bill and the launch of the commissioning agency represent a pretty powerful encapsulation of Māori Party thinking. Both developments seek to displace core decision-making from central government to iwi Māori and urban Māori communities in regards to Māori frameworks designed to improve the Māori language survival (on the one hand) and healthy whānau development (on other).

To illustrate: both developments set up independent agencies with iwi/urban Māori representation that will oversee to a substantial degree developments in both spheres. In the case of te reo Māori, Pita is pinning high hopes on the ability of Te Mātāwai “to provide leadership on behalf of iwi and Māori regarding the health of the Māori language” despite some fairly widespread concerns about the proposed agency. Regardless of the criticism, the new agency looks likely to forge ahead, to be appointed by “regional iwi clusters”, taking over the governance of the Te Taura Whiri,Te Māngai Pāho and Maori Television.

The same phenomenon is at work with the launch of Te Pou Matakana, a new entity that was conceived and created out of the National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA) although not without some controversy. This new entity, (alongside the South Island commissioning agency (Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu) and the Pasifika Futures agency) will take over from from Te Puni Kōkiri in contracting out services, setting policies and distributing funding.

In one week the roles of several government agencies have been either placed under threat or significantly diminished.

I get this. There is a pretty powerful stream of thinking that holds that Māoridom needs to find its own answers, and that Government adoption of and interference in Māori generated solutions causes more problems than it solves. I have written about this before  in regards to Māori welfare outcomes, which are fairly closely connected to Whānau Ora:

New Zealand governments have never actively pursued Māori solutions to Māori welfare problems. One reason for this is because Māori welfare has been  intimately tied up with Māori self determination and notions of rangatiratanga, however that might be interpreted. A brief review of the history of social security in New Zealand shows that  the New Zealand state’s distrust of Māori ambitions has often meant the neutering of Māori initiatives that could have effected better Māori welfare outcomes.

(O crikey, quoting myself is a slippery slope..)

Anyway, bearing all that in mind I read something in the Herald yesterday that left a cold feeling in my stomach. That something was a headline: Labour Government would review Whanau Ora policy. As outlined in the article Labour has announced plans to review the policy should it lead the next government. Reviews often mean fundamental change. As Nanaia Mahuta stated:

“While the minister may feel emotionally attached to her programme it is important that future commitments under a Labour Government are based on outcomes achieved and evidence that underpin the strength based approach in the Whanau Ora model.”

Although, it is true that Whānau Ora must live beyond Tariana’s tenure as Minister, there are a couple of reasons I find this statement odd. For one thing it seems strange to link the Ministers ’emotionalism’ to an implication that Whānau Ora is somehow not outcome focused. This seemed to be a statement that reduces Whānau Ora to an outlier minister’s pet project.While there is no doubt Whānau Ora could not have existed without Tariana’s belief in it, it has very long roots indeed (once you take into account its conceptual beginnings under He Korowai Oranga in the health sector well over a decade ago).

For another, ummm…I thought outcomes-focus was integral to the design of the approach in the first place. Sir Mason Durie said as much back in 2010 at the time of the launch of the Whānau Ora Taskforce the momentum was gathering for the programme and shortly before the establishment of the Minister for Whānau Ora. When asked on TVNZ’s Q&A what kind of accountability Whānau Ora would provide for, Sir Mason said:

Absolutely, you’d expect that is there’s a Whanau Ora practitioner, that if they’re dealing with a whanau, they should be able to demonstrate that the whanau is better off financially, better off socially, more social cohesion, and better off culturally, so that they’re broad areas I know, but they’re indicators within all of those areas that will be useful in measuring the outcome, so I think the accountability will be greater not less.

This intention has been borne out, for example, in the prevalent concern exhibited by Te Puni Kōkiri for tracking Whānau Ora outcomes for 333 whānau engaged in the programme by the end of June 2012.

So if accountability and outcomes are already integral to the Whānau Ora approach (debates about measurement and analysis aside for now), I wonder what the purpose of this intended review would really be. My suspicion is that it would be aimed at a well worn story in New Zealand politics across the political spectrum: pushback – recovering a higher degree of Government control over Māori intitiatives, in this case over the functions and tasks that are now being carried out by the commissioning agencies.

And there is no doubt Whānau Ora is vulnerable to political winds of change. There is no legislation underpinning the policy, there is little mention (last time I looked) of Whānau Ora in strategic documents outside of Te Puni Kōkiri’s, The fulcrum of its existence is the Ministerial office and little else. This minimalist approach seems to be deliberate for the reasons I mention before, that Whānau Ora might have a greater chance of success with less, not more, Government oversight.

In which case, Tariana’s own words of unease yesterday (in a Māori Party press release  commenting on the observations made by a political panel at the launch of Te Pou Matakana) may have some foundation:

Whanau Ora leaders also described their despair at the word ‘review’, given they have felt under the microscope every step of the way in the Whanau Ora journey while many other services appear to escape such scrutiny,” said Mrs Turia. “Rather than a review, it would so wonderful if political parties could instead reflect and learn from transformation of so many lives that is occurring through the means of Whanau Ora.

Perhaps future more detailed policy announcements from Labour might allay some anxiety that could be gathering pace about one of the legacies of the last ten years of the Māori Party.



Internet Mana: the enemy of my enemy is my friend (atm, lol)

There is a leap of faith that the membership of both the MANA Movement and the Internet Party have taken. That leap is the presumption that voters will be as pragmatic as these parties have been. As one thoughtful commenter on social media observed (commenting on Sue Bradford’s decision to leave the party):

I also was worried about this when it was first mooted. However it is a very pragmatic arrangment with the Internet Party (not Kim Dotcom the individual) and the way it is set up totally leaves Mana intact as well as it has many rigorous safeguards…What it does do is offer the possibility of maximising the party vote in a way that may make some dent in ousting the Nats (without which the reality of a “farleft movement for change” is a fantasy) Realistically Mana had neither the people or resources to promote the party vote alone. The Mana electorate candiate campaign is the same as it would always have been. …. More damage will be done to the “left” by inaccurate negative spin than the arrangment itself.

The last sentence of this post encapsulates the issue I mention. To some degree at least, it won’t matter that the arrangement leave a high degree of autonomy to each party. It won’t matter that  MANA gets most of the top seat spots in the combined party list. These countervailing arguments won’t matter to a significant degree of the voting population because now they can no longer be so sure what each of these parties represent. They are the voters not involved in the decisionmaking, not in the room when the deal went down, or on the email lists. I know MANA apparently has a terrific party organisation, and I’m sure that was a major factor in the decision. I also suspect that standing on lonely principle is not all that attractive to two parties that really want some degree of political power, and memberships that clearly want that as well.

But the abandonment of unifying principle is a dangerous course. Many people still vote on the basis of a positive idea, however muddy that idea becomes in realpolitik. National party supporters really do buy the notion of freedom, autonomy and individual responsibility, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Labour Party voters really do buy the idea of social and collective responsibility, again in the face of all political history that suggests such pure ideals never survive intact. The Māori Party knows better than anyone how difficult it is to sell a party based primarily on a pragmatic idea, in this case that Māori can benefit from being at the decision-making table. That too is a pragmatic stance, but at least it is phrased in the positive, and closely married to the idea of achieving a level of rangatiratanga for Māori. And it might be yet seen that the Māori Party has ended up losing its way because of that pragmatism.

Selling the idea of getting rid of the current government just doesn’t stand for anything in the hands of this new entity.  No doubt ample numbers of the supporters of both future components of Internet Mana can explain the logic and the utilitarianism of this decision, with that unifying goal of bringing National down. But those people are not where the tyre hits the tarmac. How does each potential voter now articulate for themselves and others what this entity stands for? Internet freedom (except in the case of Māori cultural knowledge)? Being the voice of the poor and dispossessed (except when that voice has to articulate, or at least accomodate other concerns)? How does each voter explain their own voting beliefs in the absence of any demonstrable conjoined beliefs in their party?

And thinking of the future..come September, if the election does see the return of a National-led coalition, where will the combined energy of these two collections of people go? On? In 10 years time will there be an Internet Mana? Once the conjugal purpose is either fulfilled or defeated, what’s left?

I spotted this quote a moment ago:

“[The party] was not well received by the general public…The perception that these MPs had “betrayed” their former party was strong. Many voters believed that [the party] had been born out of political opportunism, not out of firmly-held principle.”

Any guesses? Yep, a quote from the Wikipedia eulogy to the very short-lived Mauri Pacific Party formed in 1998.

Of course Internet Mana will likely have a longer presence just because Hone is a sitting MP and favoured candidate. Ultimately my prediction, for what it is worth (!), is that this pragmatic venture can’t have a long life, because it cannot now give voters something they can believe in without a proviso, a ‘but’, or a hedged exception.

Shane and the Dragon: the risks of appealing to difference

It’s very tempting to believe, as a Māori, that I have some kind of connection to an essential cultural truth that is just a little different, and a little bit better than others around me without that connection. The feeling might occur in unexpected moments; in a joke shared in the reo, in singing a song at a tangi, in an offhand comment at the supermarket, in catching Pūkoro on Māori TV after school. As someone who has had to learn to be Māori, I’m quite conscious of being privy to something greater than myself. Fortunately for me those ‘connection’ moments are far more common now than in my more culturally tentative 20s.

This feeling of special connection, as well as whakapapa connection, is useful, after all; it can be a bulwark against the torrent of all the other messages I might receive over the course of my adult life, the ones about how being Māori is a passport to the bottom-of-the-heap statistics. But it is not much of a leap from this sense of being ‘set apart’ culturally, to a sense of playing by a different sets of rules in other ways. So these words leapt out at me from an RNZ Manu Korihi report yesterday in regards to the report released recently on Shane Taurima’s activities at TVNZ:

The panel members were particularly interested in [Shane Taurima’s] response about how he managed conflicts in the Maori world.
He told them that Maori journalism was different.
He said instead of reporters having topics to cover, such as health and business, tangata whenua tended to be assigned to tribal areas from which they come from.
Mr Taurima said Maori journalists were challenged by whanau and friendships everyday.
But an advisor to the board carrying out the investigation, the former correspondent Chris Wikaira, rejected the explanation.
He saids basic journalism such as balance as fairness, was universal and did not change because of a person’s ethnicity.

The report itself fleshes Shane’s observation out a little more: (available at:

The world of Māori broadcasting and journalism, and particularly Māori language reporting has differences from reporting in the Pākehā world. We are challenged by our whānau and friendship relationships every day, which mean that conflicts of interest and the potential for perceptions are at the forefront of our minds every single day, as we believe those relationships, whilst ensuring that they do not stray into our onscreen or editorial work.”

I find the characterisation of a “Māori broadcasting and journalism world” and a “Pākehā” world of journalism and broadcasting to be interesting, as if there is a veil through which we must pass to operate in either world. I suspect Shane was making an appeal to difference here, that somehow the rules are different in each world. It’s pretty easy for those of us who have ever worked in broadcasting to believe that. But here there be dragons, maybe taniwha, if you don’t know where your ethical waka is heading.

On one level I completely agree with Shane that Māori journalists and broadcasters do have to operate differently just to be able to do their jobs properly, in the same way that Māori lawyers ‘do law’ differently, in the same way that Māori psychologists work differently with Māori clients. The point of ‘doing it differently’ in different contexts is to benefit Māori professionals, Māori clients and Māori in the community generally, to ensure ultimately that Māori are served properly by whatever profession is in focus. At the heart of these ‘different’ ways of doing things is the practice of whakawhanaungatanga, the establishment of common ground and right relationships between the Māori professional and the Māori client in such a way that that client (and by extension the Māori community) gets the right service. It makes complete sense that Māori journalists will have to operate differently in order to have their fingers on the pulse of what is going on in Māori communities, so that those communities will see themselves reflected in the work of that journalist, of that broadcaster, and not some imagined caramel collective with only a passing resemblance. Sometimes, as in the recent Native Affairs investigations, the image that is reflected back to the community may be true (or at least a version of true) but not flattering.

Whakawhanaungatanga is critically important as a way of Māori connecting with each other, discovering and reinforcing whānau, hapū, or iwi ties, or in the absence of those, some other shared identity that makes sense in that moment. Isn’t this mode of practice then at odds with the usual pressure upon professionals, legal, journalistic, or whatever, to create space between the professional and the client, for the professional to maintain disinterest? Not at all, if whakawhanaungatanga is exercised in honesty and transparency. When I was a probation officer (many moons ago) writing reports on offenders it could be essential to spend time with an offender (love those labels) talking about our shared ancestry, where he and I grew up, or whatever else was right for the moment to create that spark of fellow-feeling between us. I might still recommend imprisonment at the end of the process. He knew it, I knew it, but the whanaungatanga was still there, and still necessary, even within the giant monolith of our criminal justice system.

It is, of course, so much harder for someone who was in Shane’s position of being under direct and constant pressure from his whānau and iwi to return to politics to balance the demands of his people with the demands of transparency and accountability to TVNZ. The pressure must have been enormous, but the demand for transparency and honesty in the preservation and exercise of whakawhanaungatanga remains the same. Chris Wikaira’s reported response to Shane’s quote above is also worth quoting in full from the report:

Mr Wikaira reviewed the transcript of the Panel’s interview of Mr Taurima. His view was thatthe basic tenets of journalism, ie balance and fairness, are universal and that a conflict is aconflict regardless of the ethnicity of the person at the centre of it. Furthermore, while he acknowledged that Māori journalists often have more interests to balance (be they familial, tribal or political), the management of these needs to be consistently applied. The potential reputational damage to TVNZ overrides any cultural nuance, and it required Mr Taurima to disclose these activities. He noted that this issue was less about tikanga Māori and cultural nuance and more about a senior manager in a mainstream media organisation managing his political aspirations in a mainstream political party.[99]

I’m sure few of us are blameless when it comes to blurring lines between our professional and private responsibilities. I’m not. But nothing in the Māori rule-book excuses Māori professionals from the other professional demands on us. I don’t have, as a condition of my Māoriness, an entitlement to throw away the rule on client confidentiality, or objectivity. Nor, in legal practice did I have an entitlement to ignore conflicts of interests in that context. In my current job I don’t get to appeal to difference to justify dispensing with fairness in marking my students’ exam papers (much as I dearly want more Māori to be passing those blimmin’ things). If I want to be good at what I do, I have to exercise whakawhanaungatanga in all those contexts, and keep up with those other professional demands. And bear the cost.

For me to appeal to difference, to specialness to justify dispensing with those other professional demands suggests that I might think it’s OK, as a Māori, to engage in whakawhanaungatanga without transparency and honesty (or tika and pono, to put it another way) with all those relationships. For me, that’s a level of comfort that I’m … well, just not comfortable with.

ANZAC day, Shane and Māori leadership: do we really need another bloody hero?

A few months ago I had a delightful experience. I got to visit the ramshackle, dusty, grubby and altogether questionable Mad Max II museum in Silverton, just out of Broken Hill in Australia’s Outback. Full of old banged up cars, clothes, models and props from the Mad Max movies I found myself entranced, and seduced again by my teenage memories of Mad Max in all his 80s glory. We found ourselves some DVDs that night, and sitting through some, sleeping through the rest, I realised once again that the past is another country. And that bloody awful Tina Turner song hid some even more awful movie by the time we got to Mad Max III. No, we don’t need need another hero, now bugger off and take your mullets with you. (Don’t know the song? Check out this: )

I found myself humming Tina’s song quite a lot over the past few days as ANZAC day approaches and news of Shane Jones’ departure broke. ANZAC Day and Shane Jones for me, at least, highlight one of Māoridom’s continuing problems, the valorisation of past heroes (such as the men of the 28th (Māori) Battalion, Tā Apirana Ngata, et al) and the search for new (almost inevitably male) heroes to take their place. A sentence from Morgan Godfrey’s interesting recent post on Shane’s departure illustrates this thinking: Maori political history isn’t rich with choice. Telling us to wait for a more “progressive” candidate is deeply offensive. Maori have waited too long for too little. Shane was an opportunity and one many – including myself – were willing to back. He wasn’t perfect, but he was as close as we’ve come in more than a decade to the centre of power. Winston was the last Maori politician to come close to real power. It’s been a century since Maori actually touched it (Carroll as acting prime minister). (

I find this quote interesting because of the yearning it expresses, as Māori wait for a leader to arrive; a leader presumably to lead Māoridom from its current state. Shane, the implication is, could have been such a leader. Thus, a people continues to wait.

Another similar sentiment was expressed by Kiritapu Allan in her blogpost ruminating on Māori political leadership The Maori vote is wide open, but the vote is calling for a champion for justice who is pragmatic enough, and in touch with the pulse of Maoridom enough, to create some excitement about the opportunities that a post-settlement world creates for hapu and iwi.

These posts from young, sophisticated Māori urban commentators echo a cry I hear occasionally, a lament really, that Māori have no true ‘leader’, at least, not one that reach across the divides of class, race, and political affiliation. Since the arrival of Old Testament narratives along with colonisation in the early 19th century many Māori have held fast to the notion that a Mosaic, or a Messianic figure will some day appear to lead Māoridom (Ngā Tiu) out of the wilderness and into the Promised land. There is now a lot of scholarship about these powerful myth narratives in Māori thinking (see Bronwyn Elsemore, Judith Binney, Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal, Selwyn Katene and so on) Māori history and mythology is suffused with heroes grappling with the evils of colonialism. An obvious and influential example are the mythological narratives that grew up around the deeds and the personas of Te Kooti Arikirangi and Rua Kenana, both messianic figures  in the foundation of the Ringatū church (and stories still abound of the forthcoming successor to their legacy). (,_No._4/Myth_and_explanation_in_the_Ringatu_tradition%3A_some_aspects_of_the_leadership_of_Te_Kooti_Arikirangi_Te_Turuki_and_Rua_Kenana_Hepetipa,_by_J._Binney,_p_345-398/p1)

Of course Māori are a heterogenous bunch, and notions of leadership within Māoridom have undergone massive changes over the last couple of centuries. Leadership has evolved from models primarily based on ariki, rangatira and tohunga, to charismatic, transformational leaders of the 19th century, on to leaders affiliated with powerful corporatised Māori interests (trust boards, the New Zealand Māori Council, Māori Women’s Welfare League, tribal rūnanga). (see Katene 2010)

So yes, Māori notions of leadership have changed and adapted to modern needs,but the idea of A LEADER to surpass all, and to tap into the Māori (and national) psyche is a long-lived, powerful and seductive one. This nostalgia for our wartime heroes, this late-blooming nostalgia for what Shane Jones might have become, this apparent yawning gap in Māori leadership begs, in my view, a far more important question: what about those of us who would be knit together by such leaders? How prepared are we as individuals, whānau, and hapū to engage politically with those among us who would lead, to such an extent that such leaders would be bound to do what we require of them?

I would prefer to see less bemoaning the lack of Māori leadership and a focus on ordinary people and what we are prepared to do to create leaders in the first place. Are we prepared to take our whānau down to the ballot boxes on polling days to vote in our local body and central government reps? Are we engaging on Twitter and FB about issues other than what we ate for breakfast? Are we engaged with our kōhanga, our school boards, our marae, our sports committees, making decisions and showing our whānau what it means to make decisions and take the consequences? Are our own actions lighting sparks in the eyes of the seven year olds or the ten year olds in our homes? Are we actually present? Or are we waiting for a fully formed mythopoeic leader to emerge from the mists of our past, cloaked with the benedictions of our tupuna  for us to claim her or him as our own?

Heroes are never what they seem to be, Shane watched porn on the taxpayer. Apirana was sometimes impatient with ordinary frailty, our veterans are and were brave men with feet of clay. We don’t need another hero, because there are no heroes. What we need are active, involved, engaged Māori across the political spectrum to make the damn thing work for Māori. Among us are all the leaders we need. Or deserve.

Derek Fox, and the mystery of the public dollar

It takes a special kind of bellicosity to both dissemble and attack Geoff Robinson on Morning Report in response to innocuous questions such as ‘Are there any life members on the Kōhanga Reo Trust?’, but Derek manages that kind of uncomfortable and unhelpful combination with unfortunate aplomb. My personal distaste for Derek’s style aside though, his question (and one also discussed on Paul Henry’s show last night, albeity briefly) of ‘when does a public dollar stop being a public dollar’ merits attention. But I’m not sure why it does. Probably because of its superficial (and deceptive)  simplicity. Derek challenged Geoff by saying (and I paraphrase): ‘When you go to the grocery store and pay for your groceries are you then spending public dollars?’ Geoff responded, “well of course not, that’s my money, I can do with it what I like’. ”Well, same diff!’ crowed Fox. (well, in more words than that, but you get my drift). Sorry Derek, that is just plain wrong, and worse, it is disingenuous. Let’s look at what Te Pātaka Ōhanga does. From some comments like Derek’s, you’d think they were purely contract service providers themselves, and so, you might be forgiven for thinking they are paid a contract price for their services, and just like an insurance company would receive payment for insurance taken out by some publicly funded agency, and then what they do with that money is their business and not open to public scrutiny. The lines are nowhere near as clearly drawn here. Look at the opening sentence on the TPO website: Te Pataka Ohanga Limited (TPO) is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust and was formed to help manage the growth of Te Kohanga Reo and maximize the bargaining power through strategic partnerships with providers, allowing quality services and products at discounted rates. While the entity might be owned by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, clearly TPO does things for and behalf of Te Kohanga Reo. That impression is strengthened in the next sentence: Te Pataka Ohanga Ltd also manages a range of services, on behalf of Kohanga like insurance, mokopuna oranga pumau, scholarships, computers (Dell), Internet service providers (ICONZ), Fuel Cards and many more listed on this web site. According to Māori TV’s Maiki Sherman:

‘However, according to Te Pātaka Ohanga’s constitution, it was established solely to manage the economic activities of the National Trust. Also, all profits not reinvested in the company are transferred to Te Kōhanga Reo or an approved charity.

 Is Fox trying to argue that these functions are entirely private ones, not in any way connected with the public nature of the funding received by TPO in the first place? TPO is not analagous to the insurance company, nor is it analogous to the salaried public radio broadcaster buying his milk and bread with that salary. Geoff, in buying his milk and bread is carrying out a private function, and his salary was tagged for that purpose, and reported as such in the relevant financial reporting documents. Geoff is at the end of that process, and when the money is in his possession, there is no accountability back to his employer. TPO, by contrast, is intimately involved, and indeed responsible for the economic activities of the parent trust. TPO is not at end of the funding chain, and what they do with the money reflects on Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, and don’t forget, the leftovers of that money goes back to TKRNT (or another nominated charity). I’ll bet Geoff doesn’t give his leftovers back to Radio New Zealand. 

Fox’s defensiveness doesn’t help Te Kōhanga Reo, although I understand entirely his desire to protect and defend what the Trust does. He should understand that he is helping to achieve the opposite. Kāore taea e te tipu e rea, mēnā kua ngaro a Tamanuiterā. 

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