The Strategic Stupidity of the Māori Party

Update 2/2/2012: The Government has now called for submissions on how to deal with Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the context of the proposed mixed ownership model for State-Owned Enterprises.  I discuss this here, and I have also written about the consultation process.  For an initial discussion of the possibility of a legal challenge against any non-inclusion of a principles of the Treaty clause in the proposed legislation, you can find this in my article on Asset Sales and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Moves today by the Māori Party to distance itself from the National-led Government over the partial sale of State-Owned Enterprises are bewildering and highlight a lack of strategic political thinking from within the Party.  Withdrawing support over an issue which was deliberately EXCLUDED from the Confidence and Supply agreement is, at best, politically naive and, at worst, a massive strategic mistake.  To die in a ditch over this issue will destroy any prospect of achieving the further gains set out in the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

The failure of the Māori Party to include specific protections for Māori around the partial sales of SOE’s in their agreement with the National party is one entirely of their own making.  Supporters should be demanding answers from the Party as to why such protections were not discussed at the time of signing the agreement.

What makes it more unbelievable is that this is an issue that is going to proceed regardless of Māori Party support.  Partial sales will happen.  Te Ao Māori, in a situation similar to the late 19th Century, is dividing into sellers and non-sellers.  There are Māori who support partial sales – driven on by the belief of the economic rewards that will follow.  Others decry such a policy, convinced of the inalienability of Māori land and the desire to ensure national control of our assets.  Te Ao Māori is split, Tikanga Māori provides no clear guidance as selling is as much of Māori society as the romantic, but ultimately flawed, notion that Māori land is, and always has been, inalienable.  To throw away the prospects of real and substantial gains in Māori health, education, and economic well-being is to set back Māori development 20 years.

One comment

  1. I wonder where those economic rewards will end up though – I suspect in the hands of the mainly male power brokers within Maoridom who refuse to acknowledge the fact that close to a dozen Maori babies died last year in horrific circumstances, at home and in the ‘care’ of parents and whanau, that 50% of Maori boys left school last year with no formal qualifications, and girls are not far behind, that Maori teenagers have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections in this country and that, for many Maori men, the inside of a cell is the place where they have spent more of their adult life than anywhere else.

    There is so much to be proud of, not just in identifying as Maori, but in being exposed to the richness of the culture, language, what it is to BE Maori. All the debate about Treaty Issues just feels irrelevant when you look long and hard at the stats – just who do Pita and Turi think they are fighting for over this given the ‘economic gains’ from treaty settlements are taking a mighty long time to trickle down to where, it seems to me, they are really needed. Go out to South Auckland or visit Rotorua or Wairoa and ask Maori there whether they are even thinking about this. Many will just say they are hungry, desperate, underpaid, at the bottom of the heap. Their children will start school this week without books, shoes, breakfast or lunch. Sure it’s not the majority, but there are enough Maori scratching along the bottom of society for it to be the number one concern for the Maori Party.

    Grandstanding over the Treaty won’t prevent another baby dying, another woman being beaten up, another 18 year old going to prison or another boy or girl leaving school with little or no prospect of a decent job.

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