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.