MMP is good for Maori
MMP is good for Maori
National’s hope of winning support from Maoridom is not based on a credible track record of delivering from Maori. The party is overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon and is regarded as unsympathetic to the plight of low-income Maori, particularly urban Maori.Maori have always been a critical constituency for the Labour Party. Ever since Michael Joseph Savage forged a political marriage with Ratana, the Labour Party has embraced Maori as an important community of voters. Labour’s Maori warriors have spanned the party for generations. Names such as Tirikatene, Wetere, Rata and Tapsell are names that are etched into Labour’s history like a totara tree forges roots in the earth. Yet amidst the triumph of Labour’s marriage to Ratana came the tragedy of first-past-the-post. The electoral clout of Maoridom was ring-fenced into four Maori electorates – Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Maori. Although Maori had the option of the general or the Maori roll, the electoral clout of Maori was never able to be fully applied in seats where large communities of Maori voters could sway the outcome of an electorate contest. Could Maori have made the difference and delivered Labour victories in seats like Northland, Papakura, Tarawera, and Waitotara? We’ll never know. But MMP has delivered new opportunity. But along with opportunity comes danger. Sadly Maori were one of the early casualties of MMP.
With the centre-left set for re-election in 2002 the agenda of the Labour-led government looks set to dominate New Zealand politics for another parliamentary term. That’s good news for Maori who are benefiting from the government’s economic and social policies. Income-related rents for low-income state tenants, many of who are Maori. Cheap rent means more money to spend on items such as healthy food and prescription medicine. Jim Anderton’s jobs machine has focussed attention on the economic development of regional New Zealand, thus providing the stimulus to create jobs and wealth in areas previously neglected by the last National government. Economic growth in regions such as the Waikato, Taranaki, the Bay of Plenty and the East Coast is good news for Maori. Special Housing Action Zones (SHAZ) designed to improve housing in Northland, East Cape, and the Bay of Plenty will undoubtedly have a positive affect on rural Maori. The Community Renewal programme, launched by Housing Minister Mark Gosche, is a positive initiative that will benefit residents – many of whom are Maori – living in Aranui, (Christchurch), Clendon (Manukau City), and Fordlands (Rotorua). Neither the SHAZ nor the Community Renewal programme initiatives would have been possible under a National led government. But such initiatives are commonplace under a Labour-led government that regards intervention as both a positive and necessary role for central government. National and Act have rallied against such initiatives. In so doing the parties are rallying against initiatives that work in the best interests of Maori. This merely serves to help consolidate Labour’s vice-like grip on the Maori vote. National leader Bill English is reportedly keen to try and again support from Maori. Although National’s hope of winning support from Maoridom is not based on a credible track record of delivering from Maori. The party is overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon and is regarded as unsympathetic to the plight of low-income Maori, particularly urban Maori. But for Maoridom the courtship creates an opportunity to promote initiatives that benefit Maori families. Fortunately Maori are well represented by the current government, which recognises the intrinsic importance of Maoridom within New Zealand society. MMP has delivered more Maori MPs, including more representation in the executive. Despite the protestations of National and Act, the government has continued to adopt policies which are providing Maori with the opportunity to access education and training, access quality and affordable accommodation, and gain meaningful employment. That is a significant achievement, and an illustration that despite the early hiccup that is New Zealand First (and Mauri Pacific thereafter), MMP is working for Maori.
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