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Turia - Better representation for Maori?

Does Increased Representation in Parliament
mean better representation for Maori?

Speech to Auckland University, Maori Politics
Tariana Turia, co-leader, Maori Party
Thursday 12 May

This last weekend the National Council of the Maori Party was discussing key slogans as part of our build-up to Elections 2005.

A high scorer from rangatahi was a one-word slogan, the word REPRESENT. It gave me great hope for our prospects to come.

It was also an aspiration which reflected back to the future, in mirroring the aspirations of another group of young Maori, over a century ago in 1897.

That group, initially called the Te Aute Students Association, and eventually emerging as the Young Maori Party, set upon a course of action to revive Maori morale and achieve economic prosperity. Prominent members included Sir Apirana Ngata who held the Eastern Maori parliamentary seat from 1905 to 1943; Peter Buck (Te Rangihiroa) and Maui Pomare.

These young Maori men benefited from the emergence of a movement for Maori political representation during the 1850s and 1860s. Four Maori seats were established, three in the North Island and one in the South, in time for the first elections for Maori members in 1868.

The Maori seats were only meant to be on trial for five years, but in 1876 they became permanent. It was a fairly long trial – the four seats lasting intact until 1996 with the introduction of Mixed Member Proportional representation – and the expansion to five seats.

Just as the Maori Representation Act 1867 set in place a radical movement of change, a transformation of the political landscape, so, too, one hundred years on do we get another opportunity to make a difference, to make a significant contribution to the political direction for Aotearoa.

It is an opportunity for our voices to be heard, our concerns aired, our priorities represented. It is our time. Ko tenei te wa.

The issue of representation has been a part of the nation’s constitutional relationship with Mâori since 1867.

Almost a century to the year, in October 1996, New Zealand held its first general election under the Mixed Member Proportional system. In that time, fourteen Maori members were elected, a significant increase on the seven of the previous Government.

Five years later, over a four month period in 2001,
 18,738 Maori exercised their option to shift electoral rolls;
 75% of them opting to go on to the Maori roll.

The results of this ‘option’ emerged in a seventh seat being added – Tainui. Indeed, if all Maori chose to shift to the Maori roll there would be a possible 14 seats.

Putting the numbers aside, what does it mean for you and me, for the future of our nation? Has increased Maori political representation resulted in increased Maori political power?

Have we come of age? Has Aotearoa reached the point by which the seats can be merged with general seats?

Are we in a safe enough position to assume that either through the 69 electorate seats, or the 51 list members, that the relationship between Maori and the state is in good hands?

Well let’s cast our mind back over this last year or two to evaluate how stable this relationship is. And it doesn’t take rocket science, to work out that the response to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill is a key mechanism to assess the state of the nation in terms of the health of Te Tiriti relationships.

Let’s firstly turn to the Labour Party Maori Caucus Press Release of 25 June 2003.

In a statement released by Hon Parekura Horomia, the Maori Caucus reminded the Prime Minister that:

“The land wars are over, so the consent of the tangata whenua is required before customary title can be extinguished. Otherwise it is a confiscation and is likely to breach international law.”

The statement went on:
‘The Maori caucus is clear that customary use flows from customary title, and if the title is lost, the rights of tangata whenua become privileges granted by the Crown’
In that statement, the aspirations and challenges of tangata whenua were aptly reflected. I would go as far as to say, the parliamentary representatives were indeed representing their constituents.

But let’s not get too excited.

A mere nine months later, the Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon Parekura Horomia, was happy to sit by and watch legislation be passed, which did exactly what his own press release had warned about – introduced a 21st century confiscation into the statute books.

Minister Horomia praised the legislation in the House, saying,

“Put simply, for Maori this legislation is not about ownership, it is about guardianship. Full ownership of the Foreshore and Seabed is to be vested in the Crown, to ensure that it is preserved and protected for the use and enjoyment of all Maori and non-Maori”.

Was this representation of his constituency at its very best? What happened to the resounding rejection of the Bill from over 4000 submissions, 13 hui, endless meetings? What happened to his own words that ‘the consent of the tangata whenua is required before customary title can be extinguished’? Is it a case of selective amnesia or the price of true representation hitting home?

There is a saying which sums up this point of our history:

“He mea pouri rawa te ngakau kua utongatia ki te aro ake ki taua iwi nana nei a ia i kawe, i poipoi i te muranga o te kapura”.

‘It is a sad spectacle when your chosen leaders become insensitive to the very people who enable them to hold their position’ .

Although they ring true for recent times, these words came not from 2004, but from some reflections on the Maori seats twenty years before in 1984. Thirty Maori were interviewed about their views on Maori political perspectives. Some of their ideas make for interesting reading, set against the context of our recent events.

Some of the participants viewed the boundaries of the seats as imposing obstacles to effective representation because of the sheer enormity of their size.

In my own case, Te Tai Hauauru extends from Putaruru and Tirau in the North down to Tawa, and across from Taranaki to Whanganui. I am charged with representing the views of some 17 iwi and diverse communities over this area – while eight MPs cover the equivalent land space in the general electorates.

Another interesting issue raised in ‘84 was the sense that if Maori representation is poor, those MPs do a disservice to the Maori people and have no value.

I think this is the absolute crux of the matter. When one is ‘inside the tent’ there is no possibility of setting up an alternative campsite, let alone even raise a view from the awning. Conformity is valued, loyalty rewarded, representation undermined.

The only vote becomes the party vote – how Labour sees the issue (or NZ First or the others) is the only view.

Blind party loyalty was duly rewarded.

The Maori MPs who were forced to the front of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, in many ways like we remember the Maori members who were put at the frontline of the police charge on Takaparawha, or during the Springbox Tour, have received their commendations from the party machine.

The Labour list promoted Maori MPs to the position of 5, 10, 15 and 20 on the list as a blatant recognition of the stand that they took FOR the party, and AGAINST the people.

But the real test of course, will be whether their loyalty is rewarded by the people they were sent to Parliament to represent.

Representation is like a bag of licorice all-sorts – you can’t pull apart the licorice and only eat the candy. Well you can – as this last Labour term has shown – but it is a fairly empty sensation, a taste unfulfilled, with a sickly tang left on your tongue.

Representation means taking up the whole package, respecting all the issues put to you by your constituency, and being the best advocate you can for your people. Political representation requires that you be the very best servant of the people, the ultimate public servant.

So when our rangatahi charge us with the responsibility to REPRESENT, how will the Maori Party live up to that promise?

For a start it comes with our name. The Maori Party provides us with a name which is an affirmation of tangata whenua. ‘Maori’ will also ensure we stay true to our values and aspirations for Aotearoa. We are not there to represent a ‘green’ point of view’, views of the ‘labour movement’, the calling to ‘act’ up.

Ma te wai maori tatou e tu ora.

If you note in our logo, the name of the indigenous people of Aotearoa, ‘maori’ is in lower case, meaning natural. It is a name for all of us. A name which challenges us to represent and uphold indigenous values to ensure our country maintains its natural beauty and is home for all peoples.

Those indigenous values come from our kaupapa and tikanga.

The party’s philosophy is underpinned by a strong view that Mäori principles, values and models can be applied universally for the benefit of all citizens.

Therefore, although the Party is unashamedly Mäori in its outlook, it is also inclusive and believes it can help to take the nation forward positively and successfully.

When we consider how best to represent our constituency, we are assisted with the strength of our kaupapa. The framework for the party is founded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi; kotahitanga; rangatiratanga; and our tikanga.

People are its priority, hence the priority given to whänau.

We understand also that people cannot be supported without reference to the nation’s constitutional blueprint, hence the attention to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

It should be noted that only Te Toa Rangapu Maori can claim to be the Mäori signatory to the Tiriti in the forthcoming national election.

For the Mäori signatory to be adequately represented in Parliament after this election it must have the mandate of the Mäori people (best represented by the seven Mäori seats) and the endorsement of the general electorate (say 15-20 percent of the general electorate).

In this situation, the Mäori signatory would have sufficient representation to ensure that rangatiratanga can be effectively expressed in the House.

When we are in the House, our kaupapa and tikanga will guide our behaviour with as much certainty as the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Kaupapa based on our essential values, manaakitanga, rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga, kotahitanga, wairuatanga, mana whenua, kaitiakitanga, mana tupuna and te reo rangatira.

We know that it is through these values of our tupuna, that we can best achieve a change in the way politics is negotiated in this land. Our kaupapa will ensure our behaviour in the debating chambers upholds respect for each member. We will be mindful of manaakitanga, seeking never to trample on the mana of others, but in the same time to promote unity through diversity, a common unity of thought and purpose for all peoples living in Aotearoa.

‘Never’ might be gold star, but it’s worth trying for!

We believe this is what our people have been calling for, since the emergence of the Young Maori Party last century. They are calling for an opportunity to allow our kaupapa to provide a basis for building strength in our nation.

The Digipoll results reflect the huge work that is going on amongst our foot-soldiers, our people on the ground: door-knocking, telephone polling, listening to what effective representation requires from the point of view of the voter.

Our immediate challenge is to get out the vote – asking everyone we meet, are you enrolled?

Have you received an orange pack, in the last two weeks, with your name on it from the chief electoral office. If not, waea mai! 0800-36-76-56 is all it takes to ensure your voice is heard!

Or you can free-text your name and address to 3676 or visit any Post-Shop. Next step is to ask your friends and whanau – get them on the roll – it’s one step closer to the ballot box.

Finally, the key goal in sight, is of course promoting the possibility of making a difference on election day. I would be interested in all your views as students, as to possible reasons why in 2002, only 57% of Maori people enrolled on the Maori roll, turned out to vote.

It would be particularly fascinating to contrast that to 1984, where 84.15% of our people turned out to vote in that year’s general election.

We know that this year it will be different – that Maori and other New Zealanders will be turning out to the polls in numbers far higher than seen before.

There is only one person that matters on election day – the voter. Representation is in your hands – and is the challenge that sits within our hearts and minds.

No leaf must be left unturned. Tangata whenua have had enough of people turning their back on them, being ignored, not listened to.

Members of other ethnic communities are also sharing with us their disappointment that their representatives have at every turn, taken up the Labour cause over the call from the people.

Finally, I want to leave you with the words of Sane Sagala, otherwise known as Dei Hamo, one of our leading artists, taking Urban Pacifika and Proud to the world. He said recently,

Dei Hamo; meaning "I am Samoan", is a strong statement about identity and representation.

Yes, to represent, it's the unbroken code of hip-hop, affirmation of self, family, street and community. Without that you just got nothin' .

This election, we have the opportunity to bring that affirmation of who we are into the proportional electoral system. It is a time that many of us have waited for, for decades, indeed over a century, to arrive.

It is a time to create our tomorrow, to shape our future, based on the strong sense of urgency to represent the peoples of this land.

It is a time to balance kawanatanga with rangatiratanga, a time to celebrate and nurture our futures as self-determining peoples.

We have the willpower, and the passion, to bring about change.

It is time to take control of our destiny, to ensure the House of Representatives truly does represent all its people.

Indeed, without that, you just got nothin.


ENDS

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