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Ae Marika: The Maori Seats

The Maori Seats

Peter Dunne’s use of the Business Roundtable argument to abolish the Maori seats is the act of a drowning man clutching for straws.

Both rely heavily on arguments raised 20 years ago by the Electoral Reform Commission, that MMP would identify candidates to represent Maori opinion; arguments which were challenged by Maori, rejected by the Waitangi Tribunal and overturned by Parliament.

The last 12 years have shown that List MPs are just party drones, chosen to parrot the party line and not argue with the boss. In fact a couple of years back, Labour confirmed that party dominance by pushing through their 'waka-jumping' bill to sack List MPs who dared to show signs of independent thought.

As for electorate MPs, well I know that readers will agree that no other MPs have so consistently represented Maori opinion on any issue, as those from the Maori Party.

The crunch came with the Foreshore and Seabed Hikoi in 2004 which showed just how disconnected Maori MPs had become from popular Maori opinion, when tens of thousands marched on Parliament to protest the theft of their lands and the denial of their rights and Labour's Maori MPs rolled over and played dead because the PM offered them lollies for their loyalty to her and betrayal of their constituencies.

The foreshore and seabed theft showed how Labour had hijacked the Maori Seats and been able to get their Maori MPs to support something their voters had rejected.

Thank heaven for Tariana Turia. She could have shut her mouth (like the boys did) and held onto her cabinet post, an excellent salary, a house in Wellington and staff and ministerial privileges, but she didn’t. She sacrificed it all to stand with her people.

Tariana Turia walked away from Government rather than sacrifice her principles and that is exactly what MMP was always meant to be about – enabling MPs to represent the interests of their constituents.

Peter Dunne’s talk of a referendum on the Maori seats ain’t about democracy, nor is it about MMP. It’s an attempt to destabilise a Treaty relationship that has only just begun to emerge. The Maori Party is now clearly seen as the truly independent Maori voice in Parliament and Peter Dunne’s referendum is a threat to strangle that independence in its infancy.

A strong and independent Maori voice in Parliament is good for Maori, good for democracy, good for Parliament and good for the country. The Maori seats should be entrenched in law and only changed when Maori are ready to make that change.


Hone Harawira
Tai Tokerau MP

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