When indigeneity and politics clash

Chris McKenzie of the Māori Party commented in an article yesterday that an obstacle for the Māori Party was to overcome the perception that the Māori Party are in the pockets of the National Party. He stated:

“I say this to people: If there weren’t parties involved and there wasn’t such a good campaign by the Left to say that we are National…  and if it was candidate versus candidate, I have no doubt that I would hands-down be the frontrunner and would be confident to say I’m going to win it” [emphasis added]

I was reminded of this just this morning in an exchange on twitter. But before I address that conversation, let me explain that I have been part of this problem. I bought into the hype that the Māori Party were prepared to accept ‘crumbs’, and that the Māori Party were implicated in many of the bills passed that were seen as harmful to Māori.

Over the past 6 months, since the country lurched into election mode, I was forced to evaluate my values, beliefs and disseminate fact from fiction. This led to me joining the Māori Party. I do not resile from my decision, and I suspect this post will probably be dismissed as political hackery by many.  There are still areas where I will share starkly different views from other members, but I agree with the issue that many on the left are working hard to exclude the Māori Party from having a voice for Māori in parliament.

In reference to the twitter exchange, it begins by Marama Fox, Māori Paty candidate for Ikaroa Rawhiti, posting a photo of her and her cousin, Carterton Mayor and NZ First member Ron Marks.

The response she received was nothing short of trying to discredit the Māori Party by association with past comments made by Marks.

Rather than reproducing the tweets, you can view the thread here:


In summary, the tweeter starts off by expecting Fox to ask Marks a question about Marks’s politics. Fox confirms that Marks is not a member of the Māori Party. Tweeter deflects claiming they never thought Marks was a member of the Māori Party but continues to push Fox to ask Marks questions. The tweeter justifies this because they claim Fox ‘is in a position of power’ and he [Marks] is a prominent person.

In general, I agree that it probably is acceptable in many circumstances to ask those in positions of power to ask questions of other prominent people. However, Fox is not in a position of power as the tweeter suggests, rather, she is a candidate, and only obtains political power if she wins her electorate seat. The tweeter used her familial proximity under the misrepresentation of having political power to link Marks’s questionable politics with those of Fox and the Māori Party.

I’m not suggesting this is an isolated incident or that the person concerned is the only person who does this, rather that it is indicative of the kinds of tactics aimed at the Māori Party by many left wing supporters.

In previous posts I’ve referred to the comments from some commentators/activists about destroying the Māori Party and in respect of McKenzie’s comments above, I agree that this is a big issue – in fact, the biggest issue for the Māori Party.

For instance, in a recent post, Callum Valentine, Internet Party candidate for Wellington Central and Social Media Manager, reduced the guarantee of partnership between Māori and the Crown under Te Tiriti to simply a guarantee of biculturalism within a single left movement. He writes:

“…the Internet MANA relationship embodies the un-delivered promise of biculturalism in New Zealand…New Zealand’s founding document, the document which is the closest thing we have to a constitution, is a commitment to bicultural participation. Tiriti o Waitangi.”

He fails to grasp that the partnership guaranteed by Te Tiriti does not simply mean a strategic alliance between two left wing parties attempting to enter parliament under the same umbrella. The partnership envisioned in Te Tiriti is between Māori and the Crown.

MANA is not an indigenous/Māori party. The illusion of the MANA party as an indigenous party is largely because of its Māori name but by that logic the Koru Lounge is a place specifically for indigenous Air NZ passengers.  Additionally, it derives from the history of leader and founder Hone Harawira – a long time advocate of tino rangatiratanga. Of course MANA has many indigenous members who are advocates of Te Tiriti and support initiatives that further the interests of Māori (and I will continue to tautoko that) and in this respect it incorporates a kaupapa Māori politics. But the movement as a whole is a call to arms (metaphorically) for workers. It is Marxist in flavour hence the strong connections to the unions and their subsidiary organisations like Socialist Aotearoa – noting a senior member of Socialist Aotearoa, Joe Carolan is standing as a candidate for MANA at the upcoming election.

Obviously, the Internet Party are not the Crown. Although, that may transpire at some point in the future, until then, they are a political party. For the record, I think the Internet Party do have policies that could benefit NZ, but I dont believe any are particularly Māori focused and I think much of their policy is already part of the NZ Greens framework.

Lastly,  Valentine propagates the ongoing fallacy that the ‘Māori Party is content with crumbs from the table’. The Māori Party have only 3 MP’s in parliament. On that basis, any gains made for Māori should be applauded not referred to as ‘crumbs’ as this disparages the efforts of the many Māori involved at the grassroots levels in Whānau Ora and other initiatives, or iwi groups working to improve the Māori economy. Additionally, Valentine carefully edits out the various initiatives the Māori Party supported in terms of social justice and the particular gains they have made to try to address living standards and the history of the Māori Party and its neglect by Labour in the past.

I agree that the Māori Party haven’t delivered as much as many Māori had hoped, but that is not due to a willingness to accept less, its due to diminishing support which affects their level of influence in government as a result of the lefts demonisation of the Māori Party. A tactic Valentine and others on the left are clearly happy to engage in. Additionally, any claim to care about Māori needs and interests is undone when they denigrate New Zealand’s only indigenous party as incapable of representing their people and proclaiming a non-indigenous party partnership is better placed and more capable of doing so.

Anti-Māori Party sentiment is widespread on the left, and does involve both Māori and non-Māori. But if people can step back, clear the noise and talk to the candidates, they’ll see that the Māori Party have much in common with the left and have supported many left wing initiatives, despite the turbulent history and while at the table with National.

In fairness though, not all on the left are as critical of the Māori Party. There are many who understand the decision of the Māori Party to enter into an agreement with National because they understand the Westminster System and Te Tiriti. The Māori Party focus is on partnership guaranteed under Te Tiriti – not political allegiance. That means, that it is irrelevant who is in government, the Māori Party provide an independent voice for Māori (at least as much as the Westminster System allows) to make sure that Māori as tangata whenua are never excluded from decision making.

The left and the Māori Party need some resolution. That can’t happen while many have resiled to alienate the Māori Party through purposively misrepresenting them as National Party stooges. The Māori Party have signalled they are willing to work with whoever is in governemnt.

Simply dismissing their choice to participate in decision-making because it was with one of the least preferred parties or the lefts opposition misses the point. It buys into the illusion that partnership under Te Tiriti is between Māori and particular political parties. No party alone represents the Crown,[1] but only the Māori Party can represent Māori in the manner envisoned under Te Triti o Waitangi, at this stage anyhow.


[1] Here I mean, that during an election campaign the role of Crown representation is up for grabs, that is precisely what all the parties are gunning for. Yes, a party alone can say it represents the Crown after an election if it obtains enough votes to govern alone.


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