The Spin vs The Reality



When it comes to the Māori Party, it has become apparent just how deeply rooted the spin about the party is, and how blindly and uncritically it is propagated. The saddest thing is that the majority of spin is formulated in left-wing echo chambers that claim to support Māori while simultaneously attempting to actively deny Māori an independent space in political discourse. This post attempts to address the spin.

The Spin 

  • The Māori Party are in coalition with the National Party
  • The Māori Party are National Party stooges
  • The Māori Party are in the pockets of National Party

The Reality

The Māori Party (TMP) have a relationship accord with the National Party formalised through a Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Confidence means TMP must only support the Government on any motions of confidence raised in the House of Representatives (HoR).

Supply means TMP must only support the Government on any budgetary or procedural votes to have Bills heard in Parliament.

It does not mean that TMP must support any and all legislation the National Party put before the house. In fact, part of the C & S agreement required the National Party to adopt and implement a number of policies advanced by TMP, including Retention of the Māori Seats, Whānau Ora, Enabling Good Lives, a Ministerial Committee on Poverty and initiatives to urgently address the effects of poverty, a constitutional reviewMāori economic strategy, housing, education, environmental policies, and revitalisation of Te Reo Māori.

Note: TMP voted with Labour more times than it voted with National.*

  • TMP voted AGAINST National, inter alia, the MOM bill (asset sales), the GCSB bill, the 90-day employee trial, and the high seas protest ban, and supported the opposition on bills such as paid parental leave and a living wage.

Being at the table is not about propping up a government. It is about having the ability to participate in ways that achieve gains for our people.

The Spin

  • The Māori Party are a right-wing party
  • The Māori Party are sell outs
  • The Māori Party are corporate iwi lackeys

The Reality

The Māori Party are a kaupapa Māori party founded on and operating under the principles of:

Manaakitanga, Rangatiratanga, Whanaungatanga, Kotahitanga, Wairuatanga, Mana Whenua, Kaitiakitanga, Mana Tupuna/Whakapapa, and Te Reo Rangatira

Kaupapa Māori is not just a system of values it is a methodology that informs every interaction, every decision and every action. These are distinctly Māori principles and practices that cannot be buried by euro-centric attitudes to and ignorance of Te Ao Māori.

The Māori Party do support iwi Māori and contrary to the spin this is not a negative attribute. Conceptualising iwi as vehicles of capitalism, is again an attitude formed by a wilful ignorance toward Te Ao Māori. Iwi connect our people through our whakapapa (ancestry), whānau and hapū are inseverable from those in iwi leadership roles. The strategic use of funds from settlements and investments operates on an ethic of investing for our people, not instead of our people. To presume that the State are the best vehicles for providing services for Māori is an affront to our tikanga and an insult to our tupuna.

There is absolutely no barrier to critiquing iwi leaders from our Māori perspective as to whether or not they are behaving consistently with our tikanga, but these disputes ought to be settled in our marae kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) in accordance with tikanga Māori NOT through the iron fists of the State. The involvement of the State should only ever occur where serious criminal offending is alleged, e.g. fraud or theft etc.

The ‘sell out’ meme has no basis in reality. It is only through the actions of TMP that the government signed up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, when the previous Labour government had refused to affirm NZ’s commitment to the declaration . This year’s budget is also an example of the kinds of gains TMP have made for our people. Click here for the full details of the 2014 Budget. Some examples include the following:

  • $90 million to provide free GP visits and prescriptions to children aged under 13 years
  • $20 million additional funding over 4 years to expand Rheumatic Fever reduction programme (bringing total government investment to $65.3million over 6 years)
  • $15 million over the next 3 years to support Whānau Ora Navigators work with whānau to increase capability and engagement
  • $16 million over the next 4 years to support the repairs and rebuild of rural housing on the Chatham Islands and the development of social housing providers
  • $10 million over next 4 years for Māori sporting and cultural activities and development of sporting and cultural bodies
  • $6 million over next 4 years to NZSL to improve outcomes for deaf people
  • $5 million over 2 years to create Te Mana o Te Wai which focuses on activities to improve water quality

On the above basis, TMP are hardly right-wing capitalists. Nor can it be claimed that they are lackey’s and sell outs.

The Spin 

  • A vote for the Māori Party is a vote for the National Party
  • The Māori Party have a preference for working with the National Party

The Reality

A vote for the Māori Party is a vote for the Māori Party. TMP has committed to working with whoever is in a position to form a government following each election and will not rule out working with any party because the effect would be to potentially deprive Māori an independent and participatory voice in Parliament. That TMP are forced to justify why Māori have a right to participate no matter who is in government, is a sad indictment of the state of political discourse in NZ.

This post only barely touches on the spin hurled at TMP, from those one might normally expect to constitute friendly allies. In order to understand the Māori Party, however, you must also understand kaupapa Māori not just as an adopted set of values, but as it operates in practice.

* EDIT: It has been brought to my attention, that I misinterpreted a tweet and have since edited this sentence: “TMP voted against the National Party more often than the Labour Party voted against the National Party” out of the article.



  1. Dr O’Sullivan, I look up to you and I am really disappointed you strongly support The Maori Party when they actively supported the National Party to stay in power. I respectfully disagree because:
    – Nats are a party who believe there is no child poverty, and refuse to measure.
    – they introduced welfare reform that pushed many off welfare without any jobs with a focus on dpb, while keeping Superann available for the superwealthy.
    – they further casualised the lowskilled workforce with a 90 test.
    – they provided tax-cuts for the super wealthy and more public funding to private schools.
    – they kept the minimum wage at its lowest and intro d back youth wage.
    – they continually reduced the state house stock.
    For those reasons I cannot support a party that supports a party that has such a neoliberal view. Its been proven so many times that the trickle down effect does not work…and who loses; the vulnerable. I voted MP once…not again. I cant and im frankly shocked that you do. Regards.


    1. Kia ora Herapania,

      Thank you for sharing your point of view. Just to clarify, Dr O’Sullivan didn’t write this post, I did. But I just want to respond to your comment.

      I appreciate the view you are coming from. For the past few years, I held that view too. After taking a step back from the noise, and engaging with Māori Party members and candidates, I came to understand and appreciate their position.

      I still would never ever cast a vote for National, because I believe our people do not thrive under a system that prioritises economic interests over people and the environment. In saying that, I don’t believe Labour are much different and have a history of letting our people down by prioritising the interests of the State over Māori and our interests.

      For me, the value of an independent Māori voice in government, no matter which major party leads it, is that it acts as a handbrake on the level of harm to our people, while providing a vehicle to participate in the decisions that affect us. With only 3 Māori Party MP’s in govt, the level of influence is far less than the Māori Party aspire to have. As noted in the beginning of this post, the National Party didn’t need TMP to stay in power. It had the numbers regardless. In opposition, TMP would have had zero impact, but under the existing arrangements were able to secure some significant gains (as outlined in the article) and many smaller gains for our people. A number of the things you mention were also addressed above with TMP opposing many of National’s initiatives while supporting the opposition with initiatives such as living wage, paid parental leave, food in schools, to name a few. TMP aren’t bound to National and have reiterated their willingness to work with Labour/Greens should they win the election. For TMP, it’s not about left/right but about being an active, independent and participatory voice for Māori in parliament.

      I appreciate that you may still disagree with TMP and that is completely your choice that I do not judge. I just wanted to explain from my point of view as someone who has previously held similar views to you.

      Nga Mihi,


  2. I support TMP, and will vote for them only because I don’t like the others. I would go NZ First, but Winston being an ex-Nat will probably go with the Nats if he were kingmaker. Internet Mana – well, the jury is still out on them. What I fear for TMP is that, in my view and my view only, is that they are always in a compromising position – they seem to get the rug pulled out from underneath them. Sure it’s better to be at the table rather than throw stones from the sideline, but no matter who TMP align themselves, somewhere along the line Maori get shafted because they only seem to be there to make up the numbers – not even a kingmaker. National and Labour have no interest in Maori interests unless it helps their cause and the kick back seems to be the fact that they are even seated at the table. Although they may have TMP on whoevers side, is National or Labour endorsing any Maori policies? it’s the least they can do for helping them getting power, I apologise if they have, but nothing I’ve noticed. This makes me believe that National and Labour, regardless of who is power, is working for the same boss, the Commonwealth, a boss that has always despised Maori for relying on their own innovations to move forward to which I believe they find Maoridom a threat to their ‘way of life’ – a life of immoral and unethical debauchery, if there’s some good there somewhere, just can’t think of any right now. I do have the strongest feeling that one day TMP will be a force in this, our country, especially when immigrants and refugees stop believing (some probably do already) they owe allegiance to the current governing body – there are agreements in place that allow them to live anywhere in the world. TMP should get onto this as I believe the immigrants/ refugees have the same enemy and similar concerns; displacement, disenfranchisement, over representation etc (we’ve heard it all before) and I believe Tikanga Maori is the vehicle to increasing their party numbers – a new paradigm of change is needed. I don’t mean to generalize, but I could go on forever in detail and even I would get bored of myself. Good luck to TMP.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with what your thinking is here. I split my vote between Mana and Maori last time. im reluctant to do it this time though. mainly because of dirty politics. i know that TMP is neither right nor left. but im Left of centre ( out of habit more than anything maybe ). and need to see them have a relationship with the left of politics to be comfortable with them this time. there is a very high profile relationship with National ( the right ) but where is the relationship with Unions / Greens and other elements of the left? so much so that cunlliffe just gave them the smack down. similar thinking here


    1. I wholly understand your reservations! I just think its worthwhile remembering that Labour has denied a space for both Māori Party and MANA since both parties were established and DC’s smack down just reiterated his view about power sharing relationships with Māori generally.

      Just read your post and I think the above that I wrote probably sounds patronising. My apologies.

      I think for left voters MANA is in a better position to get their votes because it is a mix of state socialism and kaupapa Māori so its natural place is the far left. TMP are kaupapa Māori based and view collaboration as the best way of being able to effect change when you are a party of small numbers, so it’s hard to box it in that framework. But I agree this approach makes it difficult for those who have strong left or right preferences.


Comments are closed.