Like NZ First in 2008, the Maori Party faces oblivion unless it can bolster membership and remind people why it matters. Journalist Jo Moir
Out of parliament
By Roger Childs
The recent election, saw the Maori Party lose its two seats.
The Party came into existence in 2004 over the foreshore and seabed ownership issue, but even though it gained 4 Maori seats in the 2005 election, it has always struggled to establish a lasting identity and justify its existence.
It has never picked up more than 1% – 2% of the party vote, as most Maori voters have usually cast their ballot for Labour. Some would argue that the party has now been punished for throwing its support behind the John Key National governments.
So with no representation in parliament, has the New Zealand Maori Party got a future?
A party that has had its day?
Co-leader and former cabinet member, Te Ururoa Flavell lost the crucial Waiariki seat and has now resigned from politics.
There is talk of the high profile Lance O’Sullivan resurrecting the party, but does a political organisation based on an ethnic group have a way forward?
All Maori have non-Maori ancestors: for example Ngai Tahu’s Stephen (Tipene) O’Regan has over 90%. They are fundamentally New Zealanders like every other citizens of the country.
The needs of Maori – for housing, health, education, better wages, welfare, roads, public transport etc … – are no different from any other New Zealanders. However, despite this truism, Maori are catered for with separatist institutions that don’t exist for other citizens.
Well looked after
People with some Maori blood are well looked after by various governments departments and have their own Maori Affairs Ministry. Meanwhile the Waitangi Tribunal, using taxpayer money, has handsomely rewarded Maori businesses and trusts, as well as iwi leaders.
Furthermore the seven special seats for the group could well be in breach of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which emphasizes equality.
As regards representation in parliament, there are more than a dozen MPs with some Maori ancestry in the House who are not attached to the special electorates. This situation itself provides a strong argument for abolishing those separatist seats.
So does the New Zealand Maori Party have a raison d’être?
The voters don’t seem to think so, and as Flavell himself has put it following his recent election defeat: the people have spoken.