With the election just five weeks away I’d like to try and lay out the very real choice facing Maori.
Personality-driven politics undermines democracy – as a tool to try and gain power, it must come to an end. There is simply too much risk in putting faith in a person – people change, people lie, and people are imperfect. We must put our trust and our support behind specific policies that are based in reality and have an eye to the future.
There is no supreme ideology here, no Left vs. Right. It’s a practice that requires only two things; the ubiquitous human capacity for empathy and understanding, and a respect for the truth. Its political mantra is a very prosaic, but often forgotten one: we are all in this together.
Over the next few posts I want to examine the way that Maori have been poorly served by this arbitrary political divide. I want to examine some of the structures that predate Colonialism and the effects of their loss. I want to highlight how, if not being silently ignored, Maori are used as a lightning rod for New Zealand’s worst demagogues. I want to discuss how Maori over-representation in the indices of crime, health and social deprivation is a stain upon this country. And I want to talk about how when specific and effective policy becomes secondary to political grandstanding, there is little chance of this stain is ever washing away.
Most of all, I would like to nail my colours to the mast. I’m a Maori man – my hapu is Ngati Mahuta and my iwi is Tainui. I take pride that my hapu produced someone like Tawhiao, the second Maori King and a spiritual leader to his people. My Nana was raised as Ngapuhi and spoke only Te Reo until she was six years old. My Mum was born in a state house in Otara, the eldest of eight children, where money was scarce but love more plentiful. As a kid I remember us having enough to be happy and healthy, but not a great deal after that. My eldest brother was the first in our extended family to attend University and was also honoured as the Top Maori Scholar for Bursary that year.
The tikanga-Maori in my life flowed from the warmth and love of my Nana. She was a big lady with a big heart and us grandkids adored her – that big state house in Mangere was our happy place. I remember my cousins and I cramped into the lounge where Nana slept, Inspector Morse seemingly on repeat, Nana quietly playing solitaire on her bedside table, the room all suffused with the orange glow from the streetlights, bathing the Tretchikoff Blue Lady, the faded Constable, and her collection of creepy dolls and cluttered Kiwiana trinkets. I remember the faint smell of dusty blankets and rising scones.
Nana would write how she loved to have her mokopuna so close, referring to that lounge as like “a little marae.” With her passing, my Mum seeks to maintain that link, working for the Auckland City Council as a financial advisor for the South Auckland region – an area with communities, strengths and problems that she knows like the back of her hand. I can’t honestly say that I’ve engaged with my heritage as much as I could have, that would be untrue. But I can say that it is one of the things, among only a few others, that I feel and hope defines me.
So as a Maori man speaking to all other Maori, and to those who wish to see progress for this vibrant people, I want most of all to say this: the political party in this country putting forward the best policy programme to improve the lives of tangata whenua, while still respecting kaupapa-Maori, is The Opportunities Party.
I want to make it clear that I understand that kaupapa-Maori means leadership by Maori, for Maori. I see TOP mainly as a vehicle for evidence-based policy, which if enacted, will have an enormous impact on those areas in which Maori are over-represented. TOP is also committed to the Treaty of Waitangi and is calling for it to be formally enshrined forever, in a written constitution, and finally acknowledged as the unique and beautiful, shared duty-of-care that it is. These actions together would then hopefully lead to a more equitable relationship and a model of shared, mutually respectful governance. The Opportunities Party is not able to provide the exact same kind of representation that the Maori Party or Mana can, for obvious reasons. But what separates TOP from other traditionally ‘liberal’ parties is that they acknowledge this fact, and take a principled stance on it – they are not standing candidates in Maori seats. This will be discussed elsewhere.
For now, I’d like to look at four specific policies and how, for Maori, they are potentially life-changing. These are:
- Democracy Reset
- Criminal Justice Reform
- Cannabis and Alcohol Reform
- Tenancy Act Reform
So stay tuned!