We’re very pleased to have Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia respond to your questions as part of our Interview the Leaders series.
Question to all leaders:
Of which of your achievements in politics are you most proud?
I am most proud of having played a part in the creation of a movement which has given our people an independent voice in Parliament. Any achievements I may lay claim to are really the achievements of many people over a long time. The photographs of Maori politicians which adorn the walls outside our offices remind us every day that we, the current Maori members of parliament, are part of a movement which started with them, way back in 1868. We owe them so much, those early Maori politicians who paved the way; we know they did the best they could in a political environment that was hostile to Maori.
The dam-burst and outpouring of political commitment and grass-roots involvement by tangata whenua that led to the creation of the Maori Party is a further development in the political maturation of our democracy.
As we say in the Maori world “Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini” which in this context is interpreted as meaning. “Mine are not the achievements of the individual but the achievements of the many”
From reader “higherstandard”: Can you envisage a NZ when there is no need for Maori seats in parliament?
Our position is crystal clear. The Maori seats are here to stay until our people decide otherwise.
On the wider question of Maori representation, it is important to note that the four Maori seats were created in 1867 to limit the political influence of Maori who would otherwise have been entitled to 14-16 seats in the parliament of 76. The term “European seats” finally ceased to be used in 1975.
Maori MPs in other political parties cannot claim to be the authentic and independent Maori voice in the Parliament. They are the Maori voices of Labour, National, Greens and New Zealand First who are bound by party whips to expound the views of their Parties, not of Maori.
With the advent of the Maori Party, as an authentic and independent Maori voice in Parliament, we aim to increase Maori participation in the democratic processes of Aotearoa.
The Royal Commission into the Electoral System thought the emergence of a Maori Party might make separate Maori seats unnecessary. But tangata whenua opposed that idea, arguing successfully that the seats had come to represent the voice of the Treaty partner, and a guaranteed Maori voice in Parliament, as a constitutional matter, should not be subject to the vagaries of political choices.
The Maori Party is keen to discuss constitutional arrangements tailored for Aotearoa/New Zealand, which may include the creation of a Parliamentary Tikanga Maori House alongside a Parliamentary Tikanga Pakeha House – to recognise the bicultural roots of the Nation envisaged by the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Treaty Settlements and the Maori seats should not be linked, one is about justice, the other about democratic participation.
From reader “Daveo”: Having an ethnic-based party makes a lot of sense when faced with a dominant settler majority often hostile to indigenous rights, but how do you intend to address the fundamental economic and class contradictions inherent in drawing support from both powerful Maori business interests and the large Maori working class?
The Maori Party is not ethnic-based, except that our kaupapa, or guiding principles and values, are drawn from tikanga Maori:
None of the above lend themselves to the western non indigenous political commentary and analysis of binary opposites implicit in Daveo’s query. We do not necessarily buy into the contradictions others do and then use those contradictions as a basis for forming relationships. We appeal to Maori on the basis of an independent Maori voice in Parliament regardless of economic status. Many people from many diverse cultures endorse the values espoused by the Maori Party. The fundamental principles of whakapapa, whanaungatanga, kotahitanga and kaitiakitanga will determine the nature of the relationship with all our people.