The Mana Party exists because the Maori Party leadership comprehensively failed to represent the interests of its support base. The disconnect between the leadership and ordinary Maori is brutally highlighted in a weekend piece by Bevan Hurley:
Their constituents are struggling but Maori leaders are living the high life.
Maori Party leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have racked up the highest ministerial expenses after Prime Minister John Key – despite not being in Cabinet. The two are the biggest domestic travel and accommodation spenders at a time of Government cutbacks and high unemployment. They have also run up big credit card bills, staying in elegant hotels overseas.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show they spent a combined $329,172 on chauffeured limos and self-drive cars in the last financial year, up about 20 per cent from the previous year.
Several senior ministers have spent more on international travel, including Key, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Trade Minister Tim Groser. But Turia and Sharples have leapt into the top tier of ministerial spending on domestic flights.
Sharples spent even more on domestic air travel than the Prime Minister in the latest release of ministerial and Parliamentary expenses: $17,239 in the April-June quarter. …
An analysis of credit card spending shows Turia ran up a $4500 bill for herself and an assistant during a five-night stay in Moscow, one of the world’s most expensive cities. …
As well, Sharples blew the budget during a trip to Perth in May. He stayed at the $400-a-night Parmelia Hilton and hosted dinners for 26 leaders of the “main cultural groups” and the Perth branch of the Maori Woman’s Welfare League – at a cost of nearly $2000.
Even more extraordinary than bills themselves is Turia’s behaviour:
But after being questioned about her credit card expenses, Turia became hostile, saying she never used her ministerial credit card and it was her staff who spent money on it.
“You make me sick. All you are looking for is to get a story that shows ministers in a bad light. You have questioned me about the use of ministerial expenses. You were looking for a story and you’ve got one – I’m a big spender.”
Living the high life while the electorate is doing it hard is never a good look. This is another nail in the coffin. My guess is that Turia knows that her party is toast, and the strain is getting to her. The Maori Party could have been a huge factor in NZ politics for the foreseeable future, but they’ve blown it. What a wasted opportunity.