Feb 1, 2012

Further comments on the Maori Party's threat

A few commentators have rightly pointed to the Maori Party’s ineptitude around s9 and the new state asset legislation. Treaty clauses are, and have been, central to Maori progress over the past two decades and the Maori Party must have known said clauses would be up for review. After all, the government was open in their intentions to sell state assets, meaning they were open about their intentions to reform the SOE act. The party must have been aware that s9 would come under review.

The party is either 1) receiving poor advice OR 2) whipping up Maori fervour for political gain. I think it’s a bit of both. The Maori Party would have known what was coming when National announced a series of hui to consult Maori. So they were in the loop only a few days ago. They sat on the information for a day, Hone Harawira then found out s9 was up for review and went public with the claim that s9 can stop asset sales proceeding. Hone hogged the headlines and threatened to own what was, in the Maori Party’s eyes, their story. As a result, they went nuclear with the threat to leave, thus reclaiming the story and positioning themselves as the champions of Maori interests. They, the Maori Party I mean, needed to shift left and reposition as the real Maori Party. The party continued to bleed support and, until now, failed to treat the wound. Meaning they continued to drift right and further right. Given this shift, the party needed to steer left and also bust the perception that the party was selling out Maori interests. The perception that the Maori Party were “sell outs” took hold last term and always threatened to sink them.

Like I said yesterday, I don’t think the Maori Party is going to walk. The Prime Minister has put what appears to be a sensible, or elegant as he terms, compromise on the table. A treaty clause will inserted, but it will apply to the government only and not private investors. It wouldn't be a massive loss if the Maori Party accept the deal. In the eyes of Maori they appear to have strong armed the government and, as an added bonus, they get to keep Whanau Ora, the constitutional review, the poverty committee and so on. Most importantly for them, they get to keep a seat at the table – after all their entire re-election was predicated on the fact that the party would occupy a seat at the table.

On the other hand, if the Maori Party cut their losses and leave their survival post-2014 would almost be guaranteed, however it would be open season on the Maori seats. Taking the principled road, read leaving National, would be a move that would go along way towards reclaiming the tino rangatiratanga vote. The Maori Party comes away having reasserted their independence and their credentials as Maori advocates.

Although, having the Maori Party in opposition would leave little room for the Mana Party. There isn’t enough real estate for two Maori Parties in opposition. With that in mind, I’d rather see the Maori Party stay. Better to have a Maori party on each side of the fence (i.e. one in opposition and one in government). Ultimately, the Maori Party will probably stay. This seems to be the opinion of most. But don’t underestimate what a potent issue this is. The Treaty has always meant far more to Maori than it ever has for other New Zealanders.


  1. "The Prime Minister has put what appears to be a sensible, or elegant as he terms, compromise on the table. A treaty clause will inserted, but it will apply to the government only and not private investors."

    Yes ... but as the Crown will remain majority shareholder, thus retaining control of the enterprise, any duty on it to respect Treaty principles will effectively bind private shareholders also in that the Crown will be legally required to exercise its majority control of the company in a Treaty-consistent manner. So ... how does that "solve" anything?

    Further, remember how s.9 came into play in the Lands Case. The Government started to transfer land assets to SOEs, thus opening the way for them to be sold to private owners (thus putting them outside the Treaty redress framework). The NZMC challenged this governmental act on the basis that it failed to protect Maori Treaty interests, thus breached s.9. The C of A agreed ... leading to the clawback provisions in s.27A-D being inserted into legislation.

    Now - how would the readying of power companies for partial sale be different? If (say) Genesis is going to be 49% sold off, then that sale process will affect the ability of Maori to claim redress for the company's use of water/geothermal energy that they may have Treaty claims over. And unless the Government includes some sort of clawback/compensation regime for Maori (akin to s.27A-D), then it'll be setting the stage for a repeat of the Lands Case.

    Point being ... I'm not sure there will be an "elegant solution" to this, given the uncertainties over what may/may not be subject to Treaty claims in the near future and the Crown's obligation to respect the Treaty principles. If the Crown leaves the door open to future claims, then that'll lower the value of the assets they want to sell (or, at least, create an unknown potential future obligation to pay compensation that will offset the money raised by the sale process). But if it tries to shut the door on such claims, then it's not being a good Treaty partner.

  2. the maori party will be sucked in again by John Key and Pita Sharples is in denial about why the maori party lost surrport.

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  4. How would the Maori Party know that the Treaty clause would be up for debate, when past experience with the sale of the SOE's under the Labour government shows that Section 9 and the Treaty clause was not changed?



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