This new, re-energised Maori Party is laying out policies that are intergenerational they are not incrementalist. We can be overt, straight up and honest about our dreams and aspirations. –John Tamihere, co-leader of the Maori Party

A Party with a separatist basis   

by Roger Childs

The Maori Party probably wouldn’t exist if there were no separate parliamentary seats for the ethnic group. These seven special electorates are an undemocratic feature of our political system because only people who have some Maori blood can vote for the MPs.  For elections, Maori can opt to be on the general roll or the Maori roll – a choice not available to any other ethnic group. 

Part-Maori people make up about 16.5% of the country’s population – there are no full-blooded Maori remaining. In the current parliament 28 MPs have some Maori blood — over 20% of the total number. So if it regarded as important to have Maori representation in parliament, why do we need a Maori Party?

The mainstream political parties claim to have the interests of all New Zealanders at heart, but not the separatist Maori Party.

What does the Maori Party stand for?

In John Tamihere’s statement at the top the “our” means people with some Maori blood. The Party is all about “their people”, as stated on their website.

The Maori Party is all about caring for our whanau and future generations. As Maori political movement we are guided by our kupapa, and the interests of our whānau, hapū and iwi in Parliament and Government.

One of the Party’s policies coming up to the October election is that 25% of Covid recovery money be given to businesses led by Maori. But Maori have already have received $56 million immediately before lockdown and then $900 million in the May budget. There is definitely no need for the ethnic group to have a separatist party agitating for them when the government is being more than generous. Furthermore, Maori companies already have huge assets.

Maori trusts and businesses have a massive stake in the New Zealand economy. A 2017 estimate put the value of the Maori economic asset base at over $50 billion. This has been greatly assisted by multi-million dollar claims made by different tribes against the Crown, approved by the Waitangi Tribunal and paid out by successive governments. Many Maori run businesses are also unfairly assisted by having charity status, so pay less taxes than non-Maori enterprises.

Aotearoa and stolen land

Further aspects of Maori Party’s policy include… it has called to officially change the name of the country to Aotearoa and reopen Treaty settlements to cover land that was stolen during colonisation but is now privately-owned. –Marc Daalder, Newsroom, 25 September 2020

The word Aotearoa did not appear in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. The name used for New Zealand in the Treaty was “Nu Tirani’. Aotearoa was not the traditional Maori name for New Zealand – pre-Treaty Maori had no concept of New Zealand as a nation. As British Colonial Secretary, Lord Normanby, in his 1839 instructions to Captain Hobson put it: the natives were… a people composed of numerous, dispersed and petty tribes who possess few political relations to each other… Aotearoa was the invention of English ethnologist, Stephenson Percy Smith in the 1890s to go with his fictional tale about Kupe. It is only in recent decades that the name has been used as a Te Reo word for New Zealand. Most polls on the question of renaming the country Aotearoa have shown less than 30% in favour.

As regards “stolen land” there are no specifics in the Party policy and no mention is made about land annexed from weaker tribes by stronger iwi in the Musket Wars.

No need for a separatist party

Maori as a separate group have been incredibly well looked after by successive governments.

As stated above, the present Coalition government has already allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for Maori to help with the Covid-19 recovery. Most New Zealanders would see this as more than generous. Furthermore Maori have for decades being singled out in legislation enacted in parliament — over 90 laws have special provisions for their interests and culture. And in the area of communications, Maori television and radio stations are all funded by the state. 

There is also a separate Maori Affairs Department and all the other ministries have policies related to Maori needs and interests.

Having a Maori Party perpetuates the concept of separatism and the principle that Maori are deserving of special treatment. As it has happened the Party has only ever garnered 2% –3%  of the party vote in elections and are currently polling around 1.5%. There is no raison d’être for its continued existence.