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Maori Party

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The Maori Party, a political party in New Zealand based around Maori citizens, formed around Tariana Turia, a former Labour Party member who had been a New Zealand Cabinet minister in the current Labour-dominated coalition government. Pita Sharples, a high-profile Maori academic, became co-leader. They launched the new party on 7 July 2004.

Contents

Formation

The foreshore and seabed controversy, a debate about whether Maori have legitimate claim to ownership of part or all of New Zealand's foreshore and seabed, became the catalyst for setting up the Maori Party.

According to some:

  1. Maori owned the foreshore and seabed before British colonization
  2. the Treaty of Waitangi made no specific mention of foreshore or seabed
  3. no-one has subsequently purchased or otherwise acquired the foreshore or the seabed
  4. Maori should therefore still own the seabed and the foreshore today

A court judgment stated that some Maori appeared to have the right to seek formal ownership of a specific portion of seabed in the Marlborough Sounds. This prospect alarmed many sectors of New Zealand society, however, and the Labour Party foreshadowed legislatation in favour of state ownership instead. This angered many Maori, including many of Labour's Maori MPs. Two MPs representing Maori seats, Tariana Turia and Nanaia Mahuta, announced an intent to vote against the legislation.

Turia, a junior minister, once informed that voting against the government would appear "incompatible" with holding ministerial rank, announced on April 30 2004 her intention to resign from the Labour Party. Her resignation took effect on May 17, and she left parliament until she won a by-election in her Te Tai Hauauru seat.

After leaving the Labour Party, Turia, subsequently joined by Sharples, began organizing a new political party. They and their supporters agreed that the new organization would simply use the name of "the Maori Party". They chose a logo of black and red - traditional Maori colours - incorporating a koru design, also traditional.

The leaders of the Maori Party have indicated that they wish to unite "all Maori" into a single political movement.

Policies

  • Maori ownership of the foreshore and the seabed
  • (Other specific policies as yet un-announced)

Prospects

The party has high hopes for the future, and has stated an intent to contest all seven Maori seats. Turia has said that the party is "attracting huge support", and publicly regards winning the seven seats as a "realistic" goal. (In 1996, a new, partly-Maori party, New Zealand First, won all the then existing Maori seats, though it lost them all at the following election in 1999.)

Many of the party's backers believe the Maori Party will come to dominate Maori politics in the same way that Labour traditionally has.

Critics of the new party, however, have dismissed the party's chances of success. John Tamihere, when Associate Minister of Maori Affairs, attacked the Maori Party on a number of issues, painting it as ultimately unviable. One of the main problems for the new party involves the broad range of opinion that the party must represent. Tamihere has also said that the party's leaders "belong to a relatively wealthy, educated Úlite" whose "reality is considerably removed from the overwhelming majority of Maori." Tamihere claims that Maori have more interest in issues such as health, education, and employment than in the comparatively academic issue of the "foreshore and seabed".

The Maori Party also failed to gain the backing of Ngai Tahu, one of the most influential (and wealthy) iwi. While broadly supporting the party's policy platform, Ngai Tahu said it will not provide financial support or political endorsement. Chief executive Tahu Potiki said Ngai Tahu would never back any one party over another, including a Maori party, adding that "If you start to play the party game and start talking about loyalties, when they say something dumb, you end up with egg on your face. And it's only a matter of time before they do." [1] (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2917943a8153,00.html)

As one of its major problems, the new party faces the challenge of uniting very many diverse views. Maori overall do not hold very homogeneous opinions, and finding a balance between radicals, conservatives, and moderates seems likely to prove problematic. Donna Hall (a controversial lawyer) and Titewhai Harawira (a radical activist) have both indicated an interest in the party, but the party's leadership has so far shown reluctance to welcome them, apparently judging them too controversial. Tariana Turia, however, believes that they can achieve unity, and says that in the new Maori Party, "all Maori parties [have] come together in the spirit of unity".

A Marae-Digipoll in April 2005 predicted that the party would have won five of the seven Maori seats if an election had been held the day after the poll.

External links

Template:New Zealand political partiesmi:Māori Party

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