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September 10, 2018 | by  | in Features Politics Te Ao Mārama | [ssba]

Tōrangapū Māori: Meeting Our Māori MPs

At this point in time every political party in the New Zealand parliament has a leader/or leaders with whakapapa Māori. Each Māori member in Parliament represents different tribal connections, constituencies, and a diversity of interests; each supporting different kaupapa across Aotearoa today. I believe it’s important to look at the big issues of today through a critical lense. However, I also understand that because our elected representatives can seem detached from our communities, our whānau may sometimes feel disconnected from the parliamentary political system altogether.

Last year during the General Election, me and my cousins organised a hui on our home marae, Whakarongotai Marae, for our whānau and the candidates standing in our Māori Electorate of Te Tai Hauāuru. This combined two of the things I personally am most passionate about – Māori politics & empowering our community through direct political discourse and participation. We participated in national Māori politics on the marae – a place for kōrero, whakawhanaungatanga, and kai – instead of merely observing it on TV. It made me proud to see my kaumātua stand up and challenge the people who could potentially hold the power in a New Zealand government. And more so, it made me determined to continue to help bridge the gap between our communities and Parliament.

Recently, I spoke with some of our Māori MPs from each political party in Parliament for Te Ao Marama, including: Marama Davidson, Green Party Co-Leader, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngati Porou; David Seymour, ACT Party Leader, Ngāpuhi; Cabinet Minister Shane Jones, New Zealand First, Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāti Kahu; Joanne Hayes, National Party List MP, Ngati Porou, Āti Haunui a Paparangi, Rangitane ki Wairarapa; and Paul Eagle, Labour Party MP for Rongotai, Waikato Tainui. Here, I hope to provide a brief view into the different experiences and perspectives of 5 of our MP’s (Māori in Parliament) from Whangarei in the far North to Rēkohu (the Chatham Islands) in the far South. I encouraged them to reflect on their own māoritanga and whakapapa. I asked about their inspirations, their hopes for young Māori people, and their position on contemporary issues of today.

. . .

What, or who, were some early inspirations that got you into national politics?

MARAMA. . . “My nana – and her sense of justice and injustice”

DAVID. . . “The great reformers who had changed the face of New Zealand: Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble. . . most of them emerged into the ACT Party – also Dame Iritana who was the founder of Kohanga Reo, she was also an early supporter of ACT”

SHANE. . . “Ko nga pūmanawa me nga pūkenga i whakawhiwhia mai ki ahau mai taku whakatupunga atawhainga hoki me taku tononga ki te kura i Tīpene, ā te wharewanaga ō Akarana, Pōneke, Ahitereiria me Havard; the most profound of influences are those that lie at the foundation of my being. . . they’re traceable back to my upbringing and education”

JOANNE. . . “My background working in Māori health and whānau ora. And my desire to change the policy around Māori health – it just wasn’t working for us”

  1. . . “My dad, Brian, who was a Minister in the Methodist Church. . . At the time, the church and Labour were synonymous, with David Lange. That’s where I got the values of caring and serving. . . And also my son Tama, I feel blessed to represent Rongotai because having the Chatham Islands as part of that electorate makes the connection to my son’s Ngāti Mutunga whakapapa more special”

And how has your māoritanga played a role in this journey for you?

MARAMA. . . “Māoritanga is at the core of everything I do and say – my taha Māori is my strength that keeps me grounded and informs my politics. . . We [Māori] are held hostage by the system. The whole concept of this political system is in conflict with the Māori world view – it sets us up against one another. . . But when we welcome each other onto the marae for instance, we acknowledge the inherent mana and whakapapa of every person we’re working with – and that transcends all political lines”

DAVID. . . “It’s critical… most people see me as a white guy from Epsom, but it’s always in the back of my mind; that part of my ancestry is Māori from the Far North – going back and giving my whakapapa at Te Tii Marae, the Waitangi Day before last, was a very special experience to me. . . A lot of my learning about my māoritanga and te reo Māori has been through my very good friendship with Marama Fox – she’s been fantastic as a friend”

SHANE. . . “Māoritanga was a term I heard a great deal growing up. . . through the Māori Anglican church, the marae, and my mother – she was very keen that I learnt the language from my grandmother. And when I got a little bit older I was involved with the Māori protest movements of the late 70’s and 80’s. It was like a rite of passage. I was a bit of a ‘rhetorical rebel”

PAUL. . . “I was adopted into a Pākeha family, which was really common for Māori at the time. . . I think it’s sad that a lot of people who were adopted, Māori in particular, don’t know where they’re from, they were told to assimilate fully into Pākeha New Zealand. . . So I’m incredibly proud to be the first Māori Male in Labour to hold a General Seat – it only took them [Labour] 101 years!”

JOANNE. . . “Even though my father was a native speaker, my mother was not. We were brought up in a little Pakeha town called Rangiwāhia, Manawatu – there were only three Māori whānau there at the time. . . I was influenced through my education by the kaupapa and philosophies of Sir Apirana Ngata; that Māori should take both worlds with both hands”

. . .

How important do you see it that the language continues to be spoken and supported in the House of Parliament today?

MARAMA. . . “It’s essential for us to speak it in Parliament. . . it’s also essential for us to continue to support people speaking everywhere in the country. . . My journey is commiting to speaking the language at every opportunity”

DAVID. . . “I absolutely defend the right of people to speak… I think it’s critical that our parliament accepts te reo as a language. But I don’t think it’s under any threat. . . I’ve tried to learn te reo many times”

SHANE. . . “I’m living proof of it! I believe it starts with whānau. . . we worked unstintingly to ensure that our kids learnt te reo Māori. . . to let them know that it is an incredibly important element of their heritage. . . I use it a lot, I lapse in and out of the language [in the house] all the time”

JOANNE. . . “I do [see it as important]. And even though I’m not as fluent. . . I one day hope to learn the reo”

PAUL. . . “There’ll always be those who push against the language. . . But I see now that te reo is fundamentally part of the New Zealand way. Learning te reo is one of my three goals I want to achieve here – it’s gonna be a journey”

What is your party doing for young Māori people?

MARAMA. . . “I hope that everything we do is for young Māori people. . . Our focus on social policy is a huge priority – and these are issues that often disproportionately and negatively affect young Māori”

DAVID. . . “Charter schools – out of about a dozen charter schools, nearly half are explicitly Māori. Sir Toby Curtis recently said at the select committee that ‘there’s nothing wrong with state schooling, other than that it has failed Māori for more than 178 years”

SHANE. . . “The focus is on enterprise and industry; creating jobs and employment”

JOANNE. . . “Education – we’ve made a commitment to reestablish partnership schools. We understand partnership schools aren’t just about Māori and Pasifika. . . but that is the population that has been benefiting from it”

PAUL. . . “I think that giving hope is a really big thing. . . It’s important for us to work to provide hope and opportunity when things get tough. . . So that young Māori people can feel they’ve got access; to support services, to study opportunities, to affordable homes”

What would you say to any young Māori person who may be interested in politics?

MARAMA. . . “I see it as my responsibility, as a Māori women politician, to help mentor and support young Māori and Pacific women who’re interested. . . it’s about being involved with collaborative community action on the important issues that you care about. For me it’s supporting collaborative, community grassroots driven campaigns on progressive kaupapa”

DAVID. . . “What was it that Sir Apirana Ngata said – ‘Keep your heart rooted in your culture and turn your hands to the tools of the Pākeha’. I’d also say to read extensively on public policy, philosophy and economics. Most politicians don’t do that unfortunately. But that’s very important in order to understand politics”

SHANE. . . “It’s important that you know how to treat people. Engari me te tangata koe i te tuatahi; live your life first”

JOANNE. . . “Learn how the system works and get involved. . . For those interested in the Nats, myself and Nuk Korako are forming the Kahurangi Blue Māori Youth Branch for the National Party”

PAUL. . . “You’ve gotta have it in your heart to give something back to the community”

. . .


Your dream policy. If you could implement it tomorrow, what would it be?

MARAMA. . . “I can’t get away from some form of distributing wealth and power. Every issue and every crisis – climate change, inequalities – have been caused by a massive concentration of wealth in the hand of the few”

DAVID. . . “ACTs Housing Policy – which is replacing the Resource Management Act and Urban Planning Laws in cities to help free up land. . . because it’s just too hard to build more homes nowadays. . . And who’s the biggest loser from a tight housing market? Well, statistically it’s Māori”

SHANE. . . “I want to leave a legacy of Māori cultural pride and Māori economic prowess. . . I envision that I will be like Gandalf, I can snap my fingers and some magical taiaha will arise from the mist”

JOANNE. . . “Equity of Māori – that’s what it would be”

PAUL. . . “It would be ‘transforming’ the Adoption Act 1955 – that act impacted on Māori children most significantly. And there are a lot of Māori out there now who don’t know where they’re from, who aren’t connected to their tūrangawaewae”

. . .

“When we welcome each other onto the marae, we acknowledge the inherent mana and whakapapa of every person we’re working with. . . And that transcends all political lines”

In this article, I wanted to provide a brief glimpse into both the different and shared experiences of some of our Māori in Parliament. Each person here provided interesting insights and perspective on many of the different issues affecting te reo me te ao Māori katoa i tēnei rā. Each reflecting the diversity of views held across the Māori population and across the political party spectrum in Aotearoa.

Nō reira, e mihi ana ki ngā rangatira Māori o te whare paremata.

Tēnā koutou katoa, ō koutou kōrero nui, ō koutou whakaaro pai ki a tātou mahi a Te Ao Marama. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui koutou ki runga i te whare!

Nā Ruben Toa Kearney-Parata

Te Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira


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