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Some of you will cringe at the fact that I’m writing about the Māori Party. I really don’t care. Yeah, I’m a hearty Māori Party supporter ki te mate! Tū Māori Mai, That’s us!
Friends, family, foes, let me enlighten you as to my personal opinion: I want to answer the question that some of you lovely people have asked me: “Māori Party are in bed with National – why?”
Friends, let me explain. Let me take you on a spiritual journey. Back in 2004, when our beloved co-leader Hon Tariana Turia (Whaea Tari to most) crossed the floor in Parliament (some say she lost her way, but let’s be honest – she was over Labour). Shortly after, she won the Te Tai Hauāuru by-election with a whopping 92.74 per cent of the vote (yeah, that’s right). Then she moved on to create what we all know as the Māori Party. The Māori Party sat in opposition to the National Government for a term. What we saw as Māori people was a Party that could only sit back and let bad things happen for our people. No change. No benefits. No gains. No money. No Whānau Ora. No nothing. And it felt like we went nowhere. A period of loss for the Party.
Clearly, we needed change, and the only way we could do this was to be at the table of government. Along came the 2011 General Election (yes, I was 17 at the time so I couldn’t vote – to my dismay) and the National Party with the Māori Party forged what we now know as a Relationship Accord (flash word for a contract of sorts). It says a bunch of “you will do this, and we will give you this in return”. We (Māori) were at the table at the place where all those hearty decisions are made that affect the entire motu – sounds flash eh.
In all seriousness, though, it guaranteed Ministerial positions (decision-makers), $$$, a legislative programme, and a bunch of other stuff. It meant that we had a say on how this country is run. Yeah, we didn’t get Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister even, but remember, friends, that this was a step up from where the Māori Party were back in 2005 across in opposition.
Over the 6 years of the Māori Party being in government, over $100 billion was secured in initiatives for Māori. Whānau Ora – the one-stop social service. Kore smokes seen in our shops. Free doctor’s visits for our cousins under 13. Need I go on.
It was through this persistent advocacy and fierce determination that they have been able to make such huge progress for Māori people (this is Matua Te Ururoa’s line – yeyah). That’s us, whānz.
Nā Elijah Pue, Co-President, Ngāi Tauira Māori Students’ Association
Maori Matters is Ngāi Tauira’s weekly column in Salient.