Tame Iti to stand for Maori Party
Tame Iti, the larger-than-life face of Maori radicalism is now aiming to become part of the establishment, and will stand for the Maori Party this election.
The man best known to some for his activism, his imprisonment on firearms charges and his participation in military-style training camps and to others for his fight for Maori sovereignty, his art and his work with youth, has revealed his intentions to Fairfax Media.
Speaking in the home he built himself in Ruatoki, Iti said he had always supported the Maori Party and had decided to stand to boost the party's support and because he endorsed the work it had done in government.
"Not very long ago I wouldn't have thought about it but I see there's more achievement...with National in terms of the treaty settlements so we have come a long way," he said.
Having a Maori voice in power had led to gains in areas such as health and social services for Maori and it was important for Maori "to be sitting on the table rather than across the road throwing rocks at each other".
While he conceded he was unlikely to get elected - he is ranked eight or nine after the seven Maori electorate candidates - he believes it is possible.
His party is gunning for all seven Maori seats and maintain in public that is doable but Iti says three is more likely "and anything beyond that is a bonus".
The activist, who unsuccessfully stood for Parliament for Mana Maori in 1996, and who will spend his time campaigning with the upper North Island candidates, does not believe one party can claim to represent all Maori or that there will be a pan-Maori political movement.
"I could ask you the same question [about Pakeha]... I think it's really important that we recognise there are differences, we cannot be all the same."
The Maori Party had a big following in Tuhoe but Maori voters were "shifty" and the best way to appeal to them was to be visible in those electorates - something Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell was good at but which was difficult in the huge Maori electorates.
Treaty settlements and an improving relationship with the Crown were opening up major opportunities for Maori and they needed to capitalise on that, he said.
Race relations in New Zealand had reached a time of "recognition and respect... we all have a place we can kind of work together".
His own views had shifted from anti-Pakeha to one of acceptance and he dismissed those who railed against immigrants, saying even Maori initially came from elsewhere.
Iti said the Maori Party had been judged harshly for its time in power as "the road [in] politics to make changes is a long road."
He did not support Internet-MANA's message "about how poor we are - I don't believe it, I don't agree with that kind of conversation, we're better than that."