Mana off with a bang and a song

PEOPLE POWER: Mana Party leader Hone Harawira in front of a poster featuring himself, Sue Bradford and John Minto.
PEOPLE POWER: Mana Party leader Hone Harawira in front of a poster featuring himself, Sue Bradford and John Minto.

A Muslim man from Hastings called Genocide kicked off proceedings at the Mana Party's campaign launch in South Auckland yesterday, and that pretty much set the tone for the event.

Fortuitously scheduled to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, it was clear the nearly 200 people crammed into the hall of a kura kaupapa in Otara liked the symbolic notion of attempting to blow up parliament.

Supporters were encouraged to chant "remember, remember, the fifth of November" and MC Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury said it marked the sending of a clear message to parliament that the resistance had started.

Following Genocide's music video, which called for supporters to "stand up and fight back", Tauranga rapper Jason Gardner explained why the Hone Harawira-led team was different.

"You'll find John Key making deals behind closed doors in Phil Goff's office. Smash all the fascists, we got Mana."

The neighbours could have been forgiven for thinking there was hip-hop concert on next door. But no, it was just a group of young urban Maori and ageing Pakeha lefties celebrating a common goal – boosting Mana's presence in parliament.

Mangere candidate James Papali'i set the ambitious goal of 15 to 20 MPs after the November election.

Activist John Minto, who is standing for the party in Manukau East, was a bit more realistic, saying Mana was a small party with big ideas.

"We're not just here as radicals, we're serious about this – serious about transformation."

Unionist and Mana founding member Matt McCarten said Minto was one of several "icons" running for the party.

The world was realising that helping the rich and hoping that would trickle down was not working, he said. "It's called the market, otherwise know as the jungle."

McCarten said Mana had a passion to change things.

Another "icon" candidate was former Green MP Sue Bradford. She said the Greens had moved too far towards the right and she had to leave.

Leader Hone Harawira said Mana could work with the Greens or Labour. But there were already enough parties looking after "middle New Zealand all the way up to the filthy rich".

He said his former Maori Party colleagues were busy trying to distance themselves from National. The party hadn't had any bottom lines and so had compromised on its principles.

Mana wouldn't make the same mistake. It was focused on fundamentals like feeding children and providing everyone with free health care, he said.

The party's immigration policy also got an airing when an elderly Samoan woman asked what Mana would do about Pacific overstayers brought to New Zealand when labour was needed and then "kicked out".

Harawira said this was a Pacific nation and Pacific people should be able to come and go as they pleased.

As the rhetoric drew to a close, everyone filed outside for a barbecue. The music started up again and the lyrics rang out for all the neighbours to hear: "Rich got us back in a ditch hoping we'll slit our wrists."

Sunday Star Times