Gareth Morgan pledges bottom line of The Opportunities Party
The Opportunities Party (Top) leader Gareth Morgan used the 11th commemoration of King Tuheitia's coronation on Sunday to pledge his political bottom line.
While politicians of many stripes were welcomed to the seat of the Kingitanga at Turangawaewae Marae, Ngaruawahia, on Sunday morning, Morgan used his speech to announce his party's non-negotiable stance: unequivocal protection of the Maori electoral seats.
"I state without ambiguity that in or out of Parliament, The Opportunities Party will stand beside you resisting any attempt to disestablish or diminish the provisions currently in place for Maori representation in our Parliament.
"We would not support a government that would put the current Maori seats at risk through referendum or any other means. This is a non-negotiable position for us. It is actually our only bottom line."
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Morgan told the assembled crowd of 400 to 500 that he is "paddling the crucible" of his first election.
"We are a new waka just starting our journey. You are a mighty vessel of great mana that has travelled a long distance already.
"Despite those differences, there is much we have in common and I believe we navigate in our own way towards the same destination: a true desire for fairness and equality of opportunity for all, a profound belief that the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles must be embedded and recognised in our system of government for us to move forward.
"We cannot pretend to be a Maori party, we cannot pretend to talk for Maori, we cannot say we know what is best for Maori."
He said Maori are supporting Top, but said recognition for Maori is a long way off.
"We accept that as things stand, we are not as a nation coming truly close to embracing each other as people in a way that will allow us to all move forward together."
He said Top, as a mainstream party, will make a contribution.
"Despite much progress since 1975, successive governments have done a poor job at bringing Maori along on the journey. There remains a high level of misunderstanding and even suspicions around the role of the Treaty in New Zealand's future."
Morgan's "bottom line" was that "the current provision for Maori representation in our Parliament is a woefully inadequate substitute for the full honouring of the Treaty - an honouring which is beholden on both signatories.
"Your parliamentary representation is constantly under threat from those who would seek to manipulate the fears and prejudices of others to achieve their own selfish political ambitions.
"Equally as bad, old establishment parties are ever willing to co-opt the notion of Maori representation into their own outdated concepts of class warfare, left versus right tribalism.
On Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First, Morgan said that parties which don't have Maori interests at the forefront should not stand candidates in Maori electorates. He added that Top will not contest Maori electorates.
"When mainstream parties do win Maori seats, their representatives' ability to be true to the Maori people is at best compromised and at worst, manipulated.
"We condemn both Labour and the Greens, whose quest for power is so voracious, desperate and without principle that the Maori seats, which now under MMP no longer need to be shouldered by a big brother in order for the Maori voice to be heard, are still targeted by both.
"That is, they are fair game. That's nothing less than a patronising colonial-era perspective of Maori that Top disagrees strongly with.
His views of NZ First leader Winston Peters at Ratana earlier this year haven't changed, he said.
"We see that man as a turncoat, a person who has sold Maori and the Treaty down the river in his quest for regressive, conservative votes from the far right.
"We'd hope all Maori view Peters' position as disgusting - in the same camp as the followers of Don Brash and those behind the Hobson's Pledge campaign that would see New Zealand retreat to its pre-1975 situation."