Dr Rawiri Taonui: Labour, Greens and the Maori-Mana accord

Labour's Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw, the leader of the Greens.

Labour's Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw, the leader of the Greens.

OPINION: Since 2005, the Māori seats have demonstrated loyalty to tribal servants while splitting the party and candidate vote to message a Labour-Māori Party coalition as the preferred vehicle for realising the aspiration of the 1930s' Wiremu Rātana-Michael Joseph Savage alliance. The will of the voters has never eventuated with one or the other dominating the Māori electorates and National winning the overall ballot.

Neither Labour nor the new Māori Party-Mana Movement accord will have their way in the Māori electorates this election. The message coming from the electorates endorses the renaissance in Labour through spectacular increases in the party vote in nearly all seats and sometimes also the candidate vote, while supporting the new Māori Party-Mana Movement mainly by the candidate vote and palliating against the record of both.

The new Māori Party-Mana Movement is paying a price for the acrimony of the 2014 election. And, despite Labour set to return a record number of Māori MPs and apologising across the board for the foreshore and seabed debacle, the position that everyone owns the water repeats the same foreshore and seabed undermining of the fundamental precept of Aboriginal Title stemming from the Treaty of Waitangi. Other reservations about Labour's delivery for Māori also remain: a 1930s Rātana Movement petition unaddressed until the 1950s; the 1980s decimation of Māori employment and a Pākehā caucus that dominates the Māori MPs.

Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox.

Five Māori TV-Reid polls of the Māori seats show a 4 to 11 per cent surge in the party vote to Labour. Over 42 per cent of Māori electorate voters prefer new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern as prime minister. Even new deputy Kelvin Davis rates above Māori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell and Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira. Labour dominates the Māori youth vote with 56 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds supporting Ardern as prime minister.

Meka Whaitiri, who inherits the legacy of tīkanga obelisk Parekura Horomia, will win Ikaroa-Rawhiti, as will less popular Te Rino Tirakatene in Te Tai Tonga, both with increased majorities. Apart from lurches to New Zealand First in 1996 and the Māori Party in 2008, these are long-term tribally conservative Labour seats backing MPs drawn from iwi ranks.

Adrian Rurawhe, a son of the Rātana Church, has the youth vote in Te Tai Hauāuru but in Dame Tariana territory, the march is on to support Howie Tāmati as a means of holding Labour to the promises of the Rātana alliance.

Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira.
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira.

If the cards fall this way in these electorates, the quick, witty and direct Marama Fox, a standout performer in the election and number one on the party list, is an unfortunate casualty – the 2 per cent Māori Party vote not enough to activate the list.

Despite an energised campaign winning the youth vote and Labour releasing an internal poll suggesting Tāmati Coffey would challenge – Waiariki will back Flavell. A recognised leader, Flavell is a rangatira seen, at every meeting and tangi.

A long-time tribal loyalist and longest-serving Māori electorate MP with legacy through her father Sir Robert Māhuta to Te Puea, 'Princess' Nanaia Māhuta will usurp the impertinence of King Tūheitia who, supporting the man that gifted him the throne, Māori Party president Tuku Morgan, turned his back on Māhuta and called for iwi to vote Māori Party. Māhuta wins Hauraki-Waikato with a massive majority.

With Davis number two on the Labour list, the Te Tai Tokerau voters will return "2-4-1" Harawira. Some commentators say Davis loses face if he loses the seat. Not so. With Winston Peters, Shane Jones, Pita Paraone, Marama Davidson, Willow Jean Prime and Peeni Henare possibly entering Parliament, the north will exult a cohort of at least one-third of all Māori MPs.

Former broadcaster Shane Taurima is fighting do-or-die in Tāmaki Makaurau against Labour's Peeni Henare. The Greens' Marama Davidson, their likely new female co-leader, will be a factor. Until we see more data, it is difficult to determine how a three-way vote might unfold. The trend suggests Labour, however, Tāmaki is the next seat after Te Tai Hauāuru most likely to party vote Labour and candidate vote the Māori Party.

If Labour wins the election and the Greens survive, they will likely need just two to three seats to govern rather than the 10 to 11 New Zealand First could deliver. Labour will be reticent about leader Winston Peters' track record and his insistence on a binding referendum on the Māori seats. Pragmatically, the Māori Party and possibly Harawira, who surely has learned a lesson by now, loom as more stable partners. Labour's Māori MPs are comfortable with this and Ardern less dismissive than her predecessors.

If by providence, Labour can govern with the Greens alone, the paradox measuring their commitment to kaupapa Māori will be whether they listen to a Pākehā-dominated caucus or the Māori electorates, Labour's Māori MPs and the spirit of Wiremu Rātana.

  • Rawiri Taonui is a professor at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences & Global Centre for Indigenous Leadership Massey University

 - Stuff

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