Meka Whaitiri's Departure from the Labour Party: A Wake-up Call for the Māori Caucus
The broader question posed by Whaitiri’s move is where the Māori caucus is more effective: inside or outside Labour?
Jacinda Ardern may have left New Zealand politics but her announcement in mid-January that she would step down as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party seems to have set the tone for much soul-searching by MPs during this election year.
Most notable has been the announcement made last week by Labour Minister Meka Whaitiri that she intended to resign from the Labour Party and join Te Pāti Māori with immediate effective. Much of the commentary that followed focused on her somewhat messy departure and whether she had in fact resigned as a Labour Party MP or had merely indicated to the Speaker of the House that her proxy vote would now be with Te Pāti Māori.
However, the more pertinent question is why Whaitiri decided to make the move in the first place. Although she remains tight-lipped about her reasons, there were some early hints.
Cabinet colleague Kiri Allan reported that when she was dispatched on behalf of her party to confirm with Whaitiri that this was her final decision, Whaitiri responded by asking whether Allan wanted to join her.
At almost the same time Te Pāti Māori President, John Tamihere was extending a public invitation to Minister Mahuta in an interview with Newsroom saying, “If Nanaia feels there’s something awry with the way she was treated, she knows what she can do.”
Clearly Te Pāti Māori is on a major recruitment drive and is targeting the Māori caucus. That point was underlined by Tamihere who stated in the same interview that, “If I had a dream, it would be that we end up like the Greens in Germany, a constant present in Government. That’s where we want to land.”
Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi made a similar point on Saturday’s Newshub Nation when he stated, “I can assure you, that Te Pāti Māori will be the kingmaker come October.”
The broader question posed by Whaitiri’s move is where the Māori caucus is more effective: inside or outside Labour? Undoubtedly, this is a question that members of Labour’s Māori caucus will be asking themselves.
Under Ardern, the Māori caucus obtained some major policy wins including the introduction of the Māori Health Authority and the Office for Māori Crown Relations (Te Arawhiti) and was widely considered to wield significant influence around the Cabinet table.
However, the political winds have clearly changed with Prime Minister Hipkins now calling the shots. The proposed TVNZ/RNZ merger, along with other initiatives, were called off earlier this year, and progress on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples has been paused.
In January, incoming Prime Minister Chris Hipkins offered an early opinion on the hot topic of co-governance, saying “no one understands what [co-governance] means because we’re talking about quite different things”.
That point was acknowledged by Tamihere when he stated, “A problem for Māori is we never had proper advocacy from Pākehā leadership, and we’ve seen that in Three Waters and co-governance.”
Although Three Waters has survived a review by Hipkins with only modest amendments, its implementation has undoubtedly been slowed and its chief architect, Minister Mahuta, has been sidelined. In addition, the fallout from last year’s Public Service Commission investigation into government contracts awarded to Mahuta’s husband, Gannin Ormsby, continues to reverberate.
As reported by the NZ Herald on Saturday, a bid by Ormsby for a formal apology from the Department of Conservation has only recently been rejected by the department. Ormsby alleged that DOC had mismanaged his contract and had given inaccurate information to the Herald which had been used to target the Minister. In early December, Ormsby wrote to DOC stating that, “This was detrimental to our reputation, and consequently used to fuel the targeted political slander of Minister Mahuta.”
Despite the Department of Conservation rejecting Ormsby’s accusations, he lodged a second formal complaint on December 19th with Chief Executive Penny Nelson, copying Minister Poto Williams. It has taken several months for that second complaint to be formally closed.
However, as recently as mid-April, it is understood that Ormsby discussed these issues directly with John Tamihere. Clearly Mahuta is being courted, publicly and privately, by Te Pāti Māori. However, whether she moves is another story entirely. Particularly in response to overtures from Tamihere - whom Mahuta described as a “sexist, failed politician” in 2011. Furthermore, the fact that Mahuta did not leave the Labour Party over the foreshore and seabed controversy in 2004, unlike Tariana Turia, suggests that she is likely to remain in the party.
In any event, only time will tell whether Mahuta or any of her Labour Party colleagues will follow Whaitiri to Te Pāti Māori.
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The ongoing party hopping by disenchanted part - Maori is as much about tribalism as it is politics.
Like many, I am sick and tired of their so-called “ leaders “ trumpeting that they represent “ our people”.
No they don’t.
Less than 1/2 are on the Maori roll and the vast majority of part - Maori are intelligent enough to know that rabid racists such as Morgan, Tamihere, Jackson , Mahuta et al do not represent their future but are only in politics for what it can do for their own benefit - not for the people they purport to represent.
Labour, by kowtowing to the demands of their vociferous, militant Maori caucus have created a Frankenstein monster that they now have no control over .
The inane utterances from Davidson, the Green Party co - leader on Sunday confirmed that the Greens are more concerned with the demands of part - Maori than the environment.
So we have two parties imploding over issues created by their part - Maori MP’s for the benefit of both ACT and National.
Keep digging you entitled, overpaid and underworked part - Maori MP’s as it is not only wildly entertaining but boosts the shares in all popcorn companies
Tamihere is a liar:
“A problem for Māori is we never had proper advocacy from Pākehā leadership, and we’ve seen that in Three Waters and co-governance.”
EVERYTHING about Five Waters and co-governence is gifting and appeasing to Maori.
We are in this mess because lies are being treated as truth.
NOBODY pulls them up, hounds them, reckons with their arrogance, their anti-white racism and victimhood attitudes.
God help us.