By Te Ururoa Flavell
Over the last week, my Māori Party colleagues and I have felt the simultaneous anxiety and positivity of the people. It’s been one of those big weeks in te ao Māori and as always there is a lot of mahi to be done. So I went into our hui with the mind to do the job we have always set out to do – represent the voice of Māori and the interests of our country.
We met with John Key Wednesday night to place three concerns on the table. Like many New Zealanders, I was disappointed by the Prime Minister’s negative comments about the water rights hearing at the Waitangi Tribunal. His statements effectively implied that the Government would be seeking a way to ignore the rulings of the Tribunal and therefore the voice of Māori on this issue.
Such a plain conflict with Māori Party ideology meant we needed to make our concerns clear and discuss the future of our support agreement with National.
The discussion was good. We came away with a formal assurance that when the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal are issued, the Government would work alongside the Māori Party to seek a way forward together. I’m happy with this outcome.
To be involved in the decision-making process once the Tribunal’s report is received is a great opportunity to ensure that the mana of the claimants’ voices can be honoured. The Māori Party and National may not necessarily agree on the recommendations or the issues raised but at least we will be at the table, to make a contribution, rather than shouting from the sidelines.
For me it’s about making sure that Māori have a voice in Parliament regardless of who the government is.
I want to be clear – our people have never talked about ownership of water – they talk about their rights and interests associated with their whakapapa – their genealogical links to water, mountains and land .
We’ll still be supporting negotiations between iwi, hapū and the Government with regards to water rights and will act as a guiding hand on other Treaty issues.
An essential outcome of last night’s kōrero on this issue was the Government’s declaration that it would not undertake to legislate over the rights and interests of Māori.
Yesterday afternoon I was asked on Te Kaea what would be the tipping point when we would walk away from the party whose stance can sometimes be the polar opposite to ours. Māori have been affected negatively by the decisions of National and Labour Party governments alike, but we’ve also worked hard to make sure that we’ve done as much as they can to forge their own paths, before and ever since Sir Apirana Ngata first took hold of native affairs in the House.
The bottom line is that we want to avoid getting to a stage where we no longer have confidence in the actions of the Government. We know how governing parties operate and we know that the outcome is not always ideal for Māori, but we remain to make sure the Māori voice is always heard. The key lies in the relationship. That is why our Relationship Accord is crucial – the emphasis on each party recognising the importance of mana maintenance and enhancement is something we both work ahead at understanding.
On the policy of partial asset sales, I know that many are against and some are for this. E hoa ma, we continue to oppose this policy. My office and the Māori party continues to receive feedback and these opinions need to be collated. On the matter of water rights, I’ll await the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal with bated breath and get ready to uphold the Māori voice. Ka whawhai tonu mātou.
Te Ururoa Flavell is the Māori Party Whip and MP for Waiariki.