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Don't underestimate role on Maori Council

By Willie Jackson

You may not have paid much attention the other day when the news came through that Eddie Durie is co-chairing the New Zealand Maori Council.

You could be forgiven for shrugging off that item as if it was of no great consequence.

After all, what has the council been up to in recent years apart from having the odd skirmish about who's really in charge?

And also there has been nothing much in the news for some time to suggest that Eddie Durie is still a mover and shaker.

He is in his 70s now and it's a good while since he retired as a High Court judge and also stepped down from his job as chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal.

So you could assume that his new role with the Maori Council means next to nothing.

But if that's what you think, you could be wrong.

And so could John Key and his mates.

First of all they need to appreciate that Eddie knows more about the law and the Treaty of Waitangi than they'll ever know. Secondly, he's as sharp as anyone in the legal business.

If he wasn't, he wouldn't have led the tribunal and the Maori Land Court so successfully for so many years. And he wouldn't have gathered up honorary doctorates not only from Victoria University but also from Massey and Waikato universities.

Nor would he have been offered a knighthood like Mason Durie, an elder brother.

So we're not talking about just any old nondescript lawyer. This is Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie, even if he remains Eddie to all and sundry.

And it's worth remembering that the Maori Council has an impressive track record in resorting to the courts, including the Privy Council, when the Government – as it's prone to do – has behaved as if it had no Treaty partner and no obligations to Maori.

The council still has Graham Latimer at the head of the organisation and Maanu Paul, who has also been a battler for many years, is the co-chairman with Eddie.

Then there's Rahui Katene, Titewhai Harawira, Dick Dargaville and George Habib on the executive.

Now that's not an outfit likely to roll over any time the Nats come up with a brainwave like selling off chunks of national assets when some of those chunks belong to Maori.

And it's not going to stand by idly while the Nats cosy up to the Iwi Leaders Forum, as if those iwi leaders speak for all Maori – because they don't. It's as simple as that.

Eddie Durie isn't an aggressive operator. But you can bet on him and the council having the Government on the back foot on a few Maori issues in the coming years.

Sunday Star Times, 8th July 2012.

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