Aug 25, 2011

Controversy erupts in the Maori Council

Controversy has erupted in another Maori organisation. The New Zealand Maori Council is making waves with the news that senior Council member Maanu Paul has been expelled for speaking publicly on behalf of the organisation. After falling ill last year Chairman Sir Graham Latimer appointed Maanu Paul to act on his behalf. However, the Executive Committee held that Sir Graham was acting unilaterally and did not have the power to make such an appointment. The Executive Committee argues that in Sir Graham’s absence the elected Deputy Chair, Richard Orzecki, acts in the Chairpersons role.    

Maanu Paul has been acting under the title of executive chairman and commenting on a number issues including the Councils activities surrounding an impending treaty claim. The claim concerns Maori rights to fresh water. This clearly got up the nose of the Council members, but mainly the Deputy Chair, and they have resorted to the strongest response possible – expulsion. However, Maanu Paul maintains that he has not been sacked and will continue to comment publicly until Sir Graham directs him otherwise.

This internal strife speaks to the growing irrelevance of the Maori Council and is illustrative of the growing political conflict in the Maori world. The National Government has selected the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) as their Maori vehicle of choice when it comes to consultation and access. The problem for the Maori Council is that they are a creature of Statute (The Maori Welfare Act 1962) and, consequently, relies on the acquiesce of the government of the day. On the other hand the ILG set their own mandate and enjoy access to their own capital, i.e. the government does not fund them and, therefore, cannot strangle them when they fall out of favour. The Maori Council is also, ideologically speaking, non-aligned with the current government whereas the ILG falls firmly in line with the Nat’s ideological position (e.g. privatisation). The Maori Council is creating issues for the government, for example by fuelling debate on Maori rights to fresh water, while the ILG is actively supporting the government’s asset sales campaign. It is easy to see why the government has turned to the ILG at the expense of the Maori Council. 

The battle within in the Maori Council is also indicative of the larger political conflict occurring within the Maori world. At its most obvious the conflict is typified by the conflict between the Mana Party (representing the working class) and the Maori Party (representing the Maori ruling class interests). There is also conflict in Tainui between Te Arataura (the Tainui elite) and Te Kauhanganui (the Tainui people at large). Also the Maori Women’s Welfare League between Hannah Tamaki and Destiny (the Maori elite) and the traditional members (the people at large). Of course it is more complex than just a battle between the poor and the elite, but at its most simplistic we are seeing a class conflict. 

I also wonder whether Maanu’s connections to the Maori Party have anything to do with his expulsion. Maanu is one the Party’s most prominent and vocal supporters. It will be interesting to know whether his connections and pro-Maori Party/National Party actions were getting up the nose of the increasingly left-wing Maori Council. 

I’ll be following this story very closely and update any further developments.       


  1. Interested in your description of the Maori Council as "increasingly left-wing", especially given Graham Latimer's political positioning.....

  2. The MC has always been considered a conservative organisation. However, in Latimer's absence and given the MC's increasing activity in advising hapu and opposing government policy (e.g. opposing offshore oil prospecting/drilling) I think it is fair to describe the MC an increasingly left-wing.

  3. Always considered conservative? By protestors yes - by NZ political parties and NZ society as a whole, not the slightest! The NZMC has championed a range of causes that changed NZ society - establishment of CFRT (which has underpinned the settlement process), broadcasting funding (which was instrumental in establishing MTS) etc. The NZMC's biggest failing is that it has failed to provide succession and to bring through new leaders, but in its day it WAS an agent for social change. Moana Jackson describes this dichotimy as being like a taiaha - the eye is drawn to the decorative carved end (the protestors and street activists) but the plain undecorated end (the 'conservatives' working on the inside) is a blade that slices through skin and bone.
    And one last thought, Morgan you are using the same language as papers like the NBR to describe debate and political disgareement within Maori organisations. Instead of seeing it as a healthy marker of a vibrant political culture, your tone implies that Maori disagreement is damaging and negative. We dont all have the same opinions, and that's actually a good, healthy thing in a large community!

  4. Valid criticism, anon. I do not think the conflict occuring in the MC is healthy though. The conflict is indicative of significant dysfunction within the organisation rather than political disagreement. In an organisation funcioning normally the first avenue would be to tap Maanu on the shouler and ask him to stop, not expel him without warning.

    You are right though, the debate between Mana and Maori is healthy. Arguably the debate in Tainui is healthy too. Not sure about the MWWL though, that seems more harmful than anything.

  5. Kia ora Morgan, Once again your youthful position brings light to what other's may see as a 'deadbeat' council. I agree in part with "Anonymous" and like his/her comments especially on he/she writes around NZMC achievements especially in the past three decades. I especially love the fusion of the taiaha story, the best metaphoric story heard in a long time and better that its one of Moana Jackson's. It would be a pity if Maanu Paul was expelled and it was found to be because of his ties to the Maori Party. Latimer like the late Whina Cooper were watched with suspicion b many of us young activist's back in the 80's as we knew them to be staunch National. NZMC vibrated leadership during those times described by "Anonymous" but then great's like Ranginui Walker and Titewha Harawira would sit at this council and I can only imagine the conversation's said when people disagreed. One thing for certain they all live on! But the Iwi Leadership group are the 'Six figure club' that myself and other's as an ex member of the Maori Party did little to stop them going through John Key's door? We saw this happen and as Tiwha Bell, kaumatua Ngaati Rora said of another unsettling matter that we were too slow of the block. I don't wish to see the NZMC dissolve itself as it represent's the old leadership and skilled these people are ... including Manu Paul. One last thing ... Hannah Tamaki, the whanaunga and Destiny don't represent an elite group? High aspiration's but really that are but a parish of evangelistic Maori. Now the Bishop of Aotearoa ... whether this be Catholic or Anglican would more likely represent the elite Christians of the Maori world as it is within these churches sit the Iwi Leadership groupings and their groupies.



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