May 29, 2012

Katene shoots herself in the foot

Well, it turns out Rahui Katene has been advertising herself as the MP for Te Tai Tonga on Facebook. 

Katene was claiming yesterday that people were still coming to her “for help”. Well, that’s no surprise when she’s advertising herself as the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

In any event, I find it almost impossible to believe that Christchurch residents are going to Rahui for help. After all, she’s based in Wellington – far removed from Christchurch. Christchurch residents would have to have access to Katene’s personal number, email or address. It’s not plausible that anyone outside of the Maori Party circles have those details. Therefore, it’s likely that Maori Party supporters or those connected with the party are still going to Rahui - if anyone is at all. 

I don’t want to make this story any bigger than it is, because that gives undeserved oxygen to Rahui Katene in her increasingly desperate bid to remain relevant.

Rahui Katene claiming to be the MP for Te Tai Tonga

The best and worst Maori MPs for May

Well, it doesn’t take long for the tables to turn. Last month I named Hekia Parata one of the best performing Maori MPs - this month she is one of the worst. Tariana Turia and Te Ururoa Flavell didn’t even rate a mention, but this month they occupy the top positions. Rino Tirikatene wasn’t on the radar, but his push for Maori seats on the Nelson City Council and across New Zealand pushes him to the top list. True to form Hone Harawira rated as one of the best performing MPs last month, yet a dismal performance – by his own high standards – sees him fall off the radar this month. 

For the full list and explanation click here or on the tab at the top of the page.

May 28, 2012

Rahui Katene stirs the pot

RNZ’s Te Manu Korihi is leading with some interesting news:

Rino Tirikatene's political record of representing Maori in Christchurch is coming under attack from the woman he ousted from the Te Tai Tonga electorate last year.

Former Maori Party MP Rahui Katene says people affected by the earthquake are being ignored and constituents are still coming to her for help on issues such as roads, water and jobs.

She says that's a real problem because Labour Party MP Rino Tirikatene does not seem to be doing anything to help Maori he represents.

Ms Katene claims Mr Tirikatene is referring Maori constituents to the Pakeha MPs in Christchurch.

Rahui Katene is doing what she can to remain relevant and that involves stirring the pot. Rino has responded, quite rightly too, saying that many constituents have come to him citing the poor service Rahui gave last term. This, I think when examining the evidence, holds true. Rahui lost Christchurch despite having cultivated a significant profile in the wake of the earthquakes. If Rahui was doing a good job, then it follows that she would win more votes than Rino in Christchurch. This, however, was not the case and can only be read as an indictment against Rahui’s record in the city.

Rahui doesn’t have the coverage and connections Rino has across the electorate. Add to that the likelihood of Dora Langsbury and a Mana candidate standing and it becomes near impossible for Rahui to win – especially without the advantage of incumbency. Rahui can tend to her media profile, but that isn’t nearly enough to win a Maori electorate. Failure will be a deathblow against Rahui’s political career. You can’t, after all, lead the Maori Party without a seat in Parliament – it just isn’t practical.


I have done some work for Rino in the past. 

May 26, 2012

The Urewera sentence and the reaction from Maori

The end was swift and vicious. In a face saving move, the establishment has extracted its pound of flesh.

Last Thursday Justice Rodney Hansen sentenced Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara to two and a half years in prison. Iti and Kemara were found guilty of six firearms charges and not guilty of four. The jury could not decide on whether or not the pair were guilty on the criminal group charge.

The response from Maori was rapid and universal – it was a bullshit sentence. In a break from the orthodox, Maori MPs slammed the decision. Hone Harawira pointed out that:

The judge simply picked the worst bits out of 67,000 pages of evidence to justify the most extreme interpretation of events.

It's a waste of time having a jury trial if the judge can retry the case at sentencing ... by vindicating the actions of the police the state has made political prisoners out of them both.

Te Ururoa Flavell expressed a similar sentiment:

This was never just about the charges or the offences.

This was about Tuhoe and the mess caused in the lead-up to this sentencing.

Mr Flavell says the harsh sentence was intended to cover up the botched case.

And David Clendon from the Greens had this to say:

The sentences handed down to Mr Iti and Mr Kemara are at the steep end of the scale.

New Zealand already has an expanded prison population and I fail to see what will be achieved by incarcerating Mr Iti and Mr Kemara.

By convention, politicians don’t criticise judicial decision. So, with that in mind, it’s significant that Justice Hansen’s decision has met universal public criticism from Maori MPs. To me, the political response is indicative of the anger many Maori feel against the decision.

Annette Sykes thinks it’s a case of history repeating itself and, I think, that’s hard to argue against:

The decision today is a case of history repeating itself. In 1916 Tuhoe Prophet Rua Kenana was found not guilty for treason by a jury. Despite the verdict, the judge concerned found him guilty of resisting arrest and sentenced him to one year hard labour, followed by 18 months imprisonment. The jury were so incensed over the harshness of the sentence, they submitted a petition and had the sentence reduced.

Tame and Te Rangikaiwhiria, much like their tipuna Rua Kenana, have been wrongfully imprisoned and their sentence will be subject to a number of appeals.

Leonie Pihama calls Iti and Kemara “political prisoners”. Support is also coming from iwi, including Ngati Awa.

Personally, I’m gutted with the sentence. Justice Hansen didn’t, in my opinion, give enough regard to the mitigating factors and he appears, implicitly at the very least, to have endorsed the Crown’s construction of events even though the jury did not on four firearms charges and the criminal group charge. Justice Hansen also imputed an intention from a few selective pieces of evidence. Evidence that he did not give regard to considering the whole circumstances. Also, in another erroneous move, Justice Hansen lists the political views of a person not charged as an aggravating factor.

The learned Judge also takes it upon himself to declare that the defendants were establishing a private militia. Something the jury could not decide on. If they had, then the jury would have convicted the four on the criminal group charge. It is unjust, if you ask me, that the Judge can do this. The jury expressed no opinion on the charge so the Judge should not proceed as if the jury found that the defendants were participating in a criminal group.

The sentences will no doubt be appealed. Whether the sentence is reduced is a moot point. What is not in contention is that this is another slap in the face against Maori, tino rangatiratanga and Tuhoe. A result any less than that which was given would reduce the Crown and undermine the power of the system. A result any less than that which was given would elevate the legitimacy of Maori nationalism and that, for the Crown, is not acceptable.

For further discussion see this from Marty Mars and this very good discussion from Maia at The Hand Mirror and here are some of my thoughts from a few weeks back.  

May 25, 2012

Budget 2012: What's in for Maori

Well, there isn’t much to report from Budget 2012 – not for Maori at least.

As signalled, tobacco excise tax will increase 10 percent each year for the next four years. On this issue, Bill English acknowledged the work of the Maori Party.

Most significantly, however, the Maori Party has secured $19m for “Maori medium early childhood education providers”, $10m towards Maori trade training, the changes to teacher ratios will not affect Maori immersion schools and $24m was allocated to combat rheumatic fever. As far as cuts go, Maori development funding has been cut and transferred to policy functions, Whanau Ora administration funding has been decreased, as has funding for Maori radio and Maori tourism. Surprisingly, I think, Te Puni Kokiri’s budget has decreased a mere $1m to $60m.

In all, the budget is neither here nor there for the Maori Party. The wins offset the losses, but that cannot be considered a win. The Maori Party needed to secure a big bang win and create a narrative from there. For example, a 50m win for education. The Maori Party could then claim they are protecting Maori education from the government’s agenda, read cuts. Of course, to be fair, the Maori Party have secured significant wins in Maori education, but not enough to leave a lasting impression nor enough to create a sustainable narrative. It was, I think, essential for the Maori Party to distance themselves from what was, on the whole, an austerity budget. However, they are, thanks to only meagre wins, tainted by association.

Having said that, the Maori Party should be applauded for securing what they did, especially considering the government’s approach to the budget. In an environment of cuts, the Maori Party has secured some funding increases and, for all intents and purposes, the Vote Maori Affairs Budget has remained the same.

Before moving on, I should point out the significance of Maori immersion schools avoiding the student/teacher ratio changes. First of all it shows that Hekia Parata has not sold out tino rangatiratanga entirely, secondly it shows that Hekia implicitly acknowledges that higher teacher ratios hurt education:

"Proportionately immersion schools are more successful in raising Maori achievement than mainstream and we do not want to impair that progress"

In other words, higher student to teacher ratios hurt education.

So, in all, the Maori Party have done well considering the circumstances, but not enough to boost their support.

As for cuts, there were a few. For me, it’s not the cuts themselves that worry, it’s where the savings from those cuts were transferred. Maori development funding has suffered and the savings have been transferred to policy advice under Crown/Maori relationships, ministerial servicing and Maori development. Effectively Maori development funding is going towards supporting government ministers so, in other words, the funding is going towards fattening up the Maori bureaucracy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s questionable). In all, the policy advice budget comes in at $23m which seems very, very gratuitous. Surely much of that money is better spent on Maori development.

Maori radio has had a minor cut while Maori TV’s budget remains the same – again. Significantly, Te Puni Kokiri’s budget has fallen to $60m – a $1m cut. Of course, this is only what is budgeted, one would expect savings to be made within that budget.

Lastly, the Treaty negotiations budget is $170m of which $66m is to support lending to implement the Ngāti Whatua o Orakei Deed of Settlement and $24m for the administration and implementation of the MCA Act.

In all, that’s the budget for Maori. Nothing much, but enough considering the circumstances I suppose. If the above signals all the Maori Party can achieve in the next two budgets, then their demise becomes more certain.

May 24, 2012

Budget coverage

The Budget's out today. I don't think I'll get time to blog anything today, but tomorrow I should have a post ready on what's in the budget for Maori, the consequences and so on.

May 22, 2012

Iwi leaders force AFFCO's hand

The Iwi Leaders Group, in what I think is a welcome and significant power play, have brokered a provisional agreement between AFFCO and the Meatworkers Union:

A resolution in the long running Affco dispute is close at hand, following talks over the weekend.

After a three-month lockout, more than 1000 workers at all eight North Island freezing works will return to the job.

An agreement has also been reached to withdraw or suspend all legal action until the final details are agreed.

In a joint statement the parties say they have reached a provisional agreement on a core document and are working through site-specific details.

An Employment Court hearing began last week after the union challenged the validity of the lockout and that has since been adjourned.

The involvement of the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) appears to have broken the deadlock. Earlier this month Nga Puhi leader Sonny Tau urged Maori farmers to stop supplying AFFCO. The suggestion was endorsed by other Maori leaders, most significantly Pita Sharples. However, what seems to have forced the company’s back down was a threat - apparently from Waikato-Tainui - that Maori would open a rival meat processing plant. The Talley family, eager to protect their market share, appear to have caved at the threat.

This illustrates the growing importance of iwi, in particular the ILG, in the New Zealand economy. The move also reinforces the group’s political power. With assets well in excess of $1b, iwi are in a position to leverage business with economic threats. This is certainly true in the case of AFFCO, a medium sized business, as Maori control between 10 and 15 percent of the country’s sheep and beef stock. It’s unclear, however, whether iwi could leverage larger companies like Fletcher Building.

Full credit to the ILG for falling behind the Maori whanau affected. Estimates suggest Maori make up more than 60% of AFFCO’s workforce. Aside from lobbying AFFCO for resolution, Tainui and Ngati Kahungungu also provided food parcels for the families of locked out workers. Tom Roa has, from what I’ve seen, played an integral part and kudos to him. Roa succeeded Tuku Morgan as the head of Te Arataura (Tainui’s executive committee).

Maybe this signals an ideological shift in the ILG. I’ve been critical in the past and maybe it’s time to revisit my conclusions, but that’s a post for another day. For now, kudos to the ILG and hopefully the workers are back on the job soon.

A toast to Joris De Bres

Bryce Edwards makes an interesting observation:

The Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has become increasingly outspoken about politics recently - using his public office to adjudicate on highly political and partisan issues.

Regardless of the correctness or otherwise of his pronouncements, some will be uncomfortable with an office of the state being so interventionist.

First of all, I think it’s wrong to label De Bres’ public comments as interventionist. They are, after all, just public comments. If De Bres was using his powers under the Human Rights Act to force a situation on another person or organisation, then that would be interventionist. I think public comments lack the tangibility to be labelled interventionist.

Anywho, De Bres’ increasing activity is coinciding with an increasing amount of anti-Maori sentiment - read racism. As a few examples, think of Paul Holmes’ Waitangi column, the coverage and response to the Popata brothers, the senseless opposition to Ngati Whatua’s treaty settlement and Louis Crimp.

There have been regional racism incidents too. In the Taranaki internet commentators tore into local Maori for ‘daring’ to exercise their legal right to apply for customary title. In all of these situations, De Bres has largely been the only voice of opposition. Morally speaking, De Bres is obligated to oppose racism and, quite unsurprisingly, he is legally obliged to do so under s5(2)(l) of the Human Rights Act 1993:

The Commission is to “make public statements in relation to any group of persons in, or who may be coming to, New Zealand who are or may be subject to hostility, or who have been or may be brought into contempt, on the basis that that group consists of persons against whom discrimination is unlawful under this Act”

As I’ve argued, Holmes Waitangi column brought Maori into contempt, as did much of the discussion around Ngati Whatua’s treaty settlement, the Popata brother’s story and discussion and Louis Crimp’s comments. So, taking that view, De Bres is obligated to comment under the Act.

I’m bloody glad De Bres is commenting on these issues because there aren’t enough Maori with the ability, position and willingness to comment on these issues. Racism should never go unchallenged and De Bres deserves credit for acting on that principle.

May 21, 2012

Native Affairs tonight

Coming up on Native Affairs: 

How racist is sport in New Zealand?

That topic will be up for a panel discussion on Native Affaris, Maori Television’s acclaimed current affairs show.
After yet another racist diatribe, this time by text message, against Auckland Blues coach Pat Lamb we debate the issue with a range of panellists including former All Black great Andy Haden, former double international (Black Fern and Silver Fern) and now Labour MP Louisa Wall and Race Relations Commissioner Joris De Bres. 
Native Affairs won the Aotearoa Film and Television Award (AFTA) for best current affairs series in 2011.

Native Affairs screens at 8.30pm tonight on Maori TV.

May 17, 2012

Colin Craig on Maori (and I'm on Twitter)

With Craig and the Conservative Party in the news recently, I’ve been searching for clues to their approach and opinion on Maori issues. Yesterday I stumbled on this interview Craig gave with Claudette Hauiti from Waatea Radio. The interview is one of the more in-depth and instructive that Craig has given and, arguably, indicates that Craig is pragmatic when it comes to things Maori.

I initially expected Craig and the Conservative Party to be openly hostile on Maori issues. Given the segment of the electorate Craig is targeting, I thought anti-Maori sentiment would be a given. Take, as one example, this pamphlet the Conservative produced last year. The pamphlet explains “why National is wrong on the foreshore and seabed” and proceeds to attack the Maori seats, The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and treaty settlements.

However, in contrast with the above pamphlet, Craig took a more pragmatic approach to Maori issues on Waatea. Much of the interview consisted of, for want of a better term, cuddly responses from Craig. For example, when describing his time in the Maori department at AUT, Craig reckoned that “everyone was everyone’s friend” and it was “a wonderful experience for me”. Thankfully, however, Hauiti managed to pry some very instructive answers from Craig.

On education, Craig supports Kura Kaupapa and Kohanga Reo saying that we need a “variety of educational institutions” and “schools should have the freedom to do what works”. Although this position clashes with the Conservative Party’s opposition to policies that “divide us based on race”, for example the Maori seats, it indicates a pragmatic approach to Maori issues. Kura and Kohanga work, that’s undisputed, and it is encouraging to know that Craig supports what works. It would be easy, and perhaps politically expedient, for Craig to oppose Kura and Kohanga on ideological grounds.

If anything, the above indicates that Craig’s ideology is flexible and that, for a politician at least, is an asset.

Hauiti also asked Craig whether he thought, and I’m paraphrasing here, Maori held the key to their own destiny. In other words, does he support Maori self-determination (tino rangatiratanga). At first, Craig didn’t recognise what was implicit in the question. When the question was put to him for a second and third time, he didn’t give a straight answer. Actually, Craig’s answer was contradictory. At first he started speaking about individual responsibility, which I read as meaning that the individual has the key to their own destiny rather than Maori as a collective, but then Craig went on to endorse Maori organisations and their efforts in Maori development which seemed to indicate that he does endorse Maori formulating solutions for Maori. I find it difficult to reconcile those two positions.

Interestingly, Craig thinks the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was wrong and that every New Zealander should have “the right to go to Court on an issue”. However, Craig is opposed to Maori customary title holding the foreshore and seabed should be held in the commons, read owned by all New Zealanders. However, Craig endorsed customary rights to fishing, usage and so on. Again, this is a contradictory position. It recognises that Maori have special rights, for example fishing rights, however the Conservative Party's position is that everyone has the same rights. Again, this indicates a degree of pragmatism on Craig’s part. Perhaps aware that the party will have to rely on and, if elected to Parliament, work with Maori, Craig is attempting to find positions that will satisfy his target market and at the same time provide a base for working with Maori politicians.

On the question of how well the Conservatives will represent Maori, Craig reckons “very well” and says that for “New Zealand to succeed we need Maori to succeed”. If you had to attribute that comment to someone, you’d probably pick Hone Harawira before Colin Craig. In another moment that could have come from Hone Harawira or Tariana Turia, Craig claims not to put much faith in the free market. On the subject of Maori unemployment, Craig does not believe “the free market is going to sort everything out”. Instead, Craig believes in creating initiatives “that work” (what works is a common thread throughout the interview) and he does not want people “forced into situations where they have to put their hand out”.

At the end of the interview Craig says he supports Whanau Ora, but before he can qualify/explain that answer he was cut off. Again, this may indicate an openness to what works, but we can’t know for certain without a more wholesome answer.

In all, it was an interesting interview. I don’t necessarily agree with Craig’s positions, but he appears open to Maori ideas – or at least not openly hostile. This could, of course, change with time and change in response to shifting political circumstances. But, for the moment, Craig poses no threat to Maori progress.

*Just a reminder I'm on Twitter now. You can follow me here

May 16, 2012

Native Affairs on the Urewera "terrorists"

If you didn’t catch Native Affairs on Monday night, drop what you’re doing and view it here. Native Affairs sets the standard for current affairs in New Zealand and on Monday night the show raised the standard – again.

In an unorthodox move, well unorthodox for the MSM, Native Affairs dedicated an entire hour to the Urewera ‘terror’ issue. The show spoke to the Urewera four – Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey – and then Greg O’Connor. A panel discussion followed with Matt McCarten, Annette Sykes, Stephen Franks and Russell Brown. The quality of discussion was excellent and Julian Wilcox further cements his place as the best television journalist in New Zealand. Although most viewers would have applauded the exclusion of O’Connor and Franks, the fact that the two were included is a testament to the Native Affairs crew and their commitment to balance.


Interview with the Urewera four

The show opened with a discussion with the Urewera four. Julian asked Tame Iti, and quite rightly too, what he and the Urewera suspects were up to in the Urewera. It’s a legitimate question, but one without an adequate answer. Tame responded saying that they were “doing what Tuhoe do”. This is vague, but it suggests nothing sinister. Similar to most Tuhoe, Tame is very guarded about Tuhoe affairs. Although Tame acknowledged that he and others were engaging in “activities”, he disputed the Police interpretation and construction of those events. The activities were, it’s increasingly accepted, innocent in intention.

Emily Bailey described the activities as “wananga” which, to me at least, makes perfect sense. Bravado and silly buggers aside, what the suspects were engaging in is and was common practise in the Ureweras. Bailey also commented on the criminal group charge arguing that it was merely a tool to elevate the gun charges to something more sinister in the minds of the jury.

On the question of proof Kemara made the point that it's incumbent on those making the accusations to “make something of it”. In other words, the burden of proof falls on the Crown and those accused aren’t obligated to negate those allegations. Ultimately, and not unexpectedly, the Crown failed to prove their allegations, other than the relatively minor and strict liability firearms offences. The offences the four remaining defendants were convicted of fell well, well short of the original and outrageous terrorism allegations.

Urs Signer also made a number of insightful comments. Most interestingly for Maori, Signer labelled the terror raids and what followed another step in the colonial project. I read this as meaning it was a step to suppress tino rangatiratanga. As an aside, when will New Zealand accept that tino rangatiratanga is a legitimate and harmless political ideology? Anyway, Signer also claimed that it’s the intention of the Crown to seek a prison sentence despite a report from the probation service recommending community service.

In all, it was an outstanding interview with the four.


Response from Greg O’Connor

Following the four was Police Association President Greg O’Connor. Julians asked whether or not the Police owe Tuhoe, or more specifically the Ruatoki community, an apology. O’Connor didn’t think so, instead he claimed that the Urewera four owe the community an apology. This is silly for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Urewera four were not responsible for Police actions. After all, the Urewera four did not compel the Police to act as they did, for example illegally detaining community members and boarding a school bus. The Police made that decision – the Urewera four didn’t compel them to do that. Secondly, what the Police thought the Urewera suspects were engaging in did not justify nor invite action against the Ruatoki community, merely the suspects themselves. Thirdly, and as I alluded to, the Police acted illegally. Given they will face no judicial consequences, isn’t there a moral obligation for them to apologise?

O’Connor went on to say that the claims that Police acted illegally were “allegations” and not facts. Of course he would say that, it’s his job as the union spokesperson to defend Police actions. However, why would the community lie about the Police actions? There is no reason for the community to do so. In the school bus claim, the bus driver, and the school children for that matter, had no reason to fabricate the claims that Police boarded their school bus. On the other hand, the Police have every reason to deny it.

In another erroneous call, O’Connor stated that the Police acted in accordance with the law citing that fact that the Police had obtained warrants. This, however, goes against the Supreme Courts contention that the Police acted illegally in obtaining evidence. O’Connor pressed on in an attempt to discredit the Supreme Court’s decision citing the fact that it was a split decision and contrary to the decisions of lower courts. This is hardly a convincing argument – some of the most notable judicial decisions are split and the Supreme Court’s decisions are just that, Supreme.

Towards the end of the interview O’Connor seemed to advocate a trial by media. If only New Zealanders were privy to all the evidence gathered he implied. This, as Urs Signer later pointed out, is silly as the Court, and by extension the public, in the Urewera four trial were privy to all the evidence as the Supreme Court had ruled it admissible in that case. Even in the event where all the evidence was available to the Court, the jury still could not decide on the criminal group charge. Given this, what makes O’Connor think the public would reach a different and more serious conclusion? Meaning why would the public find evidence of terrorism when the jury couldn’t even decide on a much lesser criminal group charge.

In a stupid and ill-advised move O’Connor also pulled a Don Brash and held aloft a still from the Police evidence showing some of the suspects in camo gear. It didn’t contribute anything other than to erode O’Connor’s argument. You know you’re in trouble when you need to resort to props to further your arguments.

Ultimately, O’Connor could not refute the fact that the Police allegations came to nothing but a few firearms convictions. A far, far cry from the terrorism absurdities. To be fair, I didn’t agree with anything O’Connor said, but the show was better for having his perspective and kudos for to O’Connor for fronting.


Cross to Parihaka

O’Connor’s interview was followed by a cross back to Urs Signer and Emily Bailey in Parihaka for the right of reply. Both labelled O’Connor an angry man and this is how he came across. Emily closed by saying that it was the Police who did the terrorist acts.


The Panel

Matt McCarten, Annette Sykes, Stephen Franks and Russell Brown joined the panel. A very good mix and all four had useful and insightful contributions.

Stephen Franks opened the discussion commenting that he was shocked with the scale of the, for want of a better term, ring. On the evidence that was supressed Franks believes that the four are terrorists, however this ignores the fact no terrorists acts were committed and in the trial of the four the jury could not even reach a decision on the lesser criminal group charge despite having access to all the evidence. Strangely Franks advocated for a trial by media too, despite his earlier comments indicating he is a man of legal principle. Franks also said the process should have been more open, but this ignores the fact that the suspects deserved to have their privacy and reputations protected until the Police could prove something. Furthermore, Franks claimed that all the evidence should have been heard, but it was in the trial of the Urewera four (as I mentioned how many times).

Matt McCarten’s comments were, as expected, excellent. Enough said there.

Annette Sykes was, true to form, fired up and made the point that the raids were used as a training ground for the SIS. This I agree with. It has been said often that the investigation, raids and so on were merely used to justify the existence of New Zealand’s anti-terror units. Annette also said the law has not been applied fairly to Maori. Again, I agree. Why are groups like the National Front still running around with guns in the South, but Maoris running around with guns in the North are targeted with force?

Russell Brown’s assessment that the Urewera suspects were just “dickheads” is a good assessment. Brown also labelled the media coverage as a mixed bag singling out the Dom Post for their poor coverage and James Ihaka from the Herald for his good coverage. The coverage was, according to Brown, fed by leaks. In this situation the initial coverage was bound to favour the sensational and bolster the Police claims. However, it was also pointed out that the defence had ample time to present their story and they did, for example through Operation 8.



In all, the show was outstanding. Some of the best current affairs I’ve ever seen. Julian Wilcox did brilliantly steering the discussions and, in my opinion, for keeping it together when interviewing O’Connor. The panel was excellent too. The show cemented my belief that the Police allegations were unfounded and unjustified. You can watch the show here if you missed it. The show was also trending on Twitter alongside Desperate Housewives and Game of Thrones. That, I think, is pretty significant and well deserved coverage.

Lastly, just a reminder that I’m on Twitter now. You can follow me here, but don’t expect anything great, unless you want to be disappointed.   

May 11, 2012

Follow me on Twitter

I hate Twitter - despise it actually - but you miss so much when you're not it. I've had an account for a little while now, but I haven't sent a tweet yet. Anyway, you can follow me at this link. Don't expect much too, you'll only be disappointed.

May 10, 2012

Foreshore and seabed claims rolling in

I think it’s a non-story, but reaction will be strong in the usual quarters:

Inquiries by 3 News show Maori are now claiming customary title to more than 20 beaches, and three Maori groups are making claims on one small island - Motiti Island, in the Bay of Plenty.

The three different groups are competing against each other for effective ownership - customary title of the coast.

The Motiti claims are among 21 different areas of coastline now under 24 claims for title under the Marine and Coastal Area Bill.

Well, this isn’t surprising is it? The intention of the act is to “provide for” and “recognise” customary interests. In other words, the act invites applications. The bigger question is, I think, how many of these claims are going to be successful. Scanning the various claims I would argue very few.

There are claims lodged with the court and claims lodged with the government. A claimant can apply for, or negotiate which may be the more appropriate word, for a recognition agreement with the government or apply for a recognition order from the court. In my opinion, applying for a recognition agreement with the government offers the higher chance of success. The court must follow what is, and authorities agree, a rigid legal test. On the other hand the government avenue offers more flexibility. The government is not constrained by precedent, legal principles and so on. The government is, it should be noted, constrained by politics though. Politics may, you can argue, be more restrictive than the law. On balance, however, politics is more flexible than the law and, as a result, offers a greater chance of success.

There are 12 claims lodged with the Court and 12 lodged with the government. Most of the latter have transferred from applications under the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004. Of those claims before the court, the only ones I can see succeeding are in the Eastern Bay of Plenty where Whakatohea and Te Whanau-a-Apanui exercise undisturbed rangatiratanga and wrapping around the coast where Ngati Porou are in a similar position. In other words their rangatiratanga has – arguably of course – never been extinguished. It can also be argued isolated parts of the Northland and Stewart Island remain under Maori control.

However, applications from the Taranaki and Hawkes Bay will face significant hurdles as will applications in the Bay of Plenty from Ohope tracking north through to the Coromandel. In these areas the non-Maori population is significant and, as a result, Maori rangatiratanga has probably been extinguished in the eyes of the court and the government. Having mentioned the Bay of Plenty I should note that, as mentioned, claims in the Eastern Bay of Plenty (east of Tirohanga) are strong as are the claims to Motiti Island. Motiti remains an almost exclusive Maori community.

It’s interesting to note that there are applications from whanau and hapu as well as iwi. In the case of Motiti Island there are three competing claims.

Interestingly Patrick Gower also notes that:

But it is not just more of the coast under claim, it is now the delicacy on your plate too - the great Kiwi pastime whitebaiting.

Under the claims lodged, three groups want customary rights to whitebaiting in southern Taranaki near Hawera.

But the Government says other law overrides the new foreshore law and they will not get it.

“If they wanted to claim for whitebait under the Marine and Coastal Area Bill they would literally be pushing whitebait up a river,” says Chris Finlayson.

Tariana Turia disagrees and thinks the claim may have some substance. She may be right. Although whitebaiting is a customary right, it occurs outside of the area considered part of the common marine and coastal area. However, it can be argued that whitebaiting falls within s62 – rights conferred by customary marine title. But - to point out the bleeding obvious - Chris Finlayson has already denied the claim (see the above quote). The chances of Finlayson going against the above statement and approving the claim are, I think it is fair to assume, minimal.

Essentially, these are questions for the court or the government to decide; whatever way they fall there will be political consequences, but that's not going to worry Maori and the more success we have the better.

May 9, 2012

Controlling Maori reproduction (updated)

The government’s welfare plans are out and some aspects are deeply disturbing:

Women on benefits - including teenagers and the daughters of beneficiaries - will be offered free long-term contraception as part of a $287.5 million Budget package for the Government's welfare reforms.

In other words, quoting Deborah Russell, “you and your slapper daughters better not breed any more of your type.”

On grounds of principle, having the government involved in such an intensely personal matter is inappropriate. There is a persuasive argument that the government should only regulate or interfere in matters that present a risk to the individual or society. A purist would read this as meaning the government should keep its nose out of our personal affairs, unless those affairs are criminal, negligent or so on. Reproduction is a human right and, on the above principle, not an area where the government has any business – even if the person in question is reliant on government support. This, it’s fair to say, gives the government no right to influence our personal choices.

The contraception plan is not compulsory of course. The plan as it is represents the most a government can do to control reproduction without attracting credible claims of eugenics. Arguing that the voluntary aspect negates the argument that the plan infringes on personal choice is, at best, naïve. PeterCresswell puts it well:

Rest assured that those employed by the state will be offering “incentives” to beneficiaries  to cooperate with the plan—and when bureaucrats begin “strongly suggesting” to beneficiaries they should take up an “offer,” they expect their “suggestions” to be obeyed. (As former minister Marian Hobbs once explained the state’s view of “encouraging” behaviour the stale likes, “we start with encouraging, but there’s always the big stick.)

Sue Bradford makes a similar point when she points out that there is a power imbalance between beneficiaries and case managers.

Paula Bennett is doing a good job selling the plan. However, you can couch the plan in sellable terms, but that doesn’t change the fact that the government is selecting a certain group to influence (or control which is the more appropriate term in my opinion). If the government was offering free contraception to all New Zealanders, including men, then claims that the government was choosing who they wanted to breed and who they didn’t could be negated. However, this isn’t the case and to borrow a phrase from biology: the government is selecting against beneficiaries. That, it can be argued, amounts to eugenics.

Quoting Deborah Russell again, the government’s plan has significant consequences for Maori:

I’m also catching a whiff of racism about this move, I think. Via Tallulah, in response to a comment I made at TLG, we know that 43% of DPB recipients are Maori, and 10% are Pacific Islanders. So over half of DPB recipients have brown skins. I think it’s not just about making the slappers keep the legs together. It’s also about stopping those brown people from breeding.

So, in effect, the government’s plan will substantially interfere with the reproductive freedom of Maori. I’m waiting, hopefully not in vain, for the Maori Party and the Mana Party to take an official position. When Maori will be so heavily affected, the two kaupapa Maori parties are obligated to take a position. I note that Metiria Turei has been leading opposition and, I think, quite competently. It’s contrary to Maori values to have the government interfere in matters of the whanau. The whanau, as the Maori Party often says, is an autonomous unit and, on my understanding of the values of our people, should be free from undue interference and influence from outsiders – read the government. Also, and more importantly, issues of over-fertility are not viewed as a problem in Te Ao Maori - its welcomed. Lastly, it   

I hope more Maori come out against, or in support if they’re that way inclined, because I can’t help but feel that I’m not the most appropriate Maori to comment on this. If there are any wahine out who want to comment, please feel free to leave a comment.   

UPDATE: Tariana Turia, continuing her strong form on the issues, has come out strongly:

The initiative drew fire from National's ally - Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, who is also the associate social development minister. She said it was insulting to tell somebody how many children they should have. 
"I've always supported the growing of our population, the growing of our hapu and iwi and so I'm certainly not one who's ever believed that we should be controlling people's fertility."

May 8, 2012

No retrial for the Urewera 4 (updated)

The mainstream media isn't reporting it yet, but apparently there will be no retrial of the Urewera 4. The decision was due to be announced tomorrow.

UPDATE: Apparently this is conjecture. Apologies.

UPDATE 2: I was right in the first place. There will be no retrial.

Praise for the Maori Party

Sometimes I’m accused of wanting to destroy the Maori Party; with that in mind it gives me some satisfaction to praise the party when they get right.

For the first time this year the Maori Party is leading on issues. For the first four months of this year the Maori Party found itself having to respond to issues. Take, as a few examples, the cuts at Te Puni Kokiri, attacks on Whanau Ora and cuts to Whanau Ora providers and the s9 debacle. In these situations the Maori Party was found wanting, especially from a communications point of view, as Mana, Labour and the Greens launched their attacks and fed the narrative that the Maori Party is failing Maori. As a result the debate wasn’t focussed on, for example, whether or not cuts at TPK were justified, but whether or not the Maori Party was selling out their own.

However, the last week has signaled a change in tone. The Maori Party is selecting issues and running with them. Tariana Turia has selected smoking as an issue and played her hand well. Over the past week Turia has covered the story from different angles, as a result ensuring the story provided a week of headlines. For example, Turia first muted plain packaging, this was followed with a call to increase excise tax, some time later she called for a ban on smoking in cars and  then an outright ban. Covering a different angle each day ensured that the media had a new angle each day, as opposed to all recycling the same press release on the same day. It should be added, I think, that the smoking issue isn't just about ensuring the Maori Party has policy change and media coverage on the go - this is going to be Tariana Turia's legacy (along with Whanau Ora) so there's extra pressure to play it well.

Special mention must also go to Te Ururoa Flavell who, finally I think, seems to be leading on something. Flavell is leading calls for Maori seats on the Rotorua District Council and, more significantly, leading the Maori Party against the government’s plans for student loan payback and allowances. Again, this signals a change in tone. Flavell has remained silent following his botched attempt to secure the leadership. In my opinion, Flavell’s done his time in the sin bin.

The Maori Party’s activity is especially significant because it’s coinciding with uncharacteristic silence from Hone Harawira who, for the most part, leads on all Maori issues. It is, for the Maori Party, crucial that they remain active and formulate a strategy to counter the perception that they have sold Maori down the drain. Legislative wins coupled with supporting rhetoric is crucial, but it’s something that has been in short supply over the last four years.

As an aside, according to the latest Roy Morgan poll the Maori Party would hold the balance of power.

May 3, 2012

Is The GC racist? (updated)

It opens a little something like this: nearly 130,00 Maori now reside in Australia. This show is about a bunch of them... they're all chasing the dream of money, sex, and fame on The GC.

Yes, I'm talking about TV3's new show, The GC. The show follows a group of Maori living in Australia, a group apparently chasing the dream on the Gold Coast. Aside from being painfully boring, the show is racist in concept.

Shows like The GC, think Jersey Shore and Geordie Shore, are designed to showcase humanities worst. Narcissism, arrogance, ignorance, stupidity and every other foul characteristic you can think of. With this in mind, naturally the producers selected a group of Maori to showcase these characteristics. This, I think, is racist.

The same is done on Jersey Shore and Geordie Shore. In the case of Jersey Shore, Italian Americans are used to show off these less than admirable qualities, as opposed Anglo-Americans. Anglo-Americans are considered your typical White American whereas Italian Americans are fringe white, or less than mainstream in other words. The same is true on Geordie Shore, lower class hooligans are used as opposed to your ‘typical’ and ‘mainstream’ middle or upper class Briton.

It’s the 21st century equivalent of portraying other races as less than human. On the show Maori are cast as being motivated by base instincts. Sex, money and other forms of instant gratification. And, although it never expressly said but it is a clear implication, the viewer is led to believe this what Maori in Australia get up to. Maori are cast as primitive – motivated by sex, alcohol and the next fad.

Of course, the reality is far from what is presented on The GC. Most Maori are working 9 to 5 jobs and supporting their whanau, not driving around in cars all day, sunbathing and saying stupid shit.

At least, I suppose, The GC is more tame than Jersey Shore and the like. The producers on those shows often manufacture fights, gratuitous sex and venal routines (gym, tan, laundry etc) to drive home the narrative that the characters, and by implication their race, are primitive.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into this? Maybe it’s just a show for entertainments sake? Well, it definitely wasn’t entertaining – and I’m the target market. What do you think? This is only off the top of my head and could do with refining/retracting etc

For another discussion on racism in New Zealand television see this post I did on Shortland Street last year.