Thursday, 24 May 2012

Te Mangai

The announcement that the 12-week lock-out of some Affco workers was over was great news this week.

It has been a long and bitter fight for those workers who have been unable to work because of the protracted negotiations between their employers and the Meat Workers Union so it would have come as a huge relief that the two groups were finally able to reach an agreement on Tuesday.

The break in the long-standing dispute has been somewhat credited to the Iwi Leaders Forum however this left me wondering about a few things.
I must be honest here; I have never been a fan of this group as I see it as very subjective and selective. I think that if there is going to be a group comprised of iwi leaders then representatives must be those with a clear mandate to lead their people and I am not sure that the chairpeople of runanga necessarily have that. (Especially as much of the time those at the head of those organisations are desperately fighting to keep hold of their job, Maori politics is not for the faint-hearted.)

The question of mandate was clearly raised in the Affco story.
Former Tainui chairman Tukoroirangi Morgan was trumpeted as one of the key forces within the Iwi Leaders Forum which helped reach the breakthrough between Talleys and the Meat Workers Union.

Morgan talked about the role he played in a press release, which was picked up and replicated in a story in the Waikato Times, and described that he had talked with Affco “patriarch” Peter Talley on two occasions.

He said the iwi leaders’ job was to get both sides of the dispute around the table “and moving towards compromise and, ultimately, agreement”.

"History has been made here and role of Iwi in the modern industrial society has been forever changed," he said.
Trouble is Morgan is no longer a recognised iwi leader with a mandate from the Tainui people to represent them. Even he acknowleges this.

"Iwi exist to protect and advance the rights and interests of Maaori. While I may no longer be Chair of Te Arataura, I will always be Waikato-Tainui.”
I don’t doubt his motives in this case and good on Morgan for wanting to help his people but surely his continued involvement with the Iwi Leaders Forum leaves questions about their credibility as a group?

The Iwi Leaders Forum is a relatively new creation. Initially, when Morgan was the chairman of Tainui, it was described as the collective of the motu’s chairpeople.
They meet on a regular basis to discuss issues that are of interest to Maori but how can it be an Iwi Leaders Forum if not all members are recognised leaders?

Already their mandate to represent Maori as a whole is in doubt as shown here in this story and I believe that it is media that give this group the mana and recognition that allow them any sort of political presence.
In the past there have been stories that the group have influenced policy development around issues such as the foreshore and seabed and emission's trading scheme. The group has also been described as “the most powerful lobbying group in Wellington”.

Sure they probably assert some influence but the trouble, the way I see it, is Maori politics is a murky world and often it is a difficult area for reporters to navigate.
One of the most difficult jobs is being able to find the right person to act as a spokesperson for any group within Maoridom whether it is marae, hapu, iwi or in general. Mana-munching is alive and well so often those who claim to be the spokespeople do not represent the opinions of that group. Other times the right people do not want to talk to the media and so the reporter is left with no other option but to talk to those who will give them the quote that they need.

What is your opinion on the Iwi Leaders Forum? What about how do you think the media should ensure that they are talking to right people about issues pertaining to Maori?

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