Sunday 22 July 2012

Oh, Tuku?

It almost feels like I’ve been out of the loop. So much is going on that involves the media and Maori and I’ve been too busy to even keep up with it at any respectable rate.

But what I do know is that John Key, finally, has stepped into a big pile of shit. And the funniest thing is that he didn’t even see it coming because that’s how little regard he gave to Maori.
While I haven’t caught many of the interviews I did see Shane Taurima’s talk with the prime minister on  TV1’s Q+A programme on Sunday morning and it was fair to say Key wasn’t his usual unflappable self.
And I, for one, am not disappointed the veneer is starting to rub off a little. They say never to trust a politician and I have always tended to believe them especially when it comes in smooth packages.
Ever since he came into office Key has had a bit of a magic run. He appeals to middle New Zealand – mostly a white crowd that include farmers, small business owners and mum and dad investors. He has been well-liked and seemed to possess the ability to pass off his slight geekyness as the kind of lovable bumblings of a good-soul.
He has definitely played the game well.There is no doubt that Key got National back into power with his charisma.

But don’t underestimate him. He was good enough to form relationships with the powerful including a group of Maori leaders he thought would help him get his plan to sale of the country’s china.
Unfortunately for him, I think he may have miscalculated.

The move from the Maori Council to seek an urgent hearing with the Waitangi Tribunal was just the climax point things needed. And it came right at the best possible moment.

While Key and his ministers have tried to say that they have a mandate to sell the four state-owned power companies, it was pretty obvious that even among those who vote blue there are some uncomfortable with the policy.

Because at the end of the day Kiwi’s like Kiwi-owned.

And no matter what kind of economic argument is put forward or what kind of legislation is enacted to try and protect the country, New Zealander’s will never want to lose what essentially binds us together and that is the land and the water.

Key says no-one owns the water, and he may well be right, but many out there have come around to the idea that if Maori can claim rights over it then that may stop any sales, or at least delay it long enough. And that makes the discussion of Maori rights a whole lot more palatable than it has ever been before.

So interesting is this situation that it could almost be the death-nail for National’s stint in power and the way we think about Maori rights. 
The National Party's mates certainly haven’t stepped up very well. The Maori Party have been far too slow and indecisive and the Iwi Leaders Group is under too much pressure to have any real sway.

And as each story gathers and another media report is consumed by potential mum and dad investors slowly the foundations that the policy rest on are surely destabilised.

Because seriously, even if Key and his cronies pass legislation and float 49 per cent of the companies who is going to want to buy those shares with this controversy hanging over them?

And the best part about the whole thing is that it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The legal proceedings that are bound to come will tie things up indefinitely and give great fodder for the country's journalists.

So far the media have done a pretty good job, coverage of the issue has been pretty good and wide-ranging.

But here’s the thing, personally I want to hear from the man who last year was publically touting the sale of assets as potentially beneficial to Maori. The man who once boasted that one of his skills was that John Key would take his calls, the man who put forward an idea that iwi could be given shares in the SOEs in future settlement deals, the man who has been at the coal-face and is fully immersed in the world of the Iwi Leaders Group.

And, unfortunately, Tukoroirangi Morgan has been unusually quiet.

Meanwhile, it is Maori language week so remember it is cool to korero.

Ma te wa.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Upper Crust

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post since I caught Marae Investigates last weekend. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is school holidays and hanging with my kid beats sitting in front of a computer but finally I have found a quiet moment and the inclination to put pen to paper… Or thoughts to Word.

What got me thinking was a story featured on the Sunday morning programme that focussed on a “Maori Ministerial party” trip to China. Once again the story was presented in an ok manner but it got me to thinking about a few conversations I have had with a couple of the whanau recently and that led me to wanting to talk about the idea of Maori Aristocracy.

I know this means that once again I am going to discuss an issue rather than the media’s treatment of it despite clearly outlining the purpose of this blog when I first started but please indulge me, again.

Maori Aristocracy? I hear you ask. Yeah I did the same thing when I first heard the term, probably even laughed a little but don’t let the use of an old English term throw you - there is indeed a class system operating within modern-day Maoridom, something that has always been a little bit disconcerting to me.

The trip, made with Maori Affairs minister Dr Pita Sharples, was an opportunity for a contingent made up of chief executives and chairpeople of some of the biggest Maori businesses to talk trade and development with people in China.

Reporter Jodi Ihaka accompanied the party and along with producing a series of stories from the trip, she also blogged about it.

But her words did little to settle some doubts that have been clanging around in my head.

During her story Ihaka said she could not reveal how much the business deals could be worth for the group because “commercial sensitivity”

“We can reveal that there was singing and dancing.”

Weak really because what I really want to know is the exact thing that they won’t talk about. And funny how people always quote commercial sensitivity when it comes to the money thing.

Yet in her blog Ihaka said collectively the contingent represented 36.9 billion dollars of Maori wealth.

 Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Leith Comer says Maori add value to New Zealand Inc and that was made internationally clear during the Rugby World Cup. From the opening ceremony to the closing, Maori were all over it.  So, building on that success and taking Maori Inc to the world is part of what the plan for this trip to China and Hong Kong.   I'm told it's about branding Maori as players.

“I'm also told the mission will benefit all of New Zealand.  The mission is of some benefit for the chief executives and chairpersons of some of the biggest Maori businesses in New Zealand who come on these missions because they were asked to by the Minister or because they want to do business with China.

“Collectively they represent 36.9 billion dollars of Maori wealth.

“Individually - they represent success, money and moving Maori to a much better place than we are now.   Maori economic interests are everywhere but they mostly represent New Zealand's five biggest export earners such as dairy, tourism, meat, wood and seafood.

“The China mission if they choose to accept it also enables them to collaborate with each other.

“June McCabe, Matt Te Pou, James Wheeler, Jamie Tuuta, Whatarangi Peehi-Murphy, Pania Tyson-Nathan, Kauahi Ngapora and Te Horipo Karaitiana.

“These are big names in big Maori business representing:

 “Federation of Maori Authorities, Wakatu Inc, Central North Island Iwi Holdings, NZ Maori Tourism, Poutama Trust, Ngai Tahu Seafoods, Whale Watch Kaikoura and New Zealand Manuka.

 “The opportunities for iwi Maori are endless.  Already one iwi is talking business with another.”

Ihaka clearly trumpeted the trip as a good idea and while it is heartening to hear about Maori success stories the idea of this group reeks of a select few getting a leg up from their mate/cuzzy Dr Pita Sharples.

And it got me to thinking about how you get an invitation to join such a contingent. Well I’m guessing you need to be part of the “Maori Aristocracy” to get anywhere near a trip like this.

And I am not talking about the old school notion of aristocrats where you would assume that that the group are members with rangatira blood, this it would seem is a new breed.

As I have already said Maori have always had a class system, back in the day there were the chiefs, their family and the slaves. But this has nothing to do with whakapapa, it is more about the people you know.

I mean it helps if you have the right surname but to be included in this elite group you need to have credentials, preferably the ones that add letters to the end of your name and zero’s to your pay packet. You also need to know how to network or brown-nose (depending on how you see it).

Nothing wrong with that huh? Hardwork and dedication will always be rewarded.

Well yes but the problem with such a group is the same problem that the Iwi Leaders Group face and that is that belonging is pretty subjective.

For me talk is cheap and I do not need you to tell me what you have done in the past – your actions should speak clearly enough.

Mana-munching and nepotism never sit well with me and while I am glad that there are Maori out there spreading their wings I do not think that you should be given special treatment simply because you say that you have done something special. In time the people will judge your achievements and only they can give you the mana.

So strike your deals, line your pockets but remember when all is said and done the people will know what you left behind.

Meanwhile what is encouraging is that TV1 news are using the resource they have in their Maori news programming and featuring stories from programmes such as Marae Investigates and Te Karere have produced. This is wonderful.

These sorts of programmes have uncovered some interesting issues including a complaint from a Taranaki woman who had been placed in the care of a convicted rapist during her childhood.

And I am glad that there are Maori reporters and programmes out there that are endeavouring to tell our people’s stories even if some of the elements do not sit well with me personally.