Opportunity for new blood in Māori politics


TR flag

Labour MP Shane Jones’ news of retirement from Parliament yesterday got some korero happening alright. From his staunch loyal supporters ardently praising his skills to those in fervent opposition and refusing to let his hour of glory go without a dig.

In the interests of honesty I submit that I have spoken out against some of Shane Jones’ attitudes and in disagreement with areas of his economic direction. Despite this he was still able to afford supportive words towards my potential as a politician. I acknowledge and pay due respect for that. His days are far from over and I wish him and his whānau well.

What I want to focus the korero on now is our next round of Māori political talent.

Jones’ announcement brings us to the end of Parliament time for five high profile Māori politicians over the past year. On 29 April it will be one year since the passing of Parekura Horomia, Labour MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Last year Māori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples signalled they would retire from Parliament after the 2014 elections. Two weeks ago Tau Henare National MP also declared he will be stepping down come September.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Whatever our political colours this combined exit represents nearly 70 years of Māori Parliamentary experience. There is no denying that they are political icons in the Māori world. Some commentators have noted their departure as an alarming exodus. I think it is merely a reminder for us all to support more Māori to step up.

What lies ahead for Māori representation in Parliament? I am excited by Kelvin Davis returning. He performed well in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate campaign in 2011. Meka Whaitiri gave us another wahine Māori in Parliament which I continue to call for more of. Mana’s Te Hamua Nikora is a younger Māori who enjoys a good profile and also has potential to attract the elusive young vote. My Green colleague 21 year old Jack McDonald blew people away in his 2011 Te Tai Hauāuru campaign and received the highest vote onto the Paekakariki Community Board. The Greens have shown their enthusiasm for such a young talent by placing him at number 19 on the initial list. I am honoured to be the only newcomer in the top 15 of that same Green initial list. These are just some of the examples of potential Māori politicians coming through. We will have to do the hard yards to gain respect and to showcase our skills given any chance. Probably none of us will be credited with being grand ‘old-school’ politicians that the likes of Shane Jones remind us of and which we might hanker for. But now is our chance to see what our 21st Century approach might also add to Māori development.

Hone Harawira is still here. So are Metiria Turei, Te Ururoa Flavell and Winston Peters. Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta has the respect of many Māori and Louisa Wall and Moana Mackey are also solid performers. Likewise the Green Party’s David Clendon and Denise Roche have already played a role in mentoring the likes of Jack McDonald and me. I strongly oppose most of the policies of the Māori National MPs but on our dial they stay as a reminder that Māori are everywhere along the political spectrum. There remains plenty of wise institutional experience to nurture new Māori political talent.

Generally there is still untapped flair that we need to be attracting and holding. Building up the profile of budding politicians is what we have not done enough of. Therefore the current ‘exodus’ of some key Māori political icons seems like a massive chunk out of our landscape. I hope this kicks us into gear for the 2017 elections. We should be spoilt for choice by then with zingy candidates who have been well fused into the political limelight with support from the stalwarts. Each Party needs to have a clear plan of evolving Māori leadership and each community needs to be supporting their keen folk to step up.

Politics is only one area where we can make a difference. For Māori who wish for a truly progressive government there are countless who would make inspiring politicians who we have not yet attracted. The departure of a few has been a timely reminder of the succession work ahead of us.

Two weeks ago I was privileged to be the MC for our week long Ngāpuhi hearings in front of the Waitangi Tribunal. They were held on Moria Marae in my Whirinaki valley and what a feast the korero was! One thing that became abundantly clear to me just in that week alone was that we have feisty, strategic, strong, tikanga immersed and enthusiastic young Māori leaders at every gate, on every issue, at all whānau and hapū levels.

It is with gratitude that I bid farewell to those embarking on new path. I am optimistic about our potential for new Māori faces into politics and look forward to the support from our seasoned politicians who remain.


  1. Marama – you are asking a very big question.
    The history of maori in parliament is a very sorry one. Consider all those maori MP’s who filled the maori seats as labour members for almost a complete century. The only one of them who was any good was Ngata – the rest were just a waste of space.
    And look at the maori MPs of all parties now. Only Jones and Davies are any good. Hone is really just too loopy to achieve anything – yes he gets headlines but its all really useless – and all he does in reinforce the feeling among so many maori that’s its all the colonialists fault and thus the treaty will solve it all when the money gets circulated – and that’s just hopeless.

    The rest are – well not much good at all. The maori party is doomed – by tribal arguments – and all maori groups eventually fall over due to tribal hatred. (its not any different in Africa or the Balkans or Ireland – tribal infighting always destroys it all in the end) Turia is just a big fat happy face, Peters is good in parliament but otherwise hasnt done much.

    But mark my words – Davis is dog tucker. The queers and the feminists and all the other factions of the labour party will grind him down. They really don’t want people who are relatively normal – they are into identity politics – and the more they chase this the lower their popularity, but these groups seem to think its loss of popularity is all caused by the ‘normal’ people in the place

    • I’m a queer and a feminist AND normal. I support Labour ideals so I belong with and vote Green. There’s a good future to protect.

      Great blog, Marama. It’s uplifting to regard the talent available.

    • Thanks Marama – I thought Id done a pretty good summary also. I could have gone on about the rest of the useless maori MPs in the history of the labour party – but I just couldnt remember their names. Mind you – I couldnt bring to mind most of all the current maori MPs either – which indicates how much they make an impression.


      • Barry to be fair why don’t you do a breakdown on all the useless Pakeha politicians who have been a waste of space to the people of NZ. That list would take up a great deal of space. I won’t hold my breath waiting for your response. Cheers anyway.

        • Well i could Maama – but I couldnt remember their names either.

          However – the ratio of good to useless would certainly be higher than the maori MP’s for sure.

          But you are over looking something. As far as I can recall I cant remember any non-maori MP going into parliament saying that they were going to pursue better things for the non-maori – or pakeha- section of the community. Maybe a pacifica one or two did (certainly one of them did ‘good’ for himself and that got him into hot water).

          What we really should all be wanting is better MP’s – I dont give a rats arse what race they are – we just want better MPs. However expecting maori MP’s to be better when there is such a dismal history – especially those from labour maori seats – is an oxymoron.

  2. Great article, Marama – I too am so excited by the up & coming Maori presence, particularly within the Green party.
    I also hope that your continued presence & outreach, along with that of Jack McDonald, Louisa Wall, Nanaia Mahuta & Moana Mackey serve to influence/rolemodel for young Maori coming up through university or other channels now, to show them they are vital future leaders & contributors. For example, Louisa pushing for marriage equality was so valuable, not just for the law change itself, but as representation of what a difference a Maori wahine can make, what a powerful voice.
    So excited for NZ’s political future, it’s very inspiring knowing there are people like you charging up the ranks 🙂

  3. Not that I needed more reasons to feel good about having already ranked you well on the GP Party List as a member but this is another reason in support 🙂

    I am an American New Zealander and I don’t speak much Maori but I have come to appreciate deeply the rich history of New Zealand- I recognise Tangata whenua have lived in this land for many generations before me and hold a special and worthwhile contribution and place.

    My favorite quote and concept I have come to appreciate is Taihoa! Indigenous peoples are usually the first to suffer (and suffer the worst) under many of the current global problems we face including ecological destruction from Think Big style projects the current Government supports.

    Keep doing what you are doing

    and Kia Kaha from the Trolls, though you don’t seem to need much help 🙂

  4. Marama you seem to focus solely on a person’s race, without at all looking at the competency or talent of future Maori MPs you have listed.

    Surely we must judge people by their capability, rather than simply their ethnicity?

    I mean seriously what has 21 year old Jack MacDonald ever done in his life that qualifies him to be a politician? He has no life experience and skill set, yet you praise him for being the future simply because he is Maori. Simply lusting for political power and baubles isn’t the sort track record or skills worthy of a parliamentarian.

    Same with Tau Henare and Hone Harawira. What have these people actually achieved in their careers? Just a bunch of useless troughers.

    Turia, Sharples, Peters, Horomia on the other hand are the sorts of Maori politicans we want.

    • You raise an interesting question which could be posed in a different manner. At which stage to you become to old and out of touch with today’s youth to be in parliment. Is it any wonder the younger generations cannot be bothered voting?

    • Markymark, I agree with your point that future MPs and Maori leaders need to be judged on their capabilities and not just their ethnicity.

      However, I would like to discuss your question about Jack McDonald.
      I would like to point out that being 21 is actually one of Jack McDonald’s strengths. Something that is important to the Green party is diverse representation – and what Jack brings to the table is the young voter. I myself am very pleased with Jack’s high ranking in the initial party list. We each vote for what we want to see in parliament, don’t we? So as a young person, I want to see other young people representing my community. We are students, we are young professionals, we are activists, we are passionate about the future of our country – and we are the future. Why not have someone young in parliament? Surely their voice has more validity when it comes to tertiary education, civil education, age restrictions, employment and various other issues that concern the youth in our country. Just something to think about…

    • Kia ora Markymark.

      This is an article about Maori politicians, yep I guess you can say I am focussed on race in that respect I thought that was a bit obvious.

      I wish many others with so called ‘life experience’ had the maturity and wisdom of Jack. But actually we do want to take care of and we know he has a promising career in any circle in front of him. Otherwise you may have seen him in the top 10 🙂

      Yes competencies are always important and that is another blog. I hint at my preferences to be for Maori politicians who are truly progressive which is just a values thing. But the skill set to be a politician is specific. I see many Maori leaders in different realms who have them.

    • Jack has done heaps in the community, been through a lot, has a great brain and is good with te reo. We need young people and bright thinkers included in parliament. It’s the House of Representatives.

  5. Kia ora Marama, I agree, we need to encourage young Maori into positions of leadership and grow the Maori presence in Parliament. However, I also think that it is extremely important for potential Maori leaders to come from an appropriate background that ensures strength in representing Maori fairly and accurately. In the instance of Shane Jones, whilst he is Maori, I struggle to see how he has represented Maoridom in a beneficial manner throughout his tenure as a Labour MP. If anything, he has been discordant to Maori values, in my eyes.

    I hope to see more Maori candidates who are passionate about indigenous rights and race relations – candidates like Annette Sykes for Mana and other Maori activists.

    I enjoyed reading your article and I wish you the best of luck for your campaign! Bring on 15% for the Greens!

    • Kia ora Trishtee yes I agree. My preference of course if for Maori representation for a truly progressive future.

      For brevity I ended up editing out a whole lot of other examples of people who I think are showing promise in that respect. I talked about being impressed with Rueben Taipari’s Mayoral campaign in Tai Tokerau last year. I am pleased to see Maori women like Meredith Akuhata-Brown and Amber Dunn sitting on Gisborne District Council as Councillors, and was warmed to see many Maori women put their hands up in local government elections last year. I think Annette Sykes would be great in Parliament. And I am particularly impressed with potential young Maori coming through with the sorts of attributes I refer to in the paragraph about the Ngapuhi hearings 🙂

  6. That first comment is breathtaking. It’s hard to pick my favourite part, is it the “queers and feminists”? That in a century of parliament Maori MPs have all been a “waste of space”? That all Maori “groups fall over due to tribal hatred”?

    You should definitely leave this comment up, I for one am tickled by its absurdity. Reminds me to keep up the fight.

    • mapleleafsilver

      Leaving out Ngata – please list all the achievements made by labour MP’s that filled the maori seats. In all of last century even.

      I dont think you will need a very big bit of paper.

    • I know it’s just great and deserves it’s own show really, if for nothing else but to keep us on our toes of how much work there still is to do lol.

  7. WOW – thanks Marama, thoroughly enjoyed the read – what was even more enjoyable, were the backward comment’s that followed, in particular – the one from Barry. Barry either you’re Don Brash or one of the many ill informed ACT party members [yip we have them all over the place] or you are one of the imperial colonial worms that wiggle out – just to make such outrageous racist statements that belong somewhere in the early 1850’s. I suggest that you take the time, to actually get well informed- try some great Indigenous authors than what you have currently been reading or listening to such as letters to the editor and or a radio talk back show.

    Like I said yesterday – a BIG over the top moment when only 2 Labour party MP’s stand down considering 12 National Party MP’s, however in saying that I have to consider Maori representation. I am excited by the new wave of Maori MP’s coming through – it is their time and timely but we need to be encouraging more engagement and participation at all levels – [strategically] by the next wave – and that is the most exciting – I am continually inspired when I meet so many young people – eager to represent – however we the old guard are still not allowing them to shine and they are all known to us – they are our children- our nieces and nephews – leaders in the community – hapu and Iwi [the list goes on] – this has to be the BIG mover – the major strategy – at all levels of representation.

    So thank you for your article – and I hope this ad the many others – creates a space for us to review – revisit – rethink – recreate – the next generations of representation

  8. Often in NZ the politics of race overshadows the politics of politics. While those of us who have been on the left since pre-rogernomics have been out batting for more equality and a better deal for Maori it seems sometimes that to many Maori we are all just pakehas and a Maori politician working for National or even for Act is given respect, whereas to us earnest left leaning pakehas they seem to be traitors to their own cause. I know it is more complex than that, but here goes another one jumping ship for a lucrative job with the tories, putting the boot into the hard working pro-maori Greens on his way. Of course Labour is only slightly left but too far left for Mr Jones. It should be clear that National’s right wing policies impact negatively and seriously upon Maori so it seems to me this idea that any high achieving Maori deserves respect is past its use by date. Turei and Sharples remained silent during the impassioned debate preceding the asset sales legislation. It is time we started thinking less about ethnicity and more about political intentions. If you are a Tory you are a Tory. This was not Mr Jones’ hour of glory. It was Jones who put the boot in, significantly helping our (well my anyway) adversaries as he went. Do you really expect us to applaud?

  9. Maori are well and truly ready to move beyond the racist Maori seats. Maori representation in Parliament would still be more than in the general population, and Maoridom could show the rest of NZ they can compete with anyone without the handouts associated with these seats.

  10. I see no mention of a very popular and educated Maori man that has just joined the Labour Party…Tamati Coffey, I think he will do well and is already liked and can relate well to all people types…young and old. (:>

    “Coffey is of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Whakaue, Tūhourangi and Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent.[3]
    He completed an honours degree in political science at the University of Auckland in 2003.[4]”


    • Kia ora Sally yes I meant no disparagement of many many names I left out. As I state this is by no means an exhaustive list. I know nothing of Tamati’s political nous and like the rest of us he will have to prove himself but from what I do know of him, I’m sure he will do great.

      I also was intentional in keeping a bias towards highlighting Maori women as well – which is rarely, rarely done 🙂

Comments are closed.