Politics beyond the veil



Nothing can be achieved by performing a protest haka outside the fence or from an opposition bench in Parliament. It was not protest or opposition that negotiated the landmark programme of Whanau Ora, undoubtedly the most effective social and economic gain for Maori ever in our modern history”.

Parse the bullish language and spot the thesis: movements are out, governing is in. This is politics beyond the veil, where the political class rules the void. The Māori Party is not necessarily promising progress, its only promise is to govern. This is the lousy state of Māori politics. The highest value and the only end is sitting “at the table of government”.

And that creates a frustrating paradox for Māori activists: the Māori Party is the legacy of movement politics – that is, the Māori protest movement – yet it shuns political organising for the politics of integration. Sitting at the table is the means and the ends.

“If you actually want to achieve something”, explains Te Ururoa Flavell, “you’ve got to be there and that’s what we’re determined to do”. However “you’ve got to get the numbers in order to have real influence”. In other words, #realpolitik. Flavell is certainly right in one respect: the surest route to change is the cabinet. Yet that view – an article of faith in the Māori Party – is profoundly ahistorical. Did the first hīkoi, Bastion Point, Raglan Golf Course and Pākaitore achieve nothing? Was Parihaka for nought? Were He Taua, Ngā Tamatoa and the Waitangi Action all impotent? Of course not.

The Māori renaissance – and its radical wing, the protest movement – was a political offensive. It was not an institutional strategy, but a movement strategy. The aim was to build the infrastructure of dissent. With that, we could and did force change. From land to language, the government submitted to (some) Māori demands. The Māori Party is the legacy of this movement. The argument goes that the movement has matured. The Māori Party is an institutional strategy and that was the end which the protest movement sought. Well, yes and no.

The fight is against the system in its totality. Without engaging existing political efforts, the Māori Party leaves itself exposed. Its only leverage is the seats it holds which – without the movement behind it – are soon to be none.  There is still a gap between the problems Māori face and our ability to combat them. That is, we are still on the wrong end of 174 years of inequality. Reversing that, or resisting the centrifugal forces that would put us down, requires that infrastructure of dissent. That means the movement and the political party. The relentless dissociative logic that the Māori Party employs means that it will never be the force it thought it would. If the party really thinks its only job is to sit at the table and govern, then do we really need them?

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  1. Many of the problems that Maori are fighting are also those of society. Low wages, poor quality housing, access to doctors, living costs etc are not specific to any one group. Protest does work if strong enough, but to expect one party, ie the Maori party to represent all Maori, is as unrealistic as expecting one party, say Labour or National or Greens, to represent all the views of the general population. One group can never hold the views of the whole society.

    • Neoliberalism is the creeping white taniwha that will dispossess 99% of the population. It strips white and brown equally and puts it into the hands of the 1%.


      Sitting at the table of government while assets are stripped and no deference given to Maori taonga, schools charterised and prisons privatised and 250,000 kids are in poverty, smacks of ‘fiddling while Rome burned’. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. The sooner you realise that it is about people you were elected, not about greed, the better.

      If you sit at the table of government and stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything. Doesn’t matter what colour you are.

    • While we East coast H.B. kiwis have been fighting to save our beloved Napier Gisborne rail service from certain destruction at the hands of National zelots, we have leaned much about the love maori have for the land and rail.

      National ignored these spirual connctions maori have while attempting to plot and seize every rail corridor they can find for Shonkey’s grand cycleway Ho Chi Min trail type network around the country. I as an average Pakeha, have been fortunate being deeply involved with Maori whanau at grass root level at hui and being enriched in the simple spiritual connections Maori have with the land and rail.

      National miscalculated this spiritual need maori hold.

      They ignored even their needs apart from all peoples urgent needs for safe alternative land transport other than roads.

      In History still clearly recorded as recently as 2009 in the On Track (Kiwirail book “The Main Trunk” “Portrait of NZ rail” pg. 56 ISBN 978 1 86934 107 7 Maori are recorded as assisting the Government surveyors to build the whole rail network from 1880’s at the then Government Minister John Bryce’s request and directive of Prime Minister Vogel. (of Vogel House fame no less)
      There is a letter given the Maori chiefs at the time the Government negotiations commenced in 1880’s at korero (hui) and promises of “great advantage to Maori and benefits if a railway was allowed to proceed through their lands. Now this dickhead government wants to remove this railway and abandon the promises made to secure the land access? This si another example of crass taking of land by false pretences like the seabed and foreshore issue that strangely Key rescinded, so rescind the taking away of all railways Mr Key & honour promises made or get out of Government (Vogel house.)

      So we invited John Key to attend hui at three Marae and got no response, so this is how the Government really thinks how important Maori spiritual values really are. Nothing as their are no financial benefit of money flowing back into the Nat’s banks.

      Maori Party Co leaders Turiana Turria & Pita Sharples sent our Gisbrne Mayor Meng Foon, for our community a letter supporting the Napier Gisborne rail service in 2012 but did not persue efforts to save the rail while in this Government coalition so we ask them to redeem themselves now while you can Maori Party and support whanau fully.

      • Maori have a spiritual connection with rail??

        *Picks himself off the floor having been overcome with laughter*

  2. Mathew (Hootten?) That response did prove our case, a lack of care.

    This must prove the point, as that response was devoid of any spiritual connection at all to any references made in the blog.
    To dismiss with that demeanour says a lot that we understand about you.

    Mathew, obviously the Hooten kind, we are all very tired of this National rhetoric of a careless society that you feel comfortable wallowing in, but we rather like compassion rather than careless.
    N A T I O N A L stands for:
    “no assistance to individuals only needing any life support.” They are a crass inhuman lot that probably idolised rogernomics and still do. Cant wait to get rid of them are you one of them?
    I was an avid National supporter in the 80s’ but now have seen this National as a foreign controlled elitist group of uncaring zelots.
    Remember when John Key said in his first term “don’t want to make us all servants in our own land? Then he pushed ahead and sold everything that wasn’t screwed down, so you see he is just a puppet for large foreign interests, and if you are happy with this good for you ewe aren’t.
    Maori built the rail and fell some ownership as a natural right, and 60% of the rail staff are Maori so yes they should feel some ownership of rail as they helped build and maintain it until National has decided to bleed it dry and close the whole system down for foreign trucking interests to control our freight task.

  3. Maori politics is and always has been about tribal connections. And dont forget that the essence of ‘Tribe’ is its separation from other tribes – thats the only reason for the existance of a tribe – its own self benefit to the exclusion of all others. Deep down tribes at least dislike and distrust each other – and in many cases seriously hate each other.

    Thats the destiny for maori politics in this country. For a while they can get together, but sooner or later they resort to internal fighting and the whole thing flies to bits. Thats why the old maori seats in the labour party have never amounted to anything – they all come from different tribes and they wont work together.

    And thats why no pan- maori movement will ever amount to anything until the tribal influence is placed in the rubbish bin of history. That isnt showing any signs of happening any time soon.

    • It is interesting that there’s a wide demographic who will claim maori ancestry, albeit 1/16th or 1/32nd if there is a status /pecuniary advantage to be had.

  4. From the mid 90’s, in the wake of Tainui’s poor use of settlement cash, it seems the “proper” and “responsible” structure for Iwi should now be the alienating and often predatory form of the corporation.

    The current ideology of the Māori Party just reflects that.

    There is a new pan-māori movement, it’s now just based behind closed boardroom doors.

  5. The Māori party started from direct action and for the best of reasons in our post colonial situation, but lost its way by speedily emphasising the parliamentary route as Morgan alludes to, and claiming to represent all of Māori. Which in a class society is just not possible.

    Like it or not resolving Māori issues requires the support of others, allies, that fully understand and support the kaupapa of resolving historic land theft, cultural assimilation and marginalisation. Mana Movement is at least educating the Pākehā activists in its ranks and encouraging a whole lot of new young activists. Every movement needs new people if it is to survive.

    The Māori Party will probably effectively be gone by this time next year but the issues that caused it to be created are still here and will be dealt with by a better mix of parliamentary and mass movement struggle.

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