Andrew Little versus kaupapa Maori

Andrew Little stirred up Maori politics yesterday with comments on RNZ that slammed the Maori Party. There was a significant reaction via media and on Twitter.

RNZ: Māori Party ‘not kaupapa Māori’ – Andrew Little

Labour leader Andrew Little claims the Māori Party is not kaupapa Māori after hitching its wagon to National, as a new deal between the Māori parties is signed.

Speaking to Morning Report today, Mr Little said the Māori Party hitched its wagon to National, but nothing had changed in terms of Māori over-representation in prisons and unemployment – so it had no influence over National.

He said they had conceded on every important issue.

“In the end, what it comes down to is – how do Māori have the strongest voice? Not just in Parliament, but in government. At the moment it comes through the Māori Party, which is two MPs tacked on to a National Party that doesn’t need to listen to them on anything if it doesn’t wish to. It’s all grace and favour stuff.”

He said Mana’s Hone Harawira was all over the show, and in and out of different waka all the time.

That’s a bit ironic. Harawira responded on RNZ:

Mr Harawira said the Labour leader’s comments about his deal with the Māori Party were inappropriate and quite nasty.

He told Morning Report he found it quite astounding how arrogant Labour leaders could be when talking about what Māori needed.

“I think what Māori really need is to not have white guys like Andrew Little telling us what to do, and what our aspirations should be. Mana has always been clearly its own independent organisation.”

A Maori Party founder and ex leader Pita Sharples later also responded – RNZ Labour leader ‘should be ashamed’- Sir Pita:

Sir Pita  said the Māori Party’s focus was solely a Māori one, and said he was “totally insulted” by Mr Little’s comments.

“It’s that kind of using made-up phrases like that to denigrate the authenticity of Māori that really does the damage in race relations. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Sir Pita co-led the Māori Party from 2004 through to 2013, and said he was baffled by Mr Little’s claims.

“We champion and build kura kaupapa Māori schools highschools, wharekura run reo Māori language programmes and work by hui in marae and always have mihimihi, (greetings) so I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

More from Stuff:  Political attacks are in full swing as Labour and the Maori Party go head-to-head for the Maori seats

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says…

“He is the worst example of someone who understands Maori and relationship agreements and how to work with other parties for that matter.”

She said the party is divided over Little’s decision to bring high-profile broadcaster Willie Jackson into the party and he’s been dishonest about whether Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare was asked to stand aside in his electorate.

“What’s obvious is there’s disquiet amongst the Maori MPs,” says Fox.


Little went on to say the Maori MPs in Labour were “fearful” of a high spot on the party list because “they don’t want to give the impression they’re being held up by belts and braces”.

He said Labour’s Maori MPs were advocating for low-list places – it’s widely speculated Jackson, who is running on the list, will receive a high placing.

Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, who will have a fight against Mana leader Hone Harawira for the seat after an agreement between Mana and the Maori Party to give Harawira a clear run, said Little was right and it was about getting more Maori in Parliament.

He said sitting Maori MPs were prepared to sacrifice a high list place in order to get more MPs, such as former TV presenter Tamati Coffey and Northland candidate Willow-Jean Prime, in to Parliament.

“It’s the risk we’re prepared to take,’ he said.

Unless Labour improves it’s support then list placings will be of little use. Winning an electorate is all important for Labour MPs.

It’s not just politicians who have piled into Little for his comments.

Sparrowhawk/KāreareaAndrew Little and the Māori lightbulb moment

It was a great question from Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson to the leader of the Labour Party, Andrew Little.

Ok…the Labour vote is high in those Māori seats, but isn’t there a hunger from the voters in those seats for an electorate MP who is from a kaupapa Māori party?

It was a great question for two reasons (in my mind)..firstly, the fact that Susie knew what a kaupapa Māori party was, and was comfortable with the nomenclature. Props. Secondly, the answer to that question showed Little lacks a useful understanding of Māori thinking. It was a kind of lightbulb moment in reverse: he showed us he had no idea where the switch is, let alone the bulb, that could illuminate Māori politics for any of us.

[Little] Well, the Māori Party is not kaupapa Māori. We know that, it has conceded on every important issue affecting Māori in the last nine years.

[Ferguson]: They would probably take issue with that!

[Little] Well in the end, what it comes down to is: how do Māori have the strongest voice, not just in Parliament but in government. At the moment it comes through the Māori Party which is two MPs tacked on to the National Party that doesn’t need to listen to them on anything if it doesn’t wish to.

Oh boy. we have the Leader of the Opposition telling us what is and isn’t kaupapa Māori. I don’t really mind any Pākehā person voicing an opinion about things Māori. So the fact that Little is Pākehā doesn’t gall me. What galls me is that he has pronounced grandly upon something he doesn’t understand. As can be seen above he has given us a definition of kaupapa Māori.

Extrapolating from his words above we now know that a political party can only be kaupapa Māori if it wins battles in Parliament on every important issue affecting Māori.

And then he seems to contradict his own statement by saying the Māori Party provides the strongest Māori voice in Parliament (albeit from the beat up Vauxhall being towed behind the big blue bus).

Way to build up your own Māori MPs, Andrew, by conceding they don’t have the strongest voice already.

I’ll leave it to others to defend the Māori Party’s own record. That is not my focus; my focus is instead Little’s apparent ignorance of Māori and Māori modes of thought and action.

So what do we now know of kaupapa Māori in the wake of the Little interview?

  1. No Māori affiliated with the National Party can ever claim to come from a base of Kaupapa Māori
  2. Kaupapa Māori can only ever be measured in terms of policy victories
  3. Kaupapa Māori can only ever be measured in the strength of the loudest voice proclaiming it.
  4. Kaupapa Māori can only be exercised in regards to issues directly affecting Māori.

On this definition, neither the Māori Party nor the Mana Party nor Sir Āpirana Ngata could ever be accused of employing kaupapa Māori.

Little has provided a handy rallying cry for those who would seek to undermine the Labour Māori vote. I am sure his own Māori candidates, MPS and membership will not thank him for disparaging the Māori Party in this way when they find themselves having to defend a leader who has commandeered the Māori language and insulted Māori politicians and voters in such a cavalier way.

Little seems to be struggling with dealing with Maori issues, as well as going on the attack in trying to protect Labour’s Maori seats.

He has indicated he has no interest in talking to the Maori Party about coalition arrangements.

Leave a comment


  1. PDB

     /  22nd February 2017

    Best that Little sticks to talking to something he knows about…………..maybe badmouthing employers and running unions? He’s tried to sound informed by using ‘kaupapa’ without actually saying why his MP’s are better for Maori. The insinuation is that Maori have always been Labour supporters in the past therefore should remain so.

    Hone also needs to pull his head in with this statement: “I think what Māori really need is to not have white guys like Andrew Little telling us what to do”.

    Does that mean only Maori who look Maori can voice an opinion on Maori matters? What about Maori that look more European? What about someone who by all appearances looks white but identifies as Maori? Should Maori not speak on matters relating to other countries & cultures because they are only qualified to speak about Maori?

    • Gezza

       /  22nd February 2017

      Re: Homie Hone’s ‘white guys’ remark. You’re over-thinking & over-blowing it, PDB. Context, my friend. He’s obviously referring to Hon Mr Little The Doofus clearly not being Maori in either attitude, lineage, or knowledge. Skin colour is basically a metaphor for uninformed non-Maori here. Contrast with Rt Hon Winston Peters, PC. No way he would put his foot in his mouth on ‘kaupapa Maori’ like Hon Andy just did, again! 😳

      • PDB

         /  22nd February 2017

        Maybe ‘guys like Andrew Little’ rather than ‘white guys like Andrew Little’ was more appropriate then? The mere mention of the name ‘Andrew Little’ already conjures up visions of inadequacy.

        • Gezza

           /  22nd February 2017

          There is a reason Hone would never get within a bull’s roar of a diplomatic appointment to some European country.

  2. duperez

     /  22nd February 2017

    I heard the Sir Pita Sharples reaction when it was first aired on RNZ and heard it again today.

    He said he was totally insulted by Andrew Little’s remarks. Not insulted enough to come up with anything of substance in response. His proforma, say a few words, try to sound pissed off, knee jerk contribution has prominence only because of his name.

    • Gezza

       /  22nd February 2017

      You have to remember who Sir Pita is. Imo, anyway, he is a justifiably proud, hard-working Maori man of prominence who works tirelessly for more understanding & improvement of the Maori people. But he is a conciliator, a peacemaker, a man who usually seeks to promote dialogue, diffuse tensions between people & parties, & generally avoid confrontation & provocation. Te Ururoa seems quite similar. That’s why the Maori Party always has other stronger, more combative co-leaders. Balance. How I see it, anyway.

  3. PDB

     /  22nd February 2017

    Nikki Kaye puts the boot into Little and kicks him out of the stadium…

    To finish she says: “However, my concern with Andrew Little is his constant ability to overreach and be extreme with his comments like calling the Maori Party hopeless when they are not. Helen Clark was someone who could be much more balanced that’s why people respected her.”

  4. Duperez

     /  22nd February 2017

    I personally had an interaction with Ms Kaye on the occasion of her being “extreme” (in the same sense she sees that in Little). Her mentioning “balance” and being “respected” for that are amusing to me now. That occasion was to do with an issue where for political purposes and effect she talked BS. Her explanation and attempt at mitigation showed the balance beam should not be her chosen athletic pursuit. Now, at least to this one citizen, her event could be Pot Calling Kettle Black rather than the balancing one or the Kicking out of Stadium one.

  5. The current interpretation of what “kaupapa Maori” means dates from about 1985 when the second wave of revisionist Maori historians such as GH Smith wrote an interesting thesis that tried to “modernise” thinking about Maori ethics and guiding principles (they actually said “principals” but I forgive them as I have made a few myself). I find it interesting that the current discourse on “Kaupapa Maori” is so recent, and smacks of modern scholars proposing what they think guided the thinking within the various iwi. “Maori” as seems to be the consensus was translated as “ordinary person” until about 1853 (circa Taranaki Wars). The ordinary person part of an iwi was focussed on following the dictates of the kaumatua of their iwi. Their “Kaupapa” was as the iwi determined – look at what happened at Waitangi this year when the Ngapuhi Kaupapa prevailed.

    We in New Zealand have a choice that needs to be addressed as we see the development of a unified political organ to represent, interpret and struggle for their interpretation of what Maori Kaupapa means in this day and age. Until we have a word that defines ALL OF US born here in New Zealand-Aotearoa there will continue to be divided into two groups “Maori” and “Pakeha”. Maori society acknowledges within iwi, certain classes in their whaka.apa, The non-Maori New Zealanders who settled in NZ with some exceptions did so to avoid the class system in the UK, and to start a new life.

    So now we have a unified political group demanding a say as “partners” in Parliament on behalf of “Maori”. May be we non-Maori, the “Pakepakeha”, should assert ourselves and demand representation in Parliament solely for those of us non-Maori born in NZ from NZ parents so as to preserve our status as the largest group of NZ citizens, and protect our “Pakepakeha kaupapa”, based on our “whakapapa”?

    I actually believe we are one people, New Zealanders, of us and all deserve the same rights and opportunities as well as opportunities to be educated and enjoy the benefits of the land of our birth. Where barriers exist to personal development and personal growth and opportunities, then we as a nation should address the obstacles, and remove them. To urge the creation of different groups based on ethnicity and language and granting those groups special status and privilege to me is the route to disaster and indicates narrow-minded approaches to the essential makeup of humanity.
    Please do not label me as a “Governor Hobson” parrot, I am beyond that!

  6. patupaiarehe

     /  22nd February 2017

    Andy would do well to just stick to his ‘mother tongue’. ‘Kaupapa’ is one of those ‘weasel words’, that can mean different things to different people.
    Easily confused with ‘Tikanga’, which is generally agreed to translate as ‘What is right’.

  1. What is kaupapa Maori? | Your NZ
  2. Andrew Little versus kaupapa Maori – NZ Conservative Coalition

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