Māori political play looks credible

Māori political interests are becoming clearer and look like they are aiming for real gains – and it doesn’t look favourable for the Labour Party, who appears to be losing it’s connection with yet another pew from it’s once broad church.

Maiki Sherman has an in depth and fascinating analysis of Māori political manoeuvrings at Newshub – Opinion: Māori politics now a Game of Thrones.

In short, the Kīngitanga movement appears to be teaming up with the Māori Party, and they are working towards an alliance with Hone Harawira and the Mana Party.

The person at the centre of this is Tuku Morgan, ex NZ First MP and now a closer adviser to Kīngi Tuheitia and president of the Māori Party.

If this works it could put a strong bloc of Māori in a strong political position, competing with NZ First for holding possible balance of power after next year’s election.

And it will either sideline Labour from power, or it have a powerful influence over a Labour led coalition.

National could be the main benefactors – apart from Māori.

As next year’s election looms closer, the power plays have begun.

And right at the centre of it is the King himself – Kīngi Tuheitia, the Māori Monarch. His movement, the Kīngitanga, is reasserting its relevance.

The King’s annual address is the only time he speaks publicly.

Over the years, his speeches have included the personal criticisms faced by the King and the overwhelming need to reaffirm the relevance of the King Movement.

Of equal importance, and intrinsically tied to the two points just mentioned, are the ever-increasing political themes seen in the King’s yearly speech.

Māori water rights, Kōhanga Reo, a Treaty of Waitangi claim to greater Auckland, and the question of sovereignty.

All of these issues have been part of an attempt to assert the power of the Kīngitanga.  

However, the King Movement does not command the same power it once had with the Government of the time.

The movement itself, as noted by the King in his annual addresses, has had to work on rebuilding its support amongst the Māori people.    

A king with fractured support from his own tribes is a king whose power is also fractured, leaving cracks for any government to divide and conquer.

Securing major concessions such as shared sovereignty then would be an uphill battle.

And so, politically at least, a strategy is needed to strengthen the King’s hand in the realm of Parliament.

Cue the King’s speech of 2016 that attacked Labour.

It was claimed the King went off script this year. But this is not the case.

Labour leader Andrew Little was set up – he was sitting front and centre moments before the King’s address was delivered.

The King said he would not be voting for Labour again and criticised the leader for his unwillingness to work with the Māori Party.

He then went on to back the Māori Party, with a nod also to Hone Harawira’s Mana Movement.  

The King’s Hand – Tukoroirangi Morgan

Tukoroirangi Morgan has been the King’s Hand – the King’s closest adviser – for many years.

And Morgan now has another job – he was recently appointed President of the Māori Party.

He is expected to be a game-changer for the Māori Party. The latest developments with the Kīngitanga support is a clear sign of this.

Morgan’s strategy and game plan will be well thought out.

The first move was to extend an olive branch to the Mana Movement. Breakfast with Hone Harawira.

And the backing of both the Māori Party and Mana Movement by the King in his annual address was anything but a coincidence.  

The Marriage of Convenience – Mana Party

A Maori Party-Mana alliance is the ultimate marriage of convenience in the Seven Kingdoms.

The seed was already sown following the meeting between Tukoroirangi Morgan and Hone Harawira.

A formal merger is highly unlikely. But a marriage of convenience is very much on the cards. A deal is almost certain to be struck in the Seven Kingdoms.

The King’s endorsement of Mana though has served more reasons than one. It would be a hard sell to say the Kīngitanga was backing an independent Māori voice without acknowledging Mana.

The Political Pawn – Māori Party

The real power-play here is the King’s endorsement of the Māori Party and setting up its alliance with Mana.

In order to strengthen the Kīngitanga’s political relevancy, they need to secure more concessions from the Government.

The King and his office are well and truly  aware of the benefits of sitting at the Government table.

Unlike other political parties, the Māori Party is not tied to the greater party needs and wants. Māori aspirations come first.

And so the King is taking over the Māori Party –  a movement capable of doing the Kīngitanga’s bidding at the Government table. And sitting across from John Key will be none other than Tukoroirangi Morgan.

The Māori Party has been hijacked by the Kīngitanga – they just don’t know it yet.

Perhaps they are willing parties to this power play – they will have been well aware of the significance of appointing Morgan as their party president.

The Princess – Nanaia Mahuta

So, where does Nanaia Mahuta sit in all of this? The Hauraki-Waikato MP has been the political princess of the Kīngitanga for two decades.

Questions have been swirling for a while about whether Mahuta will contest the next election. While she has confirmed she intends to stand, inside sources reveal that is not the case. The King’s attack on Labour all but confirm this. It is no longer a question of if, but simply when Mahuta will step down.

The King’s criticism and its inferred message for voters to ditch Labour now makes it far too awkward for Mahuta to stand at the next election. Hauraki-Waikato are block voters. They have backed Mahuta over the years, much of it based on loyalty.

And loyalty should not be underestimated when it comes to Māori politics. When Labour announced its reshuffle in December 2015, Mahuta was demoted down the list. This caused outrage among Hauraki-Waikato constituents and the Kīngitanga. The King’s spokesman Tuku Morgan came out firing saying Little would regret it and the snub would come back to bite the party in the backside. The Kīngitanga has delivered on that promise.      

Labour has now been outcast by the Māori King, and therefore, the Hauraki-Waikato electorate.

Expect the Māori Party to win this seat at next year’s election.

The Outcast – Andrew Little

Labour has now been outcast by the Māori King, and therefore, the Hauraki-Waikato electorate.

However, with at least another year out from the election, expect further moves to take place in the interim.

As the old saying goes, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Labour have tended to use their Māori support rather than deliver what it has wanted. No are we seeing some utu?

The Gatekeeper – John Key

According to a media advisor in the King’s office, John Key and Kīngi Tuheitia have had at least three meetings in the past six months.

A stronger Māori Party could also be another saviour for National in that it may not have to rely on the Kingmaker – Winston Peters.

The Māori King could save Key from Winston the Kingmaker.

Yet, as they say – a year is a long time in politics. Anything could happen.

But one thing is certain – the Māori politics Game of Thrones is well and truly underway.

Yes, a lot could happen in the next year.

But what Sherman illustrates here is credible, and it looks like a well thought through plan. That could succeed.

The biggest unknown is who will lead the next Government, National or Labour. This plan appears to favour National. But above all it could put the Māori Party, the Māori King and the Mana movement into a very powerful position – and there may be little the rest of us can do about it.

What would provide a strong Māori bloc in Parliament with the most benefits?

A Labour led coalition, where Labour is keen to make up for nine years out of power, the Green Party is keen to launch their long planned ideals, possible NZ First are also in the mix, with the Māori Party making up the numbers?

Or the Māori Party building on their relationship with National, possibly providing National with a path back to power without needing to rely on Winston Peters, and holding on their own a decisive vote?

Where would Mana fit in if Harawira wins his seat back? He has vowed never to team up with National. But he could still team up with the Māori Party, who apart for Confidence and Supply have voted against the Government more than for it.

The next year in politics could be much more interesting than the same old ‘Winston holds the balance of power’.

Fascinating.

Tainui told to get mandate

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has told Waikato-Tainui to get a mandate and to specify their claims after King Tuheitia followed up by Tukoroirangi Morgan indicated they would make claims reaching up to Auckland.

Can different Iwi make claims over the same area?  And why now? Waikato-Tainui settled some claims at least in 1995.

NZ Herald reports in Tainui told get mandate and spell out claims.

Mr Morgan, the spokesman for King Tuheitia, has been elaborating on a reference to Auckland claims that the king made in a speech on Friday at coronation anniversary celebrations at Turangawaewae.

King Tuheitia talked about a new era of rights and claims and of defending the stature of the Kingitanga – the Maori King movement established in the 1850s to prevent more land confiscations.

“We will start with the Kingitanga claims in Tamaki.”

He also wanted further to address “the question of sovereignty of the Kingitanga with the Government and the Crown.”

King Tuheitia talked about his struggle with health – he has diabetes – and said he wanted to “leave a legacy for the next one to continue.”

The Kingitanga seems to be striving for relevancy. How important is the King in Waikato-Tainui?

Mr Morgan told the Herald that Tainui had a claim over the Auckland area which had been filed in 1993 by Huakina on behalf of Tainui.

The first Maori King, Potatau Te Wherowhero, had lived in Mangere, and had other houses at Howick and a summer home in what is now the domain, and he had mana over the Auckland area.

Mr Morgan said the Huakina claim covered a region from the upper reaches of Waikato across to the Firth of Thames, up as far as Mahurangi, across to Piha and down to the Manukau Harbour.

Finlayson has responded and disputed some claims.

Mr Morgan said that at a meeting about five weeks ago between himself and Mr Finlayson and Housing Minister Nick Smith, Mr Finlayson had agreed they could begin to draw up terms of negotiation.

Mr Finlayson disputes that – and said he was not aware of a Huakina claim.

He also cited a letter dated August 15, 2013, to Tom Roa, interim negotiator for Waikato-Tainui, stating: “I have previously invited Waikato-Tainui to clarify the nature of any outstanding claims it considers it may have in [Auckland] and urge you to do so.

Finlayson has one message for Waikato-Tainui if it wants to begin negotiating a claim over parts of Auckland – get a mandate and specify your claims.

He said he had given Tukoroirangi Morgan the same message about five times in the past.

“He nods and then nothing happens,” Mr Finlayson told the Herald.

“Mandates don’t last forever.”

Mr Finlayson said he had also formally written to Waikato-Tainui two years ago setting out what needed to be done if it had a claim to parts of Auckland.

So the King needs to demonstrate he has a mandate amongst Waikato-Tainui.

And then show that they can make claims over territory north of the Waikato.