8 months ago

A year of mixed fortunes for Māori MPs

2:57 pm on 29 December 2015

New Zealand's House of Representatives has many labels and, in Māori, it is often translated as the Lion's Den.

In 2015 there were 25 Māori MPs in the den. Many started as fresh cubs following the 2014 general election, and they joined a number of experienced pride members.

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In 2015, there were 25 Māori MPs in Parliament, including many newcomers to the debating chamber. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The spread of Māori MPs across the political spectrum is diverse, with six sitting in the centre, 10 falling to the left and the rest sitting in the government pews.

Who outperformed who? According to Māori commentator Emma Espiner, one of Labour's Māori MPs topped the list.

"I think you'd have to say without a doubt that Kelvin Davis has dominated this year, and the interesting thing for me is that he's done this with a general portfolio," she said.

"So he hasn't been relegated to Māori Development or Māori Issues, although there is a significant Māori component in what he's been dealing with.

"It will be interesting how he fares against [incoming Corrections Minister] Judith Collins; he had a bit of an easy run against Sam Lotu Liga."

Caucus run 21/07/15

Labour MP Kelvin Davis has made headlines with his comments on prison conditions. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Broadcaster Julian Wilcox tipped his hat to the Te Taitokerau MP too but had bouquets for three others.

"Kelvin was head and shoulders above a lot of others [and] Winston [Peters] you could say, after winning the Northland seat. There are also some good performances from the two Maramas."

He praised Green list MP Marama Davidson for her performance in her first week in Parliament, and Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox for sticking to her roots.

"I know Marama Davidson had only just turned up but actually to do what she did in the first week in the debating chamber, that takes a lot of guts - and she showed her mana in that first week.

"And Marama Fox, I think she's maintained who she is - she's maintained her grassroots and that has connected, from my view."

New Green party  MP, Marama Davidson, after she was sworn into Parliament today.

Green list MP Marama Davidson - pictured after being sworn into Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Current affairs producer Annabelle Lee went further, saying Ms Fox's work this year had revived a party that was in danger of becoming irrelevant after losing the Te Tai Hauāuru seat to Labour in 2014.

"Marama Fox has completely outshone [Māori Party co-leader] Te Ururoa Flavell, who seems to be completely MIA since the election.

"She has given the Māori Party street cred again, which I think they'd lost with their relationship with National.

"The other thing about Marama Fox - she's not afraid to break ranks with the likes of Tariana Turia, like we saw with the Chris Brown affair.

"I think people see her as fresh and genuine and see her as having stronger connections with the rohe, grassroots and our rangatahi."

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox

Marama Fox replaced Tariana Turia as the Māori Party's female co-leader in late 2014. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Asked how Labour leader Andrew Little had dealt with his caucus reshuffle earlier in the year in terms of the party's Māori MPs, Ms Espiner said Mr Little's commentary about this had been pretty poor.

Mr Wilcox thought Nanaia Mahuta - the longest standing MP in Labour's Māori caucus - had been hard done by this year.

"There's already talk that Nanaia may move on and do something else. I think that would be a real loss," he said.

"I do think Nanaia has been incredibly hard done by. Labour nearly completely destroyed its relationship with Māori, and under her stewardship they were able to win back six of the seven Māori seats" Ms Lee said.

Next month, Māori politicians and their leaders converge on Ratana Pā near Whanganui for 2016's first important Māori hui.

Along with robust political discussion, it is likely the Ratana paepae (speaking platform) will also be used to address the poor placement of Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurāwhe, who now sits second to last on Labour's list.