Politicians fired up over 'kaupapa Māori'

6:21 pm on 21 February 2017

Analysis - The battle for the Māori seats has developed into a full-blown assault.

Tariana Turia (left) and Pita Sharples (right) are among those who have criticised Andrew Little (centre) for his comments.

Tariana Turia, left, and Pita Sharples, right, are among those who have criticised Andrew Little, centre, for his comments. Photo: RNZ

In an interview on Morning Report, Labour leader Andrew Little accused the Māori Party of not being kaupapa Māori, or Māori-based.

He added that the party had "conceded on every important issue affecting Māori in the last nine years".

An onslaught has followed, with a founding member of the party, Dame Tariana Turia, reaffirming why she didn't believe Māori could trust the Labour Party.

"Our people need to be reminded of the racism that continues to exist in the Labour Party."

Mr Little may not have understood exactly how offensive his strike was at the time but his comments have shaken the foundations of the party hierarchy, with both former leaders blasting back.

Sir Pita Sharples, who co-led the party from 2004 till 2013, said he was totally insulted by the remarks.

"You see, 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."

Māori party president Tukoroirangi Morgan joined in.

"Andrew Little doesn't know kaupapa Māori if it hit him in the head, he is completely ignorant to our values, to the manner in which we live our lives and how we operate as a vibrant culture in this country."

The Māori Party was born from the 2004 hikoi to Parliament where more than 10,000 Māori and Pākehā protested against the Labour government's seabed and foreshore legislation.

One of Labour's Māori MPs crossed the floor in protest and soon became the leader of the Māori Party.

Dame Tariana said Māori should never forget it was the Labour Party that lost the last piece of Māori customary land.

Labour's Māori MPs, however, are backing their leader and say the Māori Party is playing it up.

Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis said the Māori Party was thin-skinned and was playing politics.

"If they're going to get stuck into us for that then they have to acknowledge it was the Labour Party that housed our people, the Labour Party that clothed our people, that brought in the Waitangi Tribunal, they're just being really selective to suit their agenda.

"It's disingenuous, they're thin-skinned and they need to harden up".

Hauraki MP Nanaia Mahuta and Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri both questioned the Māori Party's record on unemployment, healthcare and homelessness.

Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe took a shot at the Māori Party for failing to get change on the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act, which removes the whānau clause and means Child Youth Family workers won't have to consider whānau first when placing Māori children in foster care.

Peeni Henare, who holds Tāmaki Makaurau for Labour, questioned what the Māori Party was talking about.

He said "using kaupapa Māori as the bargaining chip for negotiations with a government then end up compromising - well, that's not kaupapa Māori".

One thing is for sure: the gloves are off in the Māori electorates.