17 Jul 2017

Winston Peters labelled hypocrite for push to scrap Māori seats

From Checkpoint, 5:43 pm on 17 July 2017

The New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters is being called a hypocrite by Tukoroirangi Morgan - one of the men who won a Māori seat alongside him in 1996.

Winston Peters outlines his agenda for the election year and debates the Prime Ministers statement Feb 7 2017.

Winston Peters in Parliament in early 2017. Photo: Supplied / The Office of the Clerk

That year New Zealand First took all five Māori seats, but now Mr Peters wants a binding referendum on whether they should be abolished.

Back then former National MP Tau Henare and his colleagues Tukoroirangi Morgan, Rana Waitai, Tutekawa Wylie and Tuariki Delamere helped New Zealand First increase its seats dramatically handing Mr Peters a mandate to chose who would become government. 

Mr Peters is currently polling in a similar manner, but his position on the Māori seats has changed. 

Māori Party president Tukororirangi Morgan said Mr Peters was behaving like a hypocrite and Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira agrees. 

"I recall particularly how big was the smile on Winston's face at the time it quickly disappeared when they all left him and went with National but that might be the source of his displeasure that he couldn't trust his members to stay with him just like he can't trust Shane to stay with the party line." 

Māori first had four seats in Parliament in 1867 when some viewed Māori unfit to vote.  

Despite being landowners, Māori didn't qualify for a vote as they didn't fit the colonial model of holding individual title, so four seats were created to represent 50,000 Māori while Pākehā at the time had 72 seats.

Labour's campaign manager for the Māori seats Willy Jackson said Mr Peters was using the seats as a political football - again.

"Winston at another time in his life was very comfortable with the Māori seats, now his a bit older he's become uncomfortable so he knows the strength of the Māori seats otherwise he wouldn't have stood in them."

Mr Morgan said Mr Peters should expect a backlash if he presses ahead with his plans.

"It will galvanise Māori around the country, there is no doubt about that, we saw that with the seabed foreshore and you'll get the same kind of momentum desperation and reunification of our people.

"Winston thinks this is a political timebomb and it is absolutely a political timebomb because Māori won't sit in silence."

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett has said she hoped for a day when there would be no need for the seats.

"We've always said there'd be a time when one hopes we don't have to have the seperate Māori seats. You know I'm a Māori woman who has stood in a general seat and won that."

But Mr Jackson said a Māori person standing in a general seat did not represent Māori in the same manner as a Māori electorate MP.

"That's just the reality - the dangers of losing the Māori seats are that in fact we don't get the type of representation that we deserve or that we get everyday."

Two weeks ago New Zealand First's newest candidate Shane Jones agreed with the seats, saying it was a kaupapa "for the people to decide".

Other Māori MPs, such as the Green's co Leader Metiria Turei, have jumped in behind Mr Jones.

"We've done really well under MMP with Māori representation but we have not improved the circumstance for Māori yet. 

"Those who serve in the Māori seats are known as Kanohi kitea - familiar faces, and without them many fear Māori will lose their unique voice in a Parliament built to represent both Pākehā and Māori alike."