Friday 24 May 2024

Earning The Huia Feather.

Still Waiting: Māori land remains in the hands of Non-Māori. The broken promises of the Treaty remain broken. The mana of the tangata whenua languishes under racist neglect. The right to wear the huia feather remains as elusive as ever. Perhaps these three transformations are beyond the power of a Pakeha Labour leader to accomplish?

THE NEW ZEALAND LABOUR PARTY is 108 years old. By a wide margin, that makes it this country’s longest-lived political party. In all those 108 years, however, Labour has never given itself anything other than Pakeha leadership.

In spite of its claim to be the historical custodians of New Zealand’s progressive traditions, on the question of race Labour has allowed itself to be outstripped by all the other political parties currently represented in Parliament.

National elected Simon Bridges, the Greens chose Metiria Turei and Marama Davidson. Act’s leader, David Seymour, has been acquainting himself with his Māori roots for several years now. Te Pāti Māori speaks for itself. And then there’s Winston.

But the list of Labour’s leader’s is like a flour sack – white from top to bottom.

On the face of it, this is strange. Back in the 1920s, the Labour Party published a popular newspaper called The Maoriland Worker – “Maoriland” being in common usage on both sides of the Tasman as an alternative to “New Zealand”.

It is interesting, however, that as Labour edged ever closer to power in the 1930s, The Maoriland Worker became (much less colourfully) The Standard. Keen to pick up the votes of those who eked a living off land that had once belonged to Māori, “Maoriland” had simply become too contentious a word for Labour to retain.

Labour’s association with the Ratana Church, which ultimately delivered all the Māori seats into Labour’s hands, might also be supposed to have significantly improved the prospects of a Māori politician becoming Labour’s leader. Especially when one considers the fact that it was only Labour’s hold on the four Māori seats that allowed it to go on governing between 1946 and 1949. Had the Māori seats not existed, National would have assumed office a whole three years earlier than it did.

When the Ratana leader and prophet, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, first met the Labour leader, Michael Joseph Savage, in 1936, he is said to given him four objects: a potato, a broken gold watch, a pounamu hei-tiki, and a huia feather.

The potato symbolised the loss of Māori land, along with the sustenance it provided; the broken promises of the Treaty of Waitangi were represented by the broken watch; and the precious greenstone carving stood for the mana of the Māori people. Restore these three, prophesied Ratana, and Labour will have earned the right to wear the huia feather – the sign of chiefly status. So precious were these taonga to the Australian-born Savage that, when he died in 1940, they were buried with him.

If T.W. Ratana really did possess the foresight attributed to him by his many thousands of followers, it is to be wondered who it was that he saw, looking far into the future, wearing the sacred huia feather: a Pakeha, or a Māori?

Last night, in England, the leader of Labour’s Māori caucus, Willie Jackson, was accorded the same honour as the New Zealand Prime Minister, David Lange, when he addressed the members of the Oxford Union. Curiously enough, debating at Oxford University is not the only thing the Labour List MP has in common with Lange. Jackson’s home in Mangere Bridge formerly belonged to the charismatic Labour leader.

It was on Lange’s watch that the changes which transformed New Zealand economically and socially, “Rogernomics”, were introduced. At the end of that process, however, the three transformational challenges embodied in T.W. Ratana’s three symbolic gifts to Mickey Savage remained unmet.

They still are.

Māori land remains in the hands of Non-Māori. The broken promises of the Treaty remain broken. The mana of the tangata whenua languishes under racist neglect. The right to wear the huia feather remains as elusive as ever. Perhaps these three transformations are beyond the power of a Pakeha Labour leader to accomplish?

And they cannot be carried out behind the scenes, quietly and bureaucratically. Willie Jackson and his Māori colleagues tried that route – and it cost Labour the Treasury Benches. If the three transformations of T.W. Ratana are to be accomplished, then it will only happen in the full light of day, with the backing of all New Zealanders – Pakeha as well as Māori.

Labour will not shake off its political lassitude until it gives a Māori MP the chance to fulfil Ratana’s expectations – and earn the huia feather.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 24 May 2024.


BlisteringAttack said...

Class is the major determinant of people NOT race.

Woke window-dressing won't earn you a cent.

Anonymous said...

Divide and Rule

Jonzie said...

I'm sorry Chris, but this one you got wrong. If race over skillet or experience is your criteria for political validation, then you're just reinforcing everything that is wrong with so many things in NZ at the moment.

The Barron said...

Perhaps foreseen by the mystical glam prophets -

North side, east side
Little Willy, Willy wears the crown, he's the king around town ...

Hey down, stay down, stay down, down
'Cause little Willy, Willy won't go home
But you can't push Willy 'round
Willy won't go, try tellin' everybody but, oh no
Little Willy, Willy won't go home

The Sweet (1972)

New view said...

Labour will have a Maori leader when the right one comes along at the right time. Willy isn’t that person. The only way that leader would for-fill Ratana’s wishes is if they either run the country in a way that supports Maori and Pacific people to educate themselves better and that would increase the number who succeed. The other way is taking the people down the co governance path. The co governance path is their hope that by having more autonomy this would lead them to the promised land, but it won’t until those Maori who are educated and successful now, convince the rest that going to school and getting educated is the only way they’ll get to the promised land. Any government can want to build more affordable housing but we still have to pay for that housing so a strong economy is needed to do that. A Maori PM gives kids something to aspire to but that’s all. Any leader will have to do what existing leaders and governments are doing now. Trying to get the people educated and housed, and to run a strong economy while keeping debt down. We just haven’t succeeded at this in the last three decades and that’s not just with Maori.

Little Keith said...

You should only get the top job through, ability proven leadership, hopefully charisma or at least some likeability and most of all, this lead for all the people. Not gender, especially not skin colour, and not anything else. That is precisely what has wrecked Labour.

Little was as inspiring as week old porridge with charisma to match, Cunliffe insipid and at a time when Labour was metamorphosising itself into a woke party (unbeknownst to the rest of us) and divided, leaving Ardern the most charismatic, most harmless by far with the best sales pitch but severely lacking in ability, decisiveness or strength to lead the country or her caucus when the subterfuge wore thin and most of us realised the Emperor had no clothes. And I believe her when she said she never wanted the job. Never a more honest thing said.

But why Jackson? And why any race? Aren't we sick to death of woke virtue signaling and race politics? Te Pati Maori are a sewer of racism. The "Voice" in Aussie came to grief in part as a direct result of what happens here with race politics. They took one look across the Tasman and thought, bugger that and no wonder. It's got us nowhere, backwards in fact and divided.

Jackson is divisive, anything but trust worthy and obsessed about one race only, Maori. He entirely lacks the ability to unify this country, rather he would split it to pieces. If any Maori person should get the top job, it's Winston Peters. The man is a legend and he believes in a unified New Zealand. But time is not his friend!

DS said...

Without the Maori seats, 1946 would have been a tie, not a National victory.

Larry Mitchell said...

Could the historical fact of Labour failing to elect a Maori leader have more to do with (in) competence than other factors.

Willie may make it if his bro people ever dominate the Labour caucus.

David George said...

It wouldn't surprise me if Labour chose to appoint a diversity hire to the top job, they really do believe this BS.
If we're going to obsess over the race of our politicians (a seriously bad idea IMHO) it needs pointing out that Willy Jackson is more Ashkenazi Jew than Eastern Polynesian (Maori, Cook Islanders etc.) with a fair bit of Chinese and European ancestry.

Andrew Osborn said...

What is it with the left and their obsession with race? Just stop it!

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." MLK

The Barron said...

Where to start. I will put my cards on the table and state that I believe that Willie Jackson has all the criteria to be the leader of the Labour Party. I will respond to those above now.

The word 'race' has unfortunately returned to this blog. I address sometime ago that it is an unsuitable word. Little Keith's view of 'skin colour' as a criteria and David's suggestion as to what 'needs' to be pointed out shows how little we have advanced. Willie Jackson self-identifies as a NZ Maori and is descended from NZ Maori. If he has other ethnic identity, it is his right to that identity. As for 'skin colour', anyone from the South would never define Maori by skin colour. Anyway, these are things raised that detract from the prospect of Jackson as leader of Labour, and potential prime Minister.

The normal criteria we look for in our political leaders. In Labour, a solid trade union background is good. Jackson's father was a '51er. This means that the family has been steeped in the fight and sacrifice of the labour movement. At 21 years old, Jackson was the youngest freezing workers president. He was then an organiser at the Northern Clerical Workers’ Union. Box ticked.

Often a leader is enhanced with broadcasting and popular culture experience. Jackson has not only been involved in both, but has established record labels and radio stations, and hosted shows. He has been a sportscaster including specialist involvement with rugby. A chief executive of Urban Māori Broadcasting and host on Māori TV and TV One. Box ticked.

Business and community organisation has been a respected path to leadership. He has had a leading role in Manukau Urban Maori Authority (MUMA) since 1986. This is possibly the most powerful community based organsiation in the last three decades. I hope the ignorant in these comments acknowledge that the services of MUMA go well beyond Maori and all ethnic groups in South Auckland have been enhanced and supported by MUMA. He has also been chair of the National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA). Box ticked.

Political experience counts. Alliance MP 1999-2003. Leader of Mana Motuhake leader 2001 -2003. Labour MP since 2017. Minister 2017 - 2023. Box ticked.

So, Willie should be considered on the criteria of previous leaders. Then there is the perspective, drive and linkages that come from Willie being Maori and involved in Te Ao Maori. This enhances his prospects. Labour is a party that to get re-elected, it needs to get the urban vote out, the Maori and Pasifika vote out and be able to have a working relationship with Iwi and hapu. That is leadership qualities that may be unique to Jackson in the current caucus.

Mark Simpson said...

"The mana of the tangata whenua languishes under racist neglect."
It seems anyone who is so inclined can make sweeping accusations of racism whilst feeling righteous and impervious. This statement by you Chris is straight out of the Maori Party diatribe playbook that typically offers nothing by way of rational argument.

Advocating Willie for PM because he is Maori reminds of the time the Labour Party pushed for 50% female representation thereby prohibiting men to stand in electorates. Quality counted for nothing.

Alias said...

When the author flies a kite that moves too fast for a large section of the commenters here the usual many shots are fired to bring it down. The Barron being the exception of course.

The high percentage of comments on this site that contain anti Labour sentiments make it more akin to seeing the head bobbing and hearing the baa-baaing from about to be shorn sheep in a pen decorated with blue ribbons and rosettes on each post.

Codini said...

I believe Willie is a dangerous Politician. Could cause civil unrest if given the chance.

The Barron said...

Please Mark, provide an example where the Labour Party prohibited men from standing in an electorate.

Larry Mitchell said...

The Barron cites ... "Business" and Community experience credentials that apply to Willie.

Barron then quotes his "Community" background but never details any!! "Business" involvement.

This is due to the fact that Willie ... has NONE! ... Never a CEO ... or even as a "Dairy Owner".

Willie is totally unqualified and/or unsuited to "higher honors".

Anonymous said...

Chris your 30 April post states "that Luxon should fire Melissa Lee ... BUT HE WON'T!!".

...Ahaaa ... BUT HE DID ... ehhh.

That's Leadership CT.

Awaiting your apology... a retraction might suffice ...ehhh.

Little Keith said...

Yep, the much vaunted gender identity at least 50% women MP's, regardless of competency was a real winner. Not! It's how we got a Justice Minister spending several hours in police cells after driving drunk and abandoning ship, mid road and taking off, etc, etc. We became a third world banana republic. And she was one of the better ministers!

mikesh said...


Without the Maori seats more Maoris voting in the "pakeha" seats might well have changed the outcomes of some of those seats.

The Barron said...

There are better Willie watchers than me. But I touched on his involvement in setting up record labels and radio. Jackson has been on those and other boards. His Parliamentary declaration shows directorships. He succeeded his mother, June, as CEO of MUMA in 2009.

The Barron said...

That Labour aim for at least 50% of the caucus to be women, Mark is suggesting exclusion rules at electorate level for electorate candidates. I have requested his proof.

The Barron said...

Luxon choose her to be Minister in a crucial role. He choose badly and had to remove her after months of almost total collapse in her portfolio without substantive comment or plan from her.
That's leadership? That's mopping up your mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Reply to Barron from Mark Simpson:
It would have been more accurate had I said a cohort of the Labour Party advocated 50% of women be candidates in electorates. Nevertheless, the sentiment is the same - identity politics (gender or race) trumps meritocracy. This from Stuff; July 04, 2013

"Labour proposes 'women only' rule:
Some Labour Party members are baffled by a push to introduce new party rules that could lead to individual electorates running "women-only" candidate selections.

The proposed rule changes, to be decided at the party's annual conference in November, would force the party's list selection committee to ensure women would make up 45 per cent of the party's caucus in 2014 and 50 per cent by 2017.

Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson said the aim was to achieve gender balance and the rule changes were proposed mechanisms to achieve that."

David George said...

Thanks Barron, I'm not particularly concerned about Willy's race; it's just that Chris has introduced it as an issue. Beginning with: "the list of Labour’s leader’s is like a flour sack – white from top to bottom".

I suspect Willy is happy to "self identify" as whatever suits Willy but I may be doing him a disservice. It's a strange thing this "identify as" business. "If your “true” self bears no resemblance to your naturally embodied self, what on earth is true about it?"*

The whole thing is riddled with hypocrisy. The Maori party, for example, are insistent that children with (some?) Maori blood must be brought up as Maori culturally; even demanding they be torn away from loving and capable foster parents to that end. What's that about? Are race and culture somehow now essentially, and indelibly, concomitant or not?

*Ayaan Hirsi Ali,

The Barron said...

There are many areas of safety that a vulnerable child should have a right to. Psychical safety, emotional safety, developmental safety, educational, shelter and, yes, the right to cultural safety and knowledge. All these things should be considered when ascertaining the best option for the welfare of the child. None of those should be excluded from consideration, and an holistic view of well-being is required.

David George said...

I think they're crazy but it looks like the Maori Party are deeply corrupt as well.

"Hundreds of census forms collected by marae staff were photocopied and retained; and data from the forms such as personal contact details, household occupancy and birth dates was entered into an online database and sent to the Waipareira Trust. Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere runs the social services charity and is chief executive of Whānau Ora, and denies this.
They believe that information was then used to target Māori electorate voters in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate.
They also allege that Marae staff who delivered census forms also included enrolment forms for voters to change from the general to the Māori roll.
Further allegations are that:

Participants were given $100 supermarket vouchers, wellness packs or food parcels to induce them to complete the forms.
Visitors to the marae last year were also given $100 supermarket vouchers when they completed the forms to switch rolls.
Attempts were made to alert Stats NZ and MSD, but neither agency acted."