"The Maori Party is born of the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for whanau, hapu and iwi within their own land; to speak with a strong, independent and united voice; and to live according to kaupapa handed down by our ancestors."
The Maori Party was born in July 2004 after one of its Co-Leaders, the MP for the Maori Seat of Te Tai Hauauru, Tariana Turia, left the New Zealand Labour Party after a dispute over the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, that transferred rights over the coastal line of New Zealand from the local iwis to the government, making access to the beaches and fishing grounds a right for every Kiwi. Tariana was not prepared to vote for something she perceived was another landgrab, so she became an independent MP after a very public battle with Prime Minister Helen Clark and the rest of her party (interestingly enough the rest of the Maori Labour MPs gave in to the pressure from the beehive, albeit grumpy). With the foreshore and seabed controversy still very fresh in the mind of the enraged iwis, she quickly gathered support for an new party representing Maori ideas, and in May 2004 a hui attended by more than 1000 supporters in Ngaruawahia layed the foundation for the new movement. The party was registered in July, just in time for the by-election of her seat which she easily won. The Maori Party had its first seat in New Zealand's parliament.
"The vision for the Maori Party will be based on these aspirations, for they speak to us of whänau whose wairua is strong and vibrant; who have fully developed their spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical well-being; and who are confident, secure and pro-active in all aspects of the environmental, social, cultural, economic and political life of this great country of ours"
After the founding hui, a program and a philosophy were slowly drawn up: The centrepiece of their policies would be the focus on Kaupapa Maori, the Maori worldview from which all cultural, spiritual and behavioural aspects of Maoritanga derive. This does not mean that the party sees itself as exclusionist: the preamble states that the party is for every citizen of New Zealand, but that the policies derive from Maori beliefs.
Unfortunately the party's policies are just as vague as the principles that they are based on. In a Nutshell:
- to promote a fair and just society, to work for the elimination of poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is still important.
- to reinstall Maori as the keepers and caretakers of the land
- to nurture Te Reo
- to promote environmental friendly policies
- to promote the achievement of wellness and well-being for Mäori
If this sounds vague, that's what it is (deliberately I think). Everybody could vote for this, and with Maori are representing ca 10 % of the current registered voters, the party could very well ending up gaining all 7 Maori seats with maybe one or two candidates coming in from the general list. The problems is that they keep shooting themselves in the foot: Turia and her co-leader Pita Sharples continue to give out unfortunate press releases, i.e. her refusal to have her grandchildren vaccinated against Menigitis, or the refusal of the party to condemn Robert Mugabe's refusal to acknowledge human rights for his population.
I nevertheless predict that they probably will end up gaining all Maori seats and then implode after on legislative period due to inner rows and the day to day problems within a coalition (where they will likely end).