- Māori Issues
This has been a year in which ongoing tensions between Māori and the government have been exacerbated by a number of unhelpful judicial decisions. Most widely reported were the actions of Māori groups who sought judicial intervention as the government intensified its drive to legislate the extinguishment of all Māori claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. Self-congratulatory government propaganda belies the increasingly bitter divisions this process has created between claimant groups. Many have turned to the courts, the Waitangi Tribunal, and other Pākehā (European) judicial bodies, not only to seek justice for our treaty claims but also to prevent the despoliation and desecration of our lands, sacred places, waters, and culture and to prevent the New Zealand Police from terrorizing us. In the past year, we have found that little relief is available to us through those channels. Yet in the face of ongoing adversity, we were still able to celebrate Māori achievement and performance, although we were saddened by the passing of an internationally renowned Māori artist and of a sitting Māori member of Parliament.
In February 2013, our leading contemporary artist, Ralph Hotere, passed away at the age of eighty-one. He was Te Tao Maui hapū (group of extended families) of Te Aupōuri iwi (grouping of hapū), with strong links to Te Rarawa iwi. He was born near Mitimiti on the Hokianga harbor. He had received numerous awards for his prolific artworks and for his leadership and service to Māori arts. Ralph was shy, retiring, and very humble, and he let his works do their own talking (Fox 2013, 4; Muru 2013, 26). “Ralph’s artworks encapsulated much of the struggle that tangata whenua (Māori) were facing during his time. He was an activist; he was a thought provoking philosopher; and he was an advocate for Māori rights” (Sharples 2013). Although he lived most of his life in the south in Otago, he was taken home to Mitimiti to be buried with his ancestors.
At the end of April, Parekura Horomia, Māori member of Parliament and minister of Māori Affairs from 2000 to 2008, passed away at his home in Tolaga Bay on the East Coast at the age of sixty-two. A popular Parliamentarian in his own Māori electorate of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, he was well liked [End Page 208] by Māori throughout the country. He was hardworking and generous with his time, traveling many thousands of kilometers every year to visit marae and Māori gatherings throughout the country. His loyalty to the Labour Party could be relied on, but it caused him anguish during the 2003–2004 debacle over the foreshore and seabed legislation. When the government in which he was a minister announced that it would legislate the confiscation of the foreshore and seabed from Māori, he led the Māori Labour members of Parliament in denouncing it as “likely to breach international law” (Mutu 2011, 134). However, pressure from his own party forced him into supporting the legislation, even when his colleague and friend Tariana Tūria resigned from the party and set up the Māori Party in support of Māori opposition to it (Mutu 2011, 140). Many thousands attended his tangihanga (funerary ceremony) at Hauiti marae in Tolaga Bay.
A by-election called to replace Horomia in the Ikaroa-Rawiti seat took place in June. The Labour Party candidate won the poll with the Mana Party candidate coming in second and the Māori Party candidate third. The Māori Party has drawn significant criticism for the number of compromises it has had to make while part of the National-led coalition government. However, the by-election was most notable for the very low turnout—33 percent (Electoral Commission 2013). Low voter turnout in the Māori electorates was also a feature of the last general election, when it was 58 percent (Electoral Commission 2012).
Over the past year, the government has been publicly celebrating the pace at which it has been pushing through Deeds of Settlement and legislation to extinguish Treaty of Waitangi claims. What...