- Māori Issues
The 2017 general election delivered twenty-nine members of Parliament of Māori descent, twenty of whom are in government, with eight of those becoming ministers. Māori also featured in sporting successes, especially women's rugby and men's softball. At the same time, racism against Māori became more blatant as decisions to allow Māori to have their own representation in local government were all successfully overturned. Māori continue to be disproportionately impacted by the effects of poverty in stark contrast to the Pākehā (European) population, which enjoys relative affluence. That drew criticism [End Page 202] yet again from two United Nations treaty bodies as Māori continue to be denied our rights under both Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Since coming to power in late 2017, the new government has appeared to be more caring than the last, but little has changed for the large number of Māori struggling to survive in increasingly harsh socioeconomic conditions while still trying to protect our natural resources from overexploitation. Before reviewing these issues, we will pause to remember a number of leaders we lost during this period, all of whom spent their lives fighting to achieve justice for Māori.
Ngāi Tahu of Te Waipounamu (the South Island) lost some well-loved and widely respected elders and leaders. Trevor Howse passed away in May 2017. He helped organize and drive Ngāi Tahu's treaty claim behind the scenes, collating a vast amount of the information that was presented to the Waitangi Tribunal. He was also part of the Ngāi Tahu team that spearheaded the negotiation process and resulted in one of the biggest treaty claims settlements to date (Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu 2014). So too was Kuao Langsbury, who passed away in October. He first took a leadership role in Ngāi Tahu in 1961 when he was elected the chair of Ōtākou Rūnanga at the age of twenty-five (Waatea News 2017a). Then in January 2018 it was the gentle elder, leader, and Māori language, culture, and history teacher Kukupa Tirikātene. He provided advice and support for Ngāi Tahu's leadership and contributed to the recovery of their dialect of the Māori language. Tirikātene came from a family of long-serving members of Parliament. His father, Sir Eruera, his sister, Whetū (Tirikātene-Sullivan), and his nephew, Te Rino, have all served as members of Parliament for the Southern Māori or Te Tai Tonga electorate (Waatea News 2018b).
Artist, teacher, master carver, and heritage advocate Dr Cliff Whiting of Te Whānau a Apanui passed away in July 2017. He worked on a number of modern-day meetinghouses including the spectacular Te Hono ki Hawaiki on Rongomaraeroa Marae at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Te Kupenga o Te Mātauranga at Palmerston North Teachers' College, Maru Kaitatea on Takahanga Marae in Kaikoura, and Tahu Pōtiki on Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff. He also undertook large-scale murals for a number of government buildings including the New Zealand MetService, the National Library of New Zealand, and the Christchurch High Court (Hunt 2017).
Strong, outspoken, yet gentle Māori rights advocate Nuki Aldridge of Ngāpuhi passed away in November 2017. His expertise and knowledge of northern history was legend, particularly that relating to the formation of the collective of leaders, Te Whakaminenga o Ngā Hapū o Nu Tireni, who were responsible for the country's first constitutional document, the 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni, or the declaration of hapū (grouping of extended families) sovereignty often referred to in English as the Declaration of Independence. Nuki was a key witness in the hearings of the Waitangi Tribunal on the mid-northern claims. The tribunal went on to issue in 2014 its [End Page 203] groundbreaking findings that Ngāpuhi did not cede sovereignty to the British when they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840. New Zealand's constitutional arrangements and parliamentary institutions have all been built on the...