Pro-Maori and proud of it

By Ruth Berry

The Maori Party wants all public servants to learn Maori and may require immigrants to swear an oath of allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi, policy papers show.
It wants to ensure Maori have a greater say in local and central government decision-making and to legislate to further protect Maori property rights.

Steps to reduce poverty and educational and health disparities and better protect the environment are also on the policy agenda.

Party leaders believe National and Labour have become increasingly conservative and fickle on Maori issues and are determined to put a proudly pro-Maori set of initiatives in front of voters.

But it's not all plain sailing - the question of what is or is not Maori Party policy appears to be a moot point in some cases.

The party released a 2 1/2 page list of policy directions and some firm pledges in June, which it is labelling its policy manifesto.

This week co-leader Tariana Turia promised a 48-page manual used by candidates, to the Herald.

She described it as party policy.

Sent out a day later it was described in an email as "draft ... not yet finalised in some areas." But yesterday the document - entitled "Maori Party Policy Areas: candidate policy information pack" - was described as a list of "talking points only", by Mrs Turia's spokeswoman.

Labour has repeatedly claimed the Maori Party lacked clear policy, suggesting it is restricted to little more than the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The Maori Party is battling Labour for the seven Maori seats and could be the determining factor on who leads the next Government - a situation which is intensifying Labour's pursuit of the seats.

Recent Marae Digipoll survey results suggest Labour is regaining support in the seats.

While Hone Harawira is 16 percentage points ahead of Labour's Dover Samuels in Te Tai Tokerau, the Maori Party candidate's lead has halved. The poll found Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and John Tamihere were neck and neck.

Labour's Nanaia Mahuta is believed to have increased her lead over Angeline Greensill in the Marae Digipoll survey of the Tainui electorate out today.

Mrs Turia has always maintained the Maori Party could work with Labour or National. Of the two, National had done more for Maori but kept it quiet because of its "red-neck" voters.

But the policy confusion, her stance on post-election options - attacked by Labour as "a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National" - may be scaring voters and account for the polling shift.

The Digipoll and the Maori Television-TNS poll show Labour winning the party vote in the Maori electorates - in a split vote, Maori Party supporters would be unlikely to tolerate allegiance with National.

Despite the political rhetoric, the policy manual reveals the Maori Party's policy objectives - while probably closest to the Green Party - are much closer to Labour than they are to National. 


MAORI PARTY POLICY

Some Definites

Compulsory for public servants to learn Maori

Raise drinking age to 20 years or above

Compulsory matauranga Maori (knowledge of things Maori) in schools

Reinstate GE/GMO moratorium until impact studies completed

Remove gambling machines

Review RMA and Local Government Act to affirm hapu and iwi authority

Some Indefinites

(From candidate's policy manual - which party has variously labelled policy, draft policy, then just talking points)

Prepare for energy rationing and cut speed limit to 90km/h

Free primary health care for under-sixes and over 65s

Establish Maori council for immigration, make it mandatory for Crown to consult it on all immigration matters

Oath of allegiance to treaty for new citizens

No freehold land to be sold to overseas investors

Poll watch

The DigiPoll Tainui survey, Marae, Television One, 10am today. The Maori Television-TNS poll, on Te Tai Tokerau. Te Kaea, 7.30 tonight.

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