Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Waitangi - A barometer for racial tensions

Prime Minister John Key and Titewhai Harawira at Te Tii Marae, last year. Photo / NZ Herald
Prime Minister John Key and Titewhai Harawira at Te Tii Marae, last year. Photo / NZ Herald

The Harawira family is holding the whole country to ransom. That's what the Herald has reported the Police as saying at Waitangi today - see: Yvonne Tahana and Claire Trevett's Key at centre of Waitangi standoff. This is obviously a gross exaggeration on the part of the Police, but it will resonate with many observing the circus around Titewhai Harawira's role in holding the Prime Minister's hand in the walk up to Te Tii Marae each year. The inability of the board of Te Tii Marae to resolve the increasingly farcical matter has, of course, being magnified hugely by the intense media interest. It seems we can't escape from reading and hearing about conflict at Waitangi - even if it actually comes down to some pushing and shoving between kuia standing next to the PM.

If Waitangi Day is seen as a barometer for racial tension in the country it's hard to see what the reading is this year so far. Morgan Godfery gives it a go with a comparison of the current mood with 2009 and 2012 - see: Reflections on Waitangi Day. For the Government any discomfort Key may have felt this morning may be a dose of karma as the Manawatu Standard's Grant Miller points out: 'National has fed Mrs Harawira's ego on past Waitangi Days, so it is not in a position where it can distance itself from the affair - see: Waitangi - here we go again.

Of course there are plenty of very real issues that can and will be debated today. There seems to be plenty of room for improvement according to a UMR poll for the Human Rights Commission. Less than a quarter of those surveyed agreed that 'The Treaty relationship between the Crown and Maori is healthy' down from 40% in 2008. This is despite significant progress over that period in settling historical treaty claims - see: Public see Treaty negatives. It seems the unresolved issues are still taking the limelight and that will contribute today with Maori Council co-chairman Maanu Paul set to address the PM directly the on the marae over the water claim currently before the Supreme court. Like the Police, Paul might also be accused of gross exaggeration in saying that John Key 'has a very brutal and violent way of relating with Maori' - see TVNZ's Harawira 'has bullied her way' into escorting PM onto marae.

With a decision due in the next two weeks, Adam Bennett reports that there is optimism from the Maori Council's lawyers that their arguments will prevail - see: Chief Justice's views give hope to Maori.

The Governments Constitutional Review has had a much lower profile than the water case but that may change, especially as the 'official' review, part of the Maori Party's agreement with National, is being mirrored by an iwi initiated review. Tracy Watkins says the Maori Party may suffer from having to support the Government review, which is likely to be 'tame' - see: Turia leads party across a tightrope. Being trapped in such compromises is one reason why Watkins thinks the Maori Party should seriously consider Hone Harawira's recent peace offering. Certainly Michael Cullen, a member of the Government's Constitutional Advisory Panel, goes out of his way not to frighten the horses today with: No need for constitutional alarm.

And internal Maori politics is, of course, about much more than who gets to walk next to the PM. The 'most significant hui in decades' for Waikato-Tainui tribal members is being held this week at Ngaruawahia after the Maori King asked for an 'open and frank' discussion over the future of the Kingitanga - see Elton Smallman's Maori King calls hui on Kingitanga's future.

As with the debate over the future of the Kingitanga, the trivial but fractious tensions today over the Harawira family and protocols illustrates once again just how diverse and often divided Maoridom is. Another reminder of this, can be seen in the latest Te Karere DigiPoll, which shows the following breakdown of party support: Labour 34%, Maori Party 28%, National 9%, Greens 8%, and NZ First and Mana both 6% - see Claire Trevett's Mny Maori unclear of Labour leader - poll. Labour's lead in this poll is somewhat dampened by the fact that so few Maori Labour supporters know who the party leader is.

David Shearer also receives some poor publicity in today's Dominion Post editorial, Faltering leader versus government in rut, which declares that the leader is 'on probation' and hardly looking like a winner. Matthew Hooton in contrast backs his chances, and gives Shearer some strongly worded advice: Cunliffe's throat must now be cut.

In other recent articles of interest:

• The debate over how much a government should get its hands dirty in the economy continues with Matthew Hooton claiming Hands-on economies are dying. But it's the choice of intervention targets that Dave Armstrong has a problem with as he mourns more manufacturing job losses: 'this is the same "hands off" government which bailed out South Canterbury Finance investors, which gave taxpayer money to private schools to integrate, and which changed our industrial legislation so Hollywood movies could be made here' - see: New Zealand's sad manufacturing problem.

• Did a family friendship have anything to do with appointment of a top-level state job against official advice? See David Fisher's Judith Collins picked husband's friend. No Right Turn thinks the position of Director of Human Rights Proceedings has to be politically independent - see: Corrupting the judicial system.

• Whatever happened to Rodney Hide? He's busy writing interesting columns on politics and society from a reinvigorated rightwing perspective - see his latest: A Southern slave owner vs the modern democratic state and State fails students with costly Soviet style system.

• The release of the Labour and Green parties' housing policies have sparked a debate on how well they can work together in government - see The Standard's Living together and David Kennedy's The Labour/Green Relationship. But John Armstrong says that Labour should steer well clear of the Greens 'huge state house building programme in drag' - see: Warning flashes from a housing nightmare.

• Do those who run New Zealand come from private schools? In terms of judiciary, yes. Four out of five Supreme Court judges went to private schools - see Kelsey Fletcher's Two schools of thought on education options.

• We rank 8th in the world for press freedom according to Reporters without Borders, the only non-European country in the top 10 - see: NZ rises in press freedom ranking.

• Domestic power prices have doubled in real terms over the past 30 years according to Victoria University researcher Geoff Bertram, while commercial prices have dropped - see: The 30-year power price hike.

• There is a useful summary of initial reaction to Seven Sharp's first show Seven Sharp reaction: 'Telethon but with the news'. And Toby Manhire gives a balanced reaction in Seven good things about Seven Sharp's debut. And seven less good. But if you missed the show, watch Heather du Plessis-Allan's 'fluffy' Intimate tour around the PM's private office, toilet and Parliament.

• Finally, reflections on Paul Holmes are numerous. Those who knew and worked with him, unsurprisingly, reflect on the man as they knew him, such as Tim Watkin in From Dennis Connor to Dotcom: Paul Holmes remembered and Matt McCarten's Sir Paul signs off with a smile. Others have taken a more distanced approach, looking at his impact on the media. Holmes' undoubted talents were usually a conservative force in our media writes Chris Trotter in Requiescat in pace, Sir Paul Holmes. Russell Brown does a good job of putting his career in context in The Next Act, tracing the history right up to Seven Sharp.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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