There's been a lot of humbug by successive parliaments over the years about insisting that their departments give lip service to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi at national level and lots of touchy feely stuff about iwi consultation at local level. We know it's all grand hyprocrisy.
At local government level it means councils setting up so-called advisory committees to pretend to be listening to the local tangata whenua before any major decisions are made. The smarter councils pay retainers to those they consult and that seems to keep in check any potential restlessness from the treaty partners.
So I was rather impressed when the Royal Commission on the Supercity insisted in having two places on the new council for representatives elected by the voters on the Maori electoral roll. This ensures that a Maori perspective is heard and there are leaders, elected by universal mandate, sitting as equals at the table every time a decision is made.
I thought the addition of a separate representative, with full councillor status, selected and accountable to the local iwi through a standing committee was intelligent and creative in giving real meaning to partnership with local iwi.
After all, having a seat at the table reserved for the local tangata whenua as of right is the least we can do, considering they once owned all the land that Aucklanders now occupy.
Of course, the National Party and Act hangers-on weren't going to like the two recommendations; they announced during the election that they would abolish the Maori parliamentary seats. I assumed it was just cynical campaign posturing to motivate their red-neck base.
This was borne out when neither of these parties had said boo about following through on their threat after the Maori Party accepted John Key's invitation to prop up his centre-right government.
This week the Maori Party got a rude awakening as to what even a so-called moderate National actually thinks about the role of Maori when it comes to political power. Even Key couldn't keep up the fiction forever that ultimately the National and the Maori Party constituencies have very little in common. This coalition arrangement is nothing more than clever strategy in which both parties have benefited.
Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples got their baubles of office and some influence. Key can rule without them but having them sharing his Cabinet trough gives him ongoing coalition options when the electoral gap between Labour and National inevitably closes at the next election.
But the real plus for Key is that having the Maori Party on side keeps Labour off balance in the Maori seats and probably takes about 2 per cent off Labour's list vote.
Act was never going to support Maori having an independent voice on the new council. But I thought Key may have been able to fudge it through. But of course it was never realistic for his colleagues in the Cabinet to uphold the royal commission's recommendations. This is realpolitik as it really is.
The Maori Party has always trusted personal relationships rather than accepting some unpalatable political realities. Winston Peters learned to his cost that the Nats don't blink if they feel it's in their interest to shaft their coalition partner, no matter how unprincipled it is. That's exactly what's happening here.
Does anyone believe that the new Auckland City structure will result in any independent Maori advocate being elected? There are no Maori on the present Auckland City Council or the current regional council. Out of the almost 250 current local body representatives, fewer than 10 are Maori, and none of them ran on a platform of being a voice for Maori.
Anyone who knows anything about elections knows that in a postal vote with multi-candidates, most people vote for representatives they feel comfortable with. It's not something we admit to but we vote for people like us. That means we elect people with Anglo-Saxon names. Anybody with a Maori or foreign-sounding names misses out unless they have an already high public profile. In local body, being a woman and having a "Kiwi" sounding name high in the alphabet is a good start.
Key's comments this week that a Maori advisory committee is more influential and democratic than having councillors elected by Maori is measurably untrue. Until now Key has always come across as decent and honest. I accept if you are a majority group you'll always argue that everyone should be the same. But as we know in reality it just means we all pretend we are Pakeha and live in the rich suburbs.
Key's disingenuous justification is understandable but please don't pretend it's good for Maori. This is the first time I've seen a slimy side to Key and it's not a good look.
There was a real chance that Maori interests would sit at a council table with equal say. But National and Act know their supporters wouldn't buy it and acted accordingly.
The Maori Party's so-called allies shafted Maori in the interests of their own constituency. If the Maori Party didn't know it before, it certainly has got it now. Whether it's National or Labour in government they will act in the interests of Pakeha whenever there's a conflict of interest.By Matt McCarten Email Matt