Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: There is no 'I' in team

By Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

I hope the co-leader of the Maori Party Dr Pita Sharples is enjoying the summer break with family and friends. I hope too that he is using the time to consider his retirement from the leadership position.

As co-leaders of the Maori Party, Pita and Tariana Turia have been an effective and convincing partnership. Their mutual respect for each other is evident.

This is born of old-fashioned values and living tikanga Maori. They brought grass roots knowledge of New Zealand society and hands on work experience in this area to Parliament. I doubt there are many in the House today that can top their knowledge of the New Zealand psyche.

The Maori Party has never beaten around the bush. Tariana made it clear why she started the party. Maori needed a political voice and things must change for them. The party would raise issues concerning Maori that had been neglected for decades by the two major political parties.

Essentially nothing much had changed for Maori, although millions of dollars had been thrown at government departments charged with making a difference.

They never did and every year they were never held accountable.

Tariana remains convinced that Maori do best when left to uplift and encourage themselves and wants the Government out of Maori homes. When they're not adding value why would you want these departments and agencies around? The Maori Party also wanted to shift the focus to solutions rather than the continual highlighting of Maori failure.

Sadly this can sometimes become self fulfilling.

After a decade the Maori Party has made their mark. By entering into an arrangement with the National Government and accepting Minister and Associate Minister positions both Tariana and Pita have travelled extensively throughout the country.

With their speaking engagements they have raised the consciousness of New Zealanders.

Thousands of people now know of the issues affecting not only Maori but the whole of New Zealand society. They have been prepared to give credit where credit is due but have also challenged inaction, unfairness and inequality in access to services. Ironically this awareness raising has been particularly beneficial to Pakeha.

People don't know what they don't know and both co-leaders have presented the stark facts about decades of poor government policy that has added and compounded problems rather than delivering lasting solutions.

Tariana has recently signalled she intends to stand down at the 2014 election. Not for her the continual clinging to leadership. I think she is right to let the party members know now. They have time for a planned leadership transition. I think Pita should leave at the same time too. When one half of a persuasive team calls it a day I don't believe the other half will be as effective should he decide to hang in there.

The time is right for a leadership change and a perceptive leader knows that. There will always be unfinished business for politicians, whether from local or central government. After 12 years as co-leader Tariana will have made a significant valuable contribution as leader of a political party.

She can now step back and allow others the opportunity to make theirs. I would expect MP for Waiariki Te Ururoa Flavell to become the next co-leader of the Maori Party, if they are going to continue to have co-leadership positions. He has earned the job. He is a hard-working member of the Maori Party team and comes from the same values base as Tariana and Pita.

Last year I got to know Te Ururoa when we shared a weekly talkback radio show. I like him and believe he would do a very good job. He is up for the challenge.

But if Pita will not step down as co-leader and retire as a MP in 2014 I would encourage Te Ururoa to move on. You must get hoha being the groomsman and never the groom.

Leadership is not a popularity contest. It is hard work and should never just be "about me". Tariana knows that.

You have to continually scan the horizon and develop strategy to keep things moving forward. I'm sure over the years there have been times when Tariana would have done some things differently with hindsight. There always are. But this is not one of them. She is right on the money. Hopefully Pita will be of the same opinion.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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