If tangata whenua want their voices heard, they should vote for a party that's ready to listen..
My good friend and fellow columnist Bob Jones last month called the cry for compulsory te reo a waste of money and time. I agree with the compulsory part but not the idea of us becoming a one-language society. If people want to learn Maori, Hebrew, Zulu, then it makes for a richer society.
I was raised in Rotorua, New Zealand's No1 tourist destination. It is Maori culture that brings the tourists. The Tamaki brothers run a very successful "authentic Maori village experience" operation just out of Rotorua. Whaka village gives the thermal experience as well as Maori culture. The Maori Arts and Crafts Institute gives a deeper insight to the culture. I still love the All Blacks' haka, which all New Zealanders have adopted as their own, in schools, sports teams, or just expressing being Kiwis at some overseas event.
The Maori language, with every word ending in a vowel, lends itself beautifully to group or choral singing, like Italian does to opera. Maori spoken by a good orator in a meeting house is an aural joy of complex rhythms and subtle tones. Maoris do funerals better than non-Maori; the grieving process is fully expressed, in tears, speeches and songs. Their koha system means the bereaved family is spared the burden of funeral costs and feeding several hundred mourners.
I'll never forget the singing at the Whaka Rugby Club rooms in Rotorua when not just players but most of the community, minus the children, joined in. We sang many different kinds of popular music, or Western songs with Maori lyrics. But they felt Maori.
And it was a distinct Maori flavour that gave this singing its emotion and power, Maori genes that had everyone singing in perfect tune and four-part harmony, a natural rhythm on accompanying guitars, and one guy played "sax" on the broken end of a beer bottle with stunning verisimilitude.
At tangis held at Whaka over the years, I remember wonderful group singing of hymns in Maori, farewell "Maori" songs which were adopted from English, and traditional half-tone karakia. Sir Howard Morrison and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa both sang recorded versions of Hine, e Hine, a Western melody given Maori words by Te Rangi Pai in 1907. Both singers have made Maori feel proud.
At a Duffy Books in Homes fundraiser in Auckland last July, about 700 paying guests were entertained by some superb singing by a primary school of Pacific Islanders, followed by the Maori Hostel Auckland Grammar boys who sang magnificently Circle of Life from The Lion King, and were splendid specimens of physique and good looks. I think in 20-30 years we'll be one Kiwi race of mixed-bloods and a fine-looking lot to boot. I look at my own mixed-blood extended family and most are knockouts.
I was initially strongly opposed to the Maori Party on the grounds that race-based politics do us no good. Now, reasonable arguments and events have persuaded me otherwise. Two elections ago, I gave my electorate vote to a mate running for the Maori Party, though I still had my doubts at the time. I have a close Pakeha friend who gives them substantial financial support. Why?
He says at this stage of our nation's development, their voices must be heard. As a partner of National they spoke with one united voice; everything they did was in the interests of the Maori people. Maoris who represent National, Labour, Internet-Mana, owe loyalty firstly to their party.
And in at least one case, to the egos and whims of their leaders. This will not serve Maoridom well. Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have, as Matthew Hooton said, made one of the most significant achievements for Maori since colonisation. Internet-Mana advancing all Maori or even the people of Tai Tokerau? I doubt it.
My friend says there is no such thing as a successful people, organisation, business or country where the leader's ego is about himself. Tariana and Pita never preened, slammed doors, sulked, stormed out, or racially insulted people. They sat down and discussed and argued as mature people. One advantage Maoris have over other indigenous people is they speak the same language. So we can have disharmony but not the gulf of different tongues. Having a Maori Party actually says complimentary things about our country, our tolerance, our willingness to give something a try. Our best movies virtually all have a Maori theme and Maori actors. The Maori race is not going to die out.
If Maori want their voices genuinely heard, they should vote for the Maori Party. Not lone Maori voices representing their party. Nor a pit bull, a German shepherd and a spaniel hunting as a disparate pack. Maori candidates for the other main parties are fated to have a diluted effect, if any, for the cause of Maori advancement.