In three years we will commemorate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's landfall at Tuuranganui, Gisborne on October 6, 1769. Back then, Maori controlled all 66 million acres of Aotearoa. Today, Maori own just three million acres, most of it underdeveloped and very little of it boasting stunning beach views.

However, it was beaches that caused the then Labour MP, Dame Tariana Turia to cross the floor of Parliament in protest at yet another raupatu; confiscation on a grand scale. The Maori Party was forged out of the fire of that single issue and it became the catalyst for a movement.

At week-long Koroneihana celebrations at Ngaruawahia recently, more than 35,000 people celebrated 10 years of Kiingi Tuheitia's reign. It was a great coming together of tribes from around the country.

This ability to draw people together has sustained the Maori King Movement for 158 years. We saw it when the Maori King called for an iwi summit on freshwater and tribal leaders converged on Tuurangawaewae Marae. We saw it again when Kiingi Tuheitia called for a hui on the Kohanga Reo movement.


To say that the Kiingitanga should be "apolitical" is to ignore the fact that the Kiingitanga was born of politics. Kiingi Mahuta, the third monarch, for example, accepted appointment to the Legislative Council and was instrumental in engineering Maui Pomare's election to Parliament.

Subsequent monarchs may have chosen different paths, but each was a product of their time. While Kiingi Tuheitia's comments about withdrawing his support from Labour have been described as "off-the-cuff", the truth is he has long deliberated on these matters. It is his belief the time for change is now.

We are witnessing a fundamental shift within Maoridom. Traditional allegiances are being questioned, not just by the Maori King but throughout 'te ao Maori', the Maori world. We can no longer rely on Maori interests being advocated from within other political parties and be dependent on their electoral fortunes.

The Maori Party represents a chance to do what was not possible before the advent of MMP: the establishment of a Maori party as a permanent fixture of government. Not as a small part of one of the major parties, but independent and able to work with either.

The Maori Party has proved its credentials as a rational and sensible partner in government and we have demonstrated our ability to secure funding for projects that are delivering for Maori. The "feast and famine" cycle that has characterised Maori participation around the Cabinet table is no longer good enough.

Significant funding has been secured in each of the past seven years of the National-led Government. Around $500m in fact, for initiatives spanning health, housing, education and training, te reo and cultural revitalisation.

We have lost some outstanding Maori leaders since the last election. Significant cultural, economic and social change for Maori has been achieved but there is still much more to do.

Aroha, respect, hard work and the desire to succeed are core values that spring from the Maori world and resonate with a growing number of New Zealanders who share our concerns about ongoing sales of large land blocks to foreigners and the exploitation of our natural resources for profits that are then sent offshore.

We must use the time before next year's election to work together to create a strong and united party. Our aim is to build significant partnerships with business and mainstream New Zealanders. We are, after all, the original "green'' party that has always been committed to protecting our environment and resources, and creating meaningful employment for our young people.

What is good for Maori is good for all New Zealanders. The Maori Party is the best vehicle by which Maori aspirations can be achieved, regardless of who is in power. It was the dream of our tupuna who created the Kiingitanga movement; that Maori and non-Maori work together to end conflict and create a better future. It is now up to us to deliver on what our ancestors dreamed of - Maori united and sharing the reins of power for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

He aha te mea nui o tenei Ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. (What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.)

Tukoroirangi Morgan is president of the Maori Party and Kahui Ariki representative on Te Arataura, the executive board of Te Whakakitenga o Waikato-Tainui, the tribal Parliament of Waikato-Tainui.