M?ori politics is the politics of the M?ori people, who were the original inhabitants of New Zealand and who are now the country's largest minority. Before the arrival of P?keh? (Europeans) in New Zealand, M?ori society was based largely around tribal units, and chiefs (rangatira) provided political leadership. With the British settlers of the 19th century came a new British-style government. From the outset, M?ori sought representation within this government, seeing it as a vital way to promote their people's rights and improve living standards. Modern M?ori politics can be seen as a subset of New Zealand politics in general, but has a number of distinguishing features, including advocacy for indigenous rights and M?ori sovereignty. Many M?ori politicians are members of major, historically European-dominated political parties, but several M?ori parties have been formed.
Before the arrival of P?keh? (European settlers) in New Zealand, M?ori society was based largely around communal units. A common misconception is that pre-colonial M?ori governance was structured into the "rigid and static structural models" (p. 19) proposed by early ethnologists, such as Elsdon Best (1934):
The tribal organisation of the Maori included three different groups - the tribe (iwi), the clan (hapu), and the family group (whanau).... The clan or sub-tribe was composed of a number of family groups, and the sum of the clans (hapu) formed the tribe. (p. 89)
Twentieth century research "modified this model of tribal organisation, emphasising the role of the hap? ... as the largest effective corporate group which defended a territory or worked together in peaceful enterprises" (p. 19). Therefore, it is now understood that hap? were responsible for administering resources, land, and important community buildings, and were also responsible for warfare (particularly maintaining the waka). The iwi typically functioned more as a federation than as an administrative structure.
Political leadership or governance in M?ori society has traditionally come from two different groups of people - the Ariki and the Rangatira. The Ariki are "persons of the highest rank and seniority" (p. 58). Ariki did not operate in simple hierarchical orgranisations; despite what later "government officers were inclined to believe", Ariki have never been "the apex of a structured hierarchy of institutionalised tribal authority" (p. 264). Many positions overlap with Ariki holding multiple roles, including "head of an iwi, the rangatira of a hapu and the kaumatua of a whanau" (p. 197).
The Rangatira are the hereditary M?ori leaders of hap?, often described by Europeans as chieftains. They are typified by their "humility, leadership, diplomacy, generosity, integrity and honesty" (p. 4).
A constitution for New Zealand between M?ori and the British Crown was signed in 1835 with the drawing up and agreement of the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand. The M?ori-language document is often referred to as He Whakaputanga. The full M?ori name is He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni. This was a way for M?ori tribal groups to assert their authority to the wider world and strengthen an alliance with Great Britain. He Whakaputenga partly came out of lawlessness amongst British subjects in New Zealand and on the British side was a response to French colonial competition.
In 1840 The Treaty of Waitangi, signed between various M?ori iwi and the British Crown, had the practical effect of transferring sovereignty to the United Kingdom. The M?ori language version had a different intent in which the M?ori who signed agreed share power and authority with the British Governor whilst retaining authority over their people and territories.
As settlement increased, the colonists became increasingly vocal in their call for self-government, separate from Great Britain. Eventually, in 1852, the British government passed the New Zealand Constitution Act, establishing an elected New Zealand Parliament. Responsible government, where this Parliament had the authority to appoint Cabinet, was achieved a few years later. At first, M?ori had little interest in the new Parliament, seeing it as a P?keh? institution with no real relevance to them. Later, however, there was an increasing desire by M?ori to participate in Parliament - the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, coupled with ongoing land seizures, convinced many M?ori that the "settler Parliament" now had a major impact on them, and that their voices needed to be heard in it.
In theory, there was never any law barring M?ori from election to Parliament, nor barring them from voting. In practice, however, other laws made it virtually impossible. The major stumbling block was the property qualification, which required voters to own a certain amount of land. While M?ori owned a large portion of New Zealand, most of this was held in common, not under individual title. As such, few individual M?ori met the property requirement personally - even if they were part-owners of vast amounts of land, they did not have any land which they owned exclusively, and so did not qualify to vote.
In 1867, however, Parliament passed the Maori Representation Act, which created four special electorates for M?ori. These seats did not have a property qualification. The creation of the seats was controversial, being opposed by those P?keh? who saw M?ori as uncivilised. It was also opposed by a small group which felt that by creating separate M?ori electorates, M?ori would be sidelined, as P?keh? politicians would not have to consult M?ori opinion as they would if M?ori voted in general electorates. There was also debate about the number of seats - if M?ori had been given a number of seats equivalent to their population, they would have had around fifteen seats, not four. One of the more radical MPs in Parliament, James FitzGerald, actually called for M?ori to be given a third of the seats in Parliament, but this was widely seen as excessive. In the end, the seats were approved based mainly on a desire to improve relations with M?ori and reduce military conflict. The first M?ori MPs took their seats in 1868.
What are these four to do among so many Pakehas; where will their voices be as compared with the Pakeha voices?
Ng?puhi prophet ?perahama Taonui protesting that M?ori were only to have four seats
It was intended that these seats would eventually be abolished as M?ori abandoned traditional land ownership traditions. In the end, however, the seats were retained, and still exist today. There have, over the years, been a number of attempts to abolish them, with a number of different reasons being given - some said that reserving seats was unfair, while others said that keeping M?ori electorates separate meant that M?ori were marginalised and ignored by mainstream politicians. Many M?ori politicians defended the electorates, saying that they were necessary to ensure M?ori representation in Parliament. Other M?ori leaders, however, said that the seats were not required - there have been M?ori politicians who have gained election in non-M?ori electorates.
When M?ori MPs were first elected to Parliament, there were no formal political parties in New Zealand. After the Liberal Party was founded, however, it gained the support of a number of prominent M?ori figures. The most prominent M?ori to serve as a Liberal MP was ?pirana Ngata, who rose high within the Liberal Party's hierarchy. Ngata is said by many to be the most prominent M?ori MP ever, and he is featured on New Zealand's fifty-dollar bill. The Liberal Party did not have an exclusive control of the M?ori electorates, however - Maui Pomare, another prominent M?ori politician, was a member of the conservative and rural Reform Party, as were Taurekareka Henare and Taite Te Tomo. The Young M?ori Party supported political action, but it was not a formal party.
In the 1930s, new movements began to arise in M?ori politics. In particular, the Ratana church expanded its political participation, standing candidates for Parliament. In the 1935 election, Ratana won two of the four M?ori electorates. The Ratana MPs did not remain independent for long, however - they quickly merged into the Labour Party, which they saw as best addressing M?ori needs. By 1943, the Labour/Ratana alliance had won all four M?ori electorates, establishing a pattern of dominance that many people thought was unbreakable. Among the most prominent M?ori MPs in the Labour Party were Eruera Tirikatene, who was succeeded by his daughter, Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan - both represented Southern Maori in Parliament for several decades.
Despite Labour's dominance of the M?ori vote, the National Party, Labour's main opponent, occasionally elected M?ori MPs in general electorates. Ben Couch (Wairarapa) and Rex Austin (Awarua), were elected in 1975, the second and third M?ori elected to a general seat (after Sir James Carroll in 1893). Winston Peters, elected to Tauranga in 1984 (he had previously stood for Northern Maori) is half M?ori.
In the 1996 election, a major shift in M?ori politics occurred when Labour lost all the M?ori electorates (of which there were now five) to the New Zealand First party. New Zealand First, while not a M?ori party, has a strong M?ori wing, and its leader, Winston Peters (originally of the National Party), is half M?ori. New Zealand First's clean sweep of the M?ori electorates surprised many observers, who had believed that Labour's grip was too strong to be broken. In the 1999 election, Labour won all the M?ori electorates back again, but the traditional M?ori allegiance to Labour has been re-evaluated - Labour cannot, most observers say, simply take M?ori support for granted.
Since the advent of the MMP electoral system, M?ori representation in Parliament has increased - M?ori are able to be elected as list MPs, bypassing the problem of securing an electorate. This has been particularly noticeable in parties which have traditionally contained few M?ori - MPs such as Georgina te Heuheu in the National Party and Donna Awatere Huata in the ACT party are not likely to have entered Parliament without MMP, given the difficulty that their parties would face contesting the M?ori electorates. At present, there are twenty nine M?ori MPs in Parliament, with Labour taking all six M?ori electorate seats after the 2017 election, which also saw the loss of all M?ori Party seats. M?ori make up around 24% of Parliament, with 8 Maori MPs in the National Party, 13 in the Labour Party (including the M?ori electorate seats), 6 in New Zealand First, 1 in the Green Party, and 1 in Act. The introduction of MMP brought further calls for the abolition of the M?ori electorates, which many deemed unnecessary in the new system.
Despite the existence of the special electorates, M?ori voter turnout has been consistently less than that of non-M?ori.
Throughout the history of M?ori participation in mainstream parties, there have been those who argue that M?ori cannot truly be represented unless they have a separate group. In recent years, with the resurgence of M?ori culture, these calls have increased. In 1979, a Labour MP, Matiu Rata, quit the party to form his own group, saying that M?ori could not succeed if they were simply a component of a larger group. Later, Tuariki Delamere would say much the same thing, claiming that "you cannot be accountable to M?ori if your first allegiance is to a political vehicle that is owned and controlled by P?keh?." Tariana Turia broke from the Labour Party to co-found the new M?ori Party, which won four of the seven M?ori electorates in the 2005 election which were held by the Labour party, and a fifth M?ori seat in the 2008 election. The M?ori Party entered a confidence and supply agreement with the Fifth National Government in 2008 and two of its MPs became Ministers outside Cabinet in that Government. This government was dissolved after the 2017 Election, in which the M?ori Party lost all their seats in parliament and all M?ori Electorate seats were captured by the mainstream Labour Party.
Below are some of the parties which have been based around M?ori voters, or which are sometimes seen as such.
Mana Motuhake, roughly translated as "self-government", was founded in 1979 as an independent M?ori party by Labour MP Matiu Rata. Rata resigned from Parliament to contest a by-election under Mana Motuhake's banner, but was not re-elected. The party tried for some time to win the M?ori electorates, but was never elected to Parliament. In 1991, Mana Motuhake joined the Alliance, a broad left-wing coalition. Under the Alliance, several Mana Motuhake members, including Sandra Lee-Vercoe and Willie Jackson, were elected to Parliament. When the Alliance split, Mana Motuhake remained with the hardline faction, which failed to retain any seats in Parliament. Mana Motuhake has since left the Alliance.
The Mana M?ori Movement was founded by Eva Rickard, a former candidate of Mana Motuhake. Rickard objected to the decision by Mana Motuhake to join the Alliance, believing that a completely independent M?ori party was required. Mana M?ori contested the M?ori electorates, but never won a place in Parliament. In the most recent election, it worked in coalition with Te Tawharau and Piri Wiri Tua.
Mana Wahine Te Ira Tangata, founded by former Alliance (Mana Motuhake) MP Alamein Kopu, stated its goal as promoting and protecting the interests of M?ori women. Many of its opponents, however, claimed that the party was born out of Kopu's "opportunism", and denied that it had any real ideological commitment. Kopu was not re-elected.
Mauri Pacific, founded by five former New Zealand First MPs, denied that it was a M?ori party, saying instead that it was merely "multiculturalist". It did, however, have policies that were strongly favourable towards M?ori, and three of its five MPs (including its leader) were of M?ori descent. This contributed to a widespread perception of it as a M?ori party. The similarity of "Mauri" and "M?ori" likely strengthened this view, although the words are unrelated. None of the party's MPs were re-elected, and it has since dissolved.
Te Tawharau is a small M?ori party which briefly held a seat in Parliament when Tuariki Delamere, a former New Zealand First MP, joined it. Delamere believed that an independent M?ori voice was essential, saying that New Zealand First had tried and failed to balance M?ori interests with other concerns. Delamere was not re-elected.
The M?ori Party is a M?ori political organisation. It was founded by Tariana Turia, a Labour MP who quit her party over the foreshore and seabed controversy, which Turia claims is seeing M?ori deprived of their rights. She shared the party leadership with Pita Sharples, a M?ori academic. The M?ori Party hoped to win all seven M?ori electorates in the next election, in 2005, although eventually won only four. Polls leading up to the election widely expected this - particularly for Labour MPs Nanaia Mahuta and Parekura Horomia to hold their seats. The party gained another seat in the 2008 election, although their share of the party vote remained low, with many M?ori voters splitting their vote between a M?ori Party MP and the Labour Party.
After the 2008 election, the M?ori Party agreed to support a minority National government on matters of confidence and supply, gaining ministerial posts for its co-leaders and commitments regarding the M?ori electorates and the foreshore and seabed legislation. In 2011, the M?ori Party won three out of the seven M?ori electorates - both co-leaders winning their electorates (Pita Sharples - T?maki Makaurau, and Tariana Turia - Te Tai Hau?uru) and future M?ori Party co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell, winning the Waiariki electorate. In 2014, the M?ori Party won one of seven M?ori electorates with Te Ururoa Flavell winning the Waiariki seat again. This enabled Flavell's fellow co-leader Marama Fox to enter Parliament as a List MP due to the M?ori Party reaching national vote threshold requirements.
The Mana Movement is a New Zealand political party led by Hone Harawira which was formed in April 2011 following Hone Harawira's resignation from the M?ori Party. Hone Harawira won the by-election in Te Tai Tokerau of 25 June 2011 for the Mana Party, and went on to retain this seat during the 2011 general election. The party lost its one-seat during the 2014 election. The decision to work with the Internet Party is largely blamed for the loss because of the concerns people had with Internet Party's founder, and financier, Kim Dotcom.
M?ori politics extends beyond participation within general elections. This includes government-recognised tribal organisations which have proliferated through the resolution of Treaty of Waitangi breaches and increased enthusiasm by M?ori to receive and manage these returned assets. M?ori also participate politically within iwi r?nanga, which are the governing councils or administrative groups for M?ori hap? or iwi. Often, these tribal organisations work directly with local government. For example, the Independent M?ori Statutory Board who informs the Auckland City Council, as well as ensuring the Council's compliance with statutory provisions under the Treaty of Waitangi.
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