Definition of a Māori MP
Identifying the difference between a Māori MP and a MP who is Māori is vital to ascertain real Māori representation in parliament both historically and today.
Post 2017 election, the media are stating that Māori have more representation than ever before. The purpose of this short post is to raise awareness of the such comments.
When defining what is a Māori MP, we must not define what a Māori is. Paparangi Reid (as cited in Kahukiwa, Irwin, & Ramsden, 1995) asserts such classifications as a “cultural closet”. By beginning to classify what is a Māori we run the risk of blood quantum argument of which there is no returning. Dr Don Brash often speaks of Māori blood quantum in the media, he also does not understand Indigenous issues as is evident with his opinion that (Sparrow, J. 2010) reinforced the need to remove Māori representative seats. Dr Brash does have some useful points about the lack of Māori achievement which reinforces the need for more Māori MP’s and and political parties who stand in the Māori seats. The same discussion about what is a Māori MP will likely be valuable to other Indigenous Peoples when identifying and discussing their own Indigenous representation.
Māori viewed Māori MPs as a way to fight for equality and representation in New Zealand society and not as kūpapa who fought alongside New Zealand government forces in land wars. Historically Māori who cooperated with the New Zealand government were given a derogatory title of kūpapa. Even as late as 1969, Māori who were employed in government jobs were treated with some distain (Winiata & Fraenkel, 1967). Historically, Māori MPs were categorised differently as they were seen as representing local Māori and giving Māori a voice in parliament. Moon (2006) states that in Northland, Māori school children attended Native Schools in substantial numbers, there was a history of intermarriage between Māori and European and Māori members of Parliament were looked at, by and large as representatives of local Māori interests, rather than collaborators of a hostile European regime (p. 61).
While MP’s of Māori descent are expected to represent all of their constituents regardless of culture. Simon Bridges MP (as cited in Bargh 2010) states “Māori in general seats are different to the other” and “In Māori seats one can run being solely or mostly for Māori interests. Such a position is impossible in general seats, where you represent everyone”. Winston Peters in his 1979 Parliament maiden speech also made a compelling statement “I am a New Zealander, I am a Māori, and I am also a lawyer”. John Tamihere argued that “you can’t find a person of Māori descent in the general seats who can positively advance Māori related matters (MaraeTV September 10 2017).
In contrast to what a Māori MP is, the publication “Point of Order Mr Speaker” considers all MPs of Māori descent t as Māori MPS. MPs of Māori descent included in the publication are: Paula Bennett, Te Ururoa Flavell, Hone Harawira, Tau Henare, Shane Jones, Nanaia Mahuta, Hekia Parata, and Metiria Turei (Katene & Katene, 2017). It could be argued that not all of these MPs are Māori MPs, especially if an MP chose not identify as Māori most of their lives.
There is a large risk of identifying MPs of Māori descent as Māori MPs when deciding if there is Māori representation in the parliament. Having whakapapa does not mean you will identify, lobby and fight for Māori rights. It is however a convenient colonial way to say that more Māori are in parliament and that there is no need for Māori seats.
- Bargh, M. (2010). Māori and Parliament: diverse strategies and compromises. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia.Bargh, M. (2010). Māori and Parliament: diverse strategies and compromises. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia.
- Kahukiwa, R., Irwin, K., & Ramsden, I. M. (1995). Toi wahine: the worlds of Māori women. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin.
- Katene, S., & Katene, R. H. (2017). Point of Order, Mr Speaker?: modern Māori political leaders. Wellington: Huia Publishers.
- Moon, P. (2006). Ngāpua: the political life of Hōne Heke Ngāpua, MHR. Auckland, New Zealand: David Ling.
- Sparrow, J. (2010). The Truth about the Māori Seats. (Bachelor of Laws (Honours)), Otago, Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/research/journals/otago036316.pdf
- Winiata, M., & Fraenkel, M. (1967). The changing role of the leader in Māori society: a study in social change and race relations. Auckland, New Zealand: Blackwood and Janet Paul.
Note: This is an extract from a paper on Māori Political Representation prepared for and submitted to Canterbury University for the qualification of Master of Māori and Indigenous Leadership.