Why the Maori Party would stop National forming a Government
By Richard Harman (author)
Last night’s TVOne Colmar Brunton poll shows that only Labour has viable options to form a Government.
That’s because the Maori Party will effectively hold the balance of power and they will not join a Government with NZ First.
National hopes that NZ First might drop and that vote go to them have not been realised.
On last night’s poll, National cannot form a Government without NZ First plus the Maori Party.
In an interview with POLITIK, Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says that is highly unlikely to happen.
Flavell has always said the Maori Party wanted a permanent seat at the table of Government.
But he told POLITIK yesterday that he would be prepared to go into Opposition rather than join a Government with NZ First.
However, on the poll results, Labour could form a Government with just NZ First without the Maori Party.
And certainly NZ First and Labour are looking much more comfortable with each other.
Labour Leader, Jacinda Ardern, yesterday visited Rotorua’s old Waipa State Mill --- now privatised and known as the Red Stag mill --- to announce that Labour would re-establish the Forest Service and base it in Rotorua.
NZ First Leader Winston Peters immediately accused Labour of “stealing” NZ First policy.
“It’s only nine days since New Zealand First organised a major forestry industry roundtable in Whangarei,” he said.
“We've long had the policy to revitalise the forestry industry and restore the Forest Services, disbanded by the Labour government in 1987.
“That was followed by National selling off most of the state forests in the 1990s.
“We’ve had the Forests (NZ Forestry Service) Amendment Bill in Parliament for some time.”
Labour’s policy is interventionist and includes putting up $20 million to build a pre fabricated wooden house plant in Gisborne; prioritise wood in all Government buildings including Kiwibuild houses and require the sale of logging rights over more than 50 hectares to be approved by the Overseas Investment Office.
Peters would, among other things, require forest owners to to have Annual Allowable Cuts under quota to avoid the depletion of plantation forestry and could put restrictions on the export of logs by making exporters apply for permits on a year-by-year basis.
Both parties are aiming at the commodity log export trade and trying to restore more processing to New Zealand.
Ardern would not go as far as Peters.
“What we are making sure is that we can try and guarantee supply by making sure that we have timber here available that isn’t being bought up by land or by cutting rights to immediately be taken offshore,” she said.
But if Ardern’s willingness to embrace an NZ First policy is an indication that she would consider forming a Government with them then she would immediately face a problem with the Maori Party.
Flavell is opposed to NZ First.
"For a party that promotes as a bottom line to have a referendum for the whole country over the continuation of the Maori seats is unpalatable to us," he told POLITIK.
“For them to want to get rid of Maori wards (on Councils) or not even move to that notion is not compatible with where we sit.
“Their desire to get rid of Treaty principles in legislation does not fit well with us.
“And the fact that they haven’t supported a number of Treaty Bills despite the fact that iwi have clearly statted their position just adds up to a point where if there are parties that are going to be having discussions with them over the formation of the Government it would be very hard for us, very difficult for us, to sit in that position.”
Flavell said he would expect that parties would approach the Maori Party and at that point, we would have to make a judgement call about whether we could live with a party which they were negotiating with which wanted to abolish the Maori seats.
“I’m willing to escalate that to our national executive, and I'm willing to say I'd be worried about that and that presents the whole notion about whether we would be willing to sit in opposition,” he said.
“That’s not necessarily where we want to be, but it's just a contradiction top sit with another party which is all about destroying you especially as a bottom line as a aprt of their negotiations.”
And Flavell is also getting a strong message from Maori voters about the party's current supply and confidence agreement with National.
“There seem to be issues around homelessness, housing, poverty and questioning about whether the National Party has been able to come to grips with those social issues.
"There's a big fight on about tax and the big hole and all that sort of stuff, but on the ground, in the Maori communities, the bread and butter issues are about things like whether there's enough money on the table and having a house.
"And there's concern for others because many people are okay, but they think of others in Maori communities who don't."
.Flavell said that particularly in the smaller communities there were issues about work and employment but also “P” and suicide.
So has the Government been getting this message and dealing these issues?
"No, the general message has been that we are not dealing with it enough.
Flavell said he had been in meetings with the Prime Minister who said he wanted to get to the actual people experiencing these problems.
“But it seems it’s not getting the cut through and not getting down to the people.
“I’m prepared to back the notion that he is promoting and that is to find those people and deal with them, to make changes to real lives, and it's just that we need more time."
Overall, if National got back, Flavell would like to see more urgency applied to addressing Maori homelessness, housing and poverty.
He is confident that the party will do well in the electorate seats and yesterday afternoon in Tauranga he was worried that the party was not making similar into rads with its party vote.
But last night's poll showed that the party had gone up to 2% --- if it can get another half a percent beyond that then that would guarantee three MPs.
And that would be enough for it to be a de facto kingmaker who could only be pushed to the sidelines if Labour elected to go with NZ First only.
In that case, the Government would be likely to find a very strident opposition voice from the Maori Party.