When we disagree with decisions made by the democratically elected leaders of our towns, cities or country on a highly contentious issue, we can be sanguine and reason that whatever had been decided, either one side or the other would have been disappointed.
Or – the Maori Party way of doing things, by the look of it – we can join in a physical show of strength.
Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer announced today she will be joining a protest march to Manawatū District Council led by a group of local Maori.
A disgruntled group, presumably.
This is their response to the Council voting 6-4 against the establishment of a Māori ward last week.
Ngarewa-Packer – Point of Order readers might recall – hoped the Speaker would muzzle MPs if they asked questions in Parliament about government decisions which seem suspiciously related to an agenda for Maori separatism, although supporters of such an agenda take umbrage at words like “separatism”.
Today she is vituperatively upbraiding the elected representatives of the Manawatu district for voting against a constitutional change supported by her party.
“Manawatū District Councillors have shamefully voted to uphold Pākehā dominance and undermine Māori rights to representation on local government. Once again we have a Pākehā majority deciding that they know what is best for Māori” said Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
“We have heard all the excuses in the book: fears of backlash, fears it would lead to more discrimination. One councillor even claimed to support Māori wards but decided the community wasn’t ready for it. That is political cowardice of the highest degree. Our communities have been ready for 180 years.”
And when councillors don’t support something the Maori Party is championing – well, obviously they must be racist:
“This is a leap backwards and an insult to everyone who has stood up against racism and fought so hard for Māori wards. It goes totally against the trajectory of what we are seeing elsewhere in the country. It has been truly sad to listen to the pain and indignity suffered as a result of this Council’s lack of courage,.” said Ngarewa-Packer.
To the contrary, it can take enormous courage to cast such a vote.
Drawing attention to Stuff’s somewhat emotive (and obviously disapproving) account of the vote, blogger Karl du Fresne wrote:
“Stuff’s account also shone a light on another, more visceral disincentive faced by councillors brave enough to consider voting “no”. The council chamber was reportedly crammed with “marae representatives, tamariki and mokopuna” who performed a haka ahead of the vote
“It takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude to stand firm in the face of such a highly charged demonstration, as the organisers would have known. A haka may be friendly or unfriendly, but in this type of context its effect can be intimidating.”
We imagine there will be a haka or two as the protest marchers express their dissent from the council vote.
“Te Pāti Māori acknowledges tangata whenua who have driven the campaign for Māori wards over the last decade, and all of the councillors and local politicians who have stood with us as Tiriti partners. We are calling on the Manawatū District Council reconsider their decision and stand on the right side of history.”
It’s worth noting that the Maori Party won 33,632 party votes (1.2 per cent of the total) at the general election last year.
New Zealand First won 75,632 party votes (2.6 per cent), the Opportunities Party won 43,449 votes (1.5 per cent) and the New Conservatives won 42,615 votes (1.5 per cent).
None of those three parties has a seat in Parliament.
The count of special votes secured Rawiri Waititi’s win in Waiariki, a Maori electorate, and the party vote was enough to get the Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer into Parliament.