I think we’ve had a good insight into how the Māori Party is planning to spend the next 99 days through to the election.
And that is to whip up racial tensions.
In the space of just 24 hours yesterday, they made political play out of the colonial statues, calling for an inquiry but then saying it should only include Pakeha statues and only consider Maori grievances, excluding any other ethnicity with gripes and any controversial Maori figures.
And then, new co leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer topped it off by calling new National Party leader Todd Muller a racist.
The reason? Because he launched a petition challenging a hapu fishing ban in Tauranga and because of Nationals’ lack of diversity on the front bench.
We saw the start of this approach during the lockdown with Ngarewa-Packer not only supporting the Iwi led checkpoints but actually helping to establish up in Taranaki presumably once she saw the traction the others were getting in the media.
It’s no surprise I suppose that the party is desperately trying to court headlines.
They’re only sitting around 1% in the polls and their future seems to rely almost entirely on Ngarewa-Packer taking the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate off off Labour, given the chances that her co-leader John Tamihere will take Tamaki Makaurau off Labour are slim.
International events have of course played in to the Māori Party’s hands here, with the statues debate around the world an easy thing to import to New Zealand for headlines.
But its’ a pity that this is the approach that the Maori Party has taken. Because it’s divisive. While it might’ve suited Hamilton City Council to nip the story in the bud and take the Hamilton statue down asap, it has opened a can of worms that will now lead to big questions about whether to change the city’s name to Kirikiriroa. That’s only likely to make both sides of the debate angry all over again, and divide opinion.
Clearly the Maori party’s taken the lesson that constructive politics doesn't apply. The previous co-leaders Dr Pita Sharples and Dame Tariana Turia might've done a lot for the Maori community’s economic improvement with policies like Whanau Ora, but they ended up booted out of politics.
So the move this time around is not to be constructive, but to drive division.