Barry Soper: Labour's Matariki promise a deft political move

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 9 Sep 2020, 9:16AM
Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Barry Soper: Labour's Matariki promise a deft political move

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 9 Sep 2020, 9:16AM

The Prime Minister's proclamation of a 12th public holiday for New Zealand was a deft political move.

Jacinda Ardern's got to be in a position to form a Government to implement it, but if you were laying bets she'd have to be an odds-on favourite.

It's almost 50 years ago that the last public holiday was created, Waitangi Day which was for a short while renamed New Zealand Day to make it more representative.

There's no mistaking the reasoning behind Matariki, it's a Maori celebration of their New Year which in recent years has certainly been growing in recognition.

But then so has Labour's awareness that to retain the Treasury benches it relies on retaining the Maori vote which at times it seems to have forgotten.  

It was seen to have dropped the ball at its annual conference as last year drew to a close, choosing Claire Szabo as President over Tane Phillips, the party's long serving Maori vice President, and union organiser, who was the clear favourite with the party's growing Maori contingent.

There are 13 current members of the party's Maori caucus in Parliament with another seven Maori knocking at the door this election. Labour now holds all seven of the Maori seats with the demise of the Maori Party at the last election but the defeated party's standing candidates in all seven seats next month and has even managed to talk its way into a television debate.

Labour, and in particular Jacinda Ardern, threw themselves into the land occupation at Ihumatao, preventing the legal owners Fletchers from beginning its house building project. More than a year later that's still unresolved and so is the frustration of Maori, although the MPs who rely on Labour for their jobs are fiercely loyal to Ardern.

Maori caucus chair Willy Jackson has become her cheerleader just last month declaring her "an angel." Jackson said their natural instinct was to fight and scrap with the opposition.   "And she just somehow gets us away from all that, she has got that old style where we are better, we don't have to engage, we don't have to pass information, we don't have to tell on other MPs, we are better."

Few if any Maori would argue with Ardern's decision on Matariki even if businesses who will have to pay the price for the new public holiday would.

Ardern will be hoping Matariki, which signals the aligning of the stars in the depth of winter, will be enough for them to remain sparkling for her this election.