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Have you noticed that when Jacinda’s government is forced to make concessions under public pressure they never sacrifice co-governance? Maori domination of the revised hospital structure was defended tenaciously. With Three Waters, Nanaia Mahuta will fiddle around the edges of the legislation, but co-governance is still there in the middle, an immovable obstacle. Advancing it is central to Nanaia’s being; it has become her raison d’etre. After a lengthy, undistinguished political career, she can at last see her long-desired Tainui tribal takeover on the horizon, and she doesn’t want to give an inch. Jacinda Ardern and her low-level caucus understand so little about Maori affairs that most of them can’t see what Nanaia is doing right under their noses. They won’t lift a finger to prevent her tribal takeover bid.

First co-governance itself. To this government, co-governance means that non-Maori, who constitute more than 83% of New Zealand’s population, would possess 50% of the authority in the country, and be democratically elected. Forget about one-person, one-vote: some, as Napoleon the Pig said in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “are more equal than others”. The other 50% will be made up from only 17% of the population who are Maori. “It’s time to re-think democracy”, Minister of Maori Affairs Willie Jackson tells us. And, there’s nothing in any legislative proposal for co-governance to ensure Maori would be democratically elected by all Maori voters. Instead, they will be selected in the old tribal way: by a handful of self-appointed aristocrats. But co-governance will be more than that. Whichever becomes the dominant tribe will exercise much wider power. Nanaia intends to make sure that that tribe is Tainui. That explains the appointment of the Mahutas and Ormsbys to so many positions, irrespective of their merits, or lack of them. Their job is to ensure that when push comes to shove, Tainui does the pushing and the shoving at the behest of the King Movement, with that loudmouth, Tuku Morgan, yes, he of the $89 pair of silk underpants paid for by the taxpayer, playing a key role.

One hundred and sixty years after the New Zealand wars of the 1860s, the Waikato-Tainui tribe that, more than any other, caused grief for Maori and Pakeha alike, hopes to take over control of New Zealand’s levers of power. Following the wars of the 1860s Waikato-Tainui was on the outer within Maoridom. For a century it was Ngati Porou, building on the legacies of Sir James Carroll and Sir Apirana Ngata and many Kupapa Maori who had fought on the government’s side, or remained neutral, that dominated Maori ranks in the central bureaucracy. In Cabinet in the 1980s I sat next to Nanaia’s uncle, Koro Wetere, Minister of Maori Affairs in the Lange-Palmer years. He was always complaining about the excessive influence wielded by Ngati Porou, and was constantly searching for ways to promote Tainui.

Remember the Maori loans scam at the end of 1986 when an enthusiastic effort was made to raise $600 million for investment in a Maori “resource development corporation”? Wetere clearly envisaged that Tainui would play a key role in it, and that his tribe would eventually emerge as the business hub of Maoridom. His officials in the ministry were at cross-purposes. After a major investigation by the State Services Commission that high-lighted chaos in the Maori Affairs department, and the fact that Treasury had rejected the scheme before it got off the ground, Wetere’s plan collapsed, and the minister was reprimanded. Several crooks associated with the scheme were lucky not to be charged. Prime Minister Lange dismissed the “groups of self-appointed experts in international finance ranging from undischarged bankrupts to lapsed priests” who had been trying to raise the money. That didn’t halt Tainui’s ambitions. Nanaia’s father, Robert Mahuta, spent much of the 1980s hanging around Wetere’s office and was spotted on occasions sitting in the minister’s chair if it happened to be empty.

It should not be any minister’s role to advance personal tribal interests. Getting family members appointed other than on merit is beyond the pale. New Zealand is a democracy; our constitution provides for one person-one vote. Willie Jackson should be firmly reminded of this fact. Any scheme which endeavours to entrench racial or tribal privilege in any administrative arm of government should immediately be rejected.

It is clear that Labour’s cabinet has failed to enforce these basic rules. Promoting tribalism under the guise of co-governance should be stopped in its tracks. Now! In addition to all the other changes needed to the Three Waters legislation, co-governance must be dropped.

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