Almost one year ago to the day New Zealanders went to the polls, returning a record 29 Māori MPs. But who’s up and who’s down? Who are the top performers and who are the up and comers? In this issue māui street editor Morgan Godfery makes his picks.
Willie Jackson, Labour (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Maniapoto)
Media - 8
Policy - 6
Kanohi kitea – 8
Willie Jackson, the former Mana Motuhake leader cum Labour list MP, is seemingly everywhere. South Auckland. Waiariki. Wellington. One day he’s at the meat works, the next day he’s at the Marae, and the day after that he’s in the House. This is what Māori expect of their MPs – presence – and it’s what distinguishes Jackson from many of his colleagues. He isn’t confined to an office in Wellington. Unpolished in the House – the Speaker sometimes pulls him up for referring to members by their first name – Jackson is a polished media man. He understands any good story revolves around conflict, and in his appearances on the AM Show and in Stuff columns he gives it to his opponents. (Granted, this can backfire, and on a few occasions it has). His signature policies include He Poutama Rangatahi, the youth employment scheme, yet as worthy as they are they remain small-scale. If Jackson is to meet his target of halving the number of Māori who are out of work, he’ll have to scale up.
Quote: “This waffle about foreshore and seabed is exactly that. I think most of our people don't care… They care about housing, health and education”.
Shane Jones, New Zealand First (Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāti Kahu)
Media - 8
Policy - 6
Kanohi kitea – 8
Shane Jones, the Labour list MP cum New Zealand First Minister, is the country’s rain man. The self-proclaimed Champion of the Regions. Matua Shane to under 40s, Jonesy to over 40s, the Regional Development Minister is a walking, talking headline. Air New Zealand? Rip offs. Fonterra? Arrogant. Shane Jones has two political modes: discursive – what’s a “mollyhawk”? – and disgruntled. People with long memories will remember his attacks on “corporate New Zealand” didn’t start with Air New Zealand in 2018 but Countdown in 2014. Jones, who is perhaps better than any other at gaining earned media, is positioning himself as the heir apparent to Winston – and he’s secured $1b each year to do it. His Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is a much-needed catch up for regional New Zealand. It’s funding an overdue upgrade to Gisborne airport, but it’s also funding a questionable cultural centre in Kawakawa. The PGF could be the making (or breaking) of Shane Jones.
Quote: “When you build a whare, if you see a huhu grub, you’ve got to toast or roast it, otherwise your whare will go pirau”.
Nanaia Mahuta, Labour (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Manu
Media - 7
Policy - 9
Kanohi kitea – 9
Nanaia Mahuta, the long-serving and well-respected Hauraki-Waikato MP, is a reformist. Not, mind you, in Māori Development but in local government. The Minister for Local Government in both this Labour government and the last Labour government, Mahuta is reforming the way the country’s local authorities work. She’s reinstating social, economic, environmental, and cultural wellbeing as a purpose in the Local Government Act - the last government removed “the quadruple bottom lines”, forcing local authorities to focus on narrow concerns like rates and rubbish - and she’s reforming the way we councils regulate and manage water. It’s landmark stuff. But it’s still unclear whether Mahuta will bring the same reformist energy to her Māori Development portfolio. Te Puni Kōkiri took a funding cut in the last budget, and it lost some of its functions to Te Mātāwai and may lose more of its functions to Te Arawhiti. There are two more years to go.
Quote: “People are sick of being poor”.
Honourable mention: Winston Peters. He’s just having so much fun.
Must do better: Meka Whaitiri’s ministerial career is at an end, but she remains co-chair of the Māori caucus and an admired MP in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.
members of parliament
Simon Bridges, National (Ngāti Maniapoto)
Media - 2
Policy - 6
Kanohi kitea - 10
Simon Bridges won the National Party leadership contest – no small achievement – becoming the first Māori to lead one of the two major parties. Bridges is closer to becoming the first Māori Prime Minister than anyone before him. This is big, and he deserves recognition for it. But otherwise what has he done? Well, a lot, to be fair, travelling the country and meeting with thousands of New Zealanders, helping shape what people think of the National Party and its leader post-Jacinda. The trouble is it backfired. His expenses were leaked. He called for an inquiry, it was granted, and then it was called off, and now another inquiry is taking place. It’s a running joke. No one expects a first term National leader to defeat Jacinda Ardern, the most popular Prime Minister since the last popular Prime Minister, but Simon Bridges isn’t making his own job any easier.
Quote: “My record on the environment is strong”.
Kiri Allan, Labour (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūwharetoa)
Media - 8
Policy - N/A;
Kanohi kitea - 9
No one is better at securing ministerial visits to their electorate.* Shane Jones visited, opening the wallet in Gisborne and Opotiki. So too Willie Jackson. Even the Prime Minister was a distinguished visitor to the country’s largest general electorate. From here, the risk for Allan is she burns too bright too quickly. She sits on the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, a training ground for future ministers, and serves as her party’s junior whip, marking her as someone in line for future promotions (and more…). But Allan is a shrewd operator and knows when to take an opportunity and when to pass, when to talk and when to let others do it for you. The challenge, at least in the short term, will be keeping some of her own people on side. Allan was the target of a small number of loud attacks over Labour’s position on the Pare Hauraki Deed of Settlement.
*Kiri is the Labour list MP for the East Coast rather than the electorate MP for the East Coast, it should be noted.
Quote: “As a High School drop-out at 16, I entered into the full time workforce at KFC in West Auckland, with the aspiration to work in every single KFC in the country so I might ‘see the world’”.
Marama Davidson, Greens (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa)
Media - 8
Policy - 7
Kanohi kitea – 7
This one is simple enough: Marama Davidson won the Green co-leadership, and as the junior MP in the race too. Davidson is that rare thing – an activist who entered Parliament without abandoning her community. She participated in the freedom flotilla to Gaza, and she remains a prominent advocate for tino rangatiratanga. Not just for iwi and hapū, but the individuals within them too (she’s a prominent advocate for trans rights). Of course, every now and then she cops it – like when National MPs faked outrage over her use of the C word – but more often than not she’s breaking new ground. From compulsory te reo (Labour won’t go there, at least rhetorically) to the push for a “water test” to stop foreign companies from snapping up land to sap up its water resources. Will she become a Minister? Not if Labour get a say. Will she remain Green co-leader in perpetuity? If she wants it. She’s the members’ darling.
Quote: “If women get called the *C* word by men who are trying to death threat us into silence and intimidation – the least we can do is disarm the word and claim it back, *C* is for Cheers”.
Honourable mention: National MP Joanne Hayes for lodging hundreds of written questions asking about mundane things like Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare’s diary. What a trooper.