New Zealand's "Maori" Seats Threatened
Labour elder stateswoman Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan is urging voters to protect the Maori seats by voting for the Maori Party.
Warning of "an uprising" if National abolishes the seats, Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan, the Labour MP for Southern Maori for 29 years, said Parliament "is the lion's den in Maori, te ana raiona, and we need our gladiators in there".
"I would expect Maoridom to come out with even stronger protests than the seabed and foreshore hikoi [in 2004]," said Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan.
"It would be tragic for one of the very few nations in the world that has recognised a tangata whenua people to remove their right to have dedicated advocates in Parliament."
Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan would not say how she would vote, but said she endorsed a widespread Maori view that "anyone who holds Maori identity as their number one priority should give two ticks to the Maori Party. I believe that is valid".
All parties except National and Act say that abolition of the Maori seats, created in 1867, must be a decision made by Maori. The policy can pass if endorsed by 61 of Parliament's 120 members.
Historian Ranginui Walker is horrified by National's plan and said he would not be surprised if there were huge protests.
"National are going back to the colonial patriarchy, and if they pull this off, who's to know where it will stop?" Professor Walker said.
Te Atiawa iwi spokesman Peter Love said the seats were now a "hugely significant taonga", or treasure.
"Gifts have such huge importance in Maoridom and these seats were a gift to our people. They have become part of our inheritance ...
"Taking them away is like giving someone a gift of a car, then coming down the driveway and taking it back."
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