Tamihere confirms Parliament bid, hits out at 'clueless' government

John Tamihere speaking at Mataatua Marae yesterday when he was confirmed as a candidate for the...
John Tamihere speaking at Mataatua Marae yesterday when he was confirmed as a candidate for the upcoming election. Photo: NZ Herald
Former Cabinet minister and Auckland mayoralty hopeful John Tamihere is running for Parliament – and has started his campaign with a hit at the Government and Labour's 13 Māori MPs.

Tamihere has been confirmed as the Māori Party's candidate for the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate in September's general election. The seat is held by Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare.

Tamihere was last in Parliament 15 years ago, when he lost the seat to then Māori Party co-leader Sir Pita Sharples.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald on Sunday, the 61-year-old said he decided to launch his political comeback because he believed the Labour Party's 13 Māori MPs had been silenced over major issues facing Māoridom; including Ihumātao and Whānau Ora funding.

"I did not anticipate them being assimilated so early and contained so much," Tamihere said. "We no longer have a voice. It has been assimilated, subsumed and subjugated.

"The day that your advocates have been subjugated, their voice has been muffled into silence, then you no longer have any Māori advocacy."

When told his former broadcasting colleague and Labour Party MP Willie Jackson would have a different take on Tamihere's views, he responded: "Well we have ex-mates and ex-cousins, and he [Jackson] is both."

Tamihere was in Parliament between 1999-2005, including as Cabinet minister in Helen Clark's Government; holding the portfolios of Small Business, Youth Affairs, Statistics and Land Information.

He resigned those posts in late 2004 after facing allegations surrounding financial dealings. Investigations, including one by the Serious Fraud Office, cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Last year he unsuccessfully stood for the Auckland mayoralty, losing to incumbent Phil Goff by almost 100,000 votes.

When asked why he wanted to have another crack at becoming an MP, Tamihere said: "Because you are a long time dead".

Running for Parliament had not entered his mind during or immediately after his bid for the mayoralty, Tamihere said.

He vowed he would offer an "unfettered, authentic Māori voice".

Not only is Tamihere trying to resurrect his own political career, but so too is the party he is standing for.

The Māori Party exited Parliament at the 2017 general election when it received just 1.2 per cent of the MMP party vote and failed to win an electorate seat.

Tamihere believed there would be enough support within Māori for the party to return to Parliament on September 19, saying there was increased frustration in the way the Government was addressing critical issues such as Whānau Ora.

The Government gave it an $80 million funding boost over four years in the 2019 Budget.

But late last year several respected Māori leaders went public with their frustrations that some of that money was being used by non-Whānau Ora bodies.

That opposition included Whānau Ora's North Island commission agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Tariana Turia, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, who wrote to PM Jacinda Ardern about it.

"Our negative social indicators need addressing and the only policy that works for that is Whānau Ora," Tamihere said.

"If this Government continues to destroy a programme that could lead to generational changes that mean we deliver positive and progressive Māori citizens, well, then you have to fight," he added.

"What Māori want, like all people, is decent health, welfare, education and housing. We are not getting a fair shake on social housing and kids require a base."

The wrangle over Whānau Ora funding and the fact Labour secured all seven Māori electorates in 2017 would lead to "tension" on the campaign trail, Tamihere said.

And well before any billboards promoting his campaign are commissioned, Tamihere wasn't shy about critiquing where he thought the Government was going wrong.

"What the voter base is saying is, 'The silence of the Māori advocates is deafening. Where are they?'," he said.

"When you start asking 'Where are they?', it doesn't matter what they say they are doing, what matters is the rubber hitting the road in the communities. And come September of this year, after three years of this Government, not a lot of rubber is going to hit the road."

He said previous governments led by Norman Kirk, Sir Robert Muldoon, David Lange, Jim Bolger, Helen Clark and Sir John Key, had used their time wisely while in opposition and were well prepared when they took power.

But he said the same couldn't be said for the Ardern-led Government.

"[They] have talked a big game," he said.

"The thing with the Labour Party, which is the problem with this Government, is that they are pretty clueless. So when you don't have a clue, you run a review, right.

"You look at this motley crew and you go to yourself, 'You got put together in a pretty hasty marriage and are still working out the prenuptials'."


That's worth noting.
Non Maori interests accessed whanau ora funding.

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