The Maori Party might be miffed – but not enough (it’s a fair bet) to give up their baubles or their Beehive influence

Alf supposes the Maori Party’s MPs avidly read this blog for a steer on what they should do.

Moreover, he supposes they read his post here yesterday and saw the great good sense in what Alf was saying:

Principles be buggered, it’s winning power and holding it that matters

Alf has done this supposing while munching his breakfast on learning that the Maori Party is signalling it will stay in Government.

Yep, the buggers have had a taste of power and the trappings that go with it.

Ministerial cars and what-have-you for two of them, and the buzz one gets from exercising political influence for all of them.

That influence is reflected in several decisions over the past year or so – flags flying on the Auckland harbour bridge, Tainui’s co-management of the Waikato River, the indigenous rights thing at the United Nations, whanau ora and so on.

The Maori Party MPs will want to keep flexing their muscle, despite a cooling of relations (a momentary cooling, Alf suggests) with Prime Minister John Key.

According to press gallery scribes writing for Stuff, those relations are

…nosediving after he personally blocked a deal to give Te Urewera National Park to Tuhoe.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has questioned Mr Key’s integrity after he canned the deal on the eve of it going to Cabinet, and was furious that he said she was “totally fine” with the decision.

“I certainly at no point ever indicated to him that I agreed with the decision … I have never stated that I was fine with this issue.”

Oh dear. So the Maori Party thinks The Boss was motivated by a fear of a backlash from supporters who thought National was giving too much away on race-based issues.

Probably that’s spot on.

And from where Alf sits, National has given too much away.

But the fallout does not look like being a deal-breaker.

Maori Party whip Te Ururoa Flavell said Mr Key’s role in ending the Tuhoe deal – which came after 18 months of negotiations centred on ownership of the park – had caused real disquiet.

The caucus had yet to discuss its response, but it was unlikely the party would split with National over one Treaty settlement. “[Mr Key’s decision] doesn’t reflect what we were hoping would be a part of our relationship with National, to always work in an open and transparent way, but it doesn’t mean the end of the relationship. The discussion in this settlement is between Tuhoe and the Crown.”

So there you go.

The Boss and Mrs Turia certainly are having a tiff, after he claimed she had accepted his decision to scrap the deal when he talked with her on Sunday.

“She was totally fine. She understands the challenges – disappointed – but understands the challenges.”

It seems not.

She says she urged Mr Key to change his mind.

The spat comes as more details of the deal to have gone before Cabinet emerged, including claims that Mr Key described plans for Tuhoe to take ownership of the park as “complex, but do-able” at a meeting this year.

Most things are do-able, of coure, although engaging in sexual intercourse while standing up in a hammock is apt to put that proposition to the test. Try it some time.

Saying something is do-able, therefore, more often than not is to state the obvious. Whether Tuhoe should have assumed it would be done because it is do-able is another matter.

Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger said he and Mr Key went through the options, including co-management or dual ownership, and agreed that transferring title to the tribe was the only way forward.

Mr Key would not comment on the claim.

This silence is troubling, because it hints that putting ownership of a national park into Tuhoe hands had gone much further than we back-bencher Nats would be happy with.

The suspicion is reinforced by this Kruger bloke.

Mr Kruger said the agreement in principle to go before Cabinet would have vested ownership in Tuhoe’s ancestors to stop the land being sold. Tuhoe would have had the same powers and rights as any other property owner, but there would have been protections for public access and conservation values.

Did things really go that far?

Perhaps, although Stuff says:

A Government source said direct ownership of the park had never been on the table but confirmed vesting ownership in ancestors was one option due to go to Cabinet.

Another had been to vest the park in Tuhoe on condition it would be gifted back to the nation, but Mr Kruger insisted that was rejected.

So what does this mean for the Maori Party and the coalition?

Radio New Zealand’s political editor says this issue seems to be the most serious fallout between National and the Maori Party.

But will it be a coalition-breaker?

Nah. Tariana and her mob know when they are on to a good thing.

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