Rino Tirikatene, the bloke who represents the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tonga, is in the news this morning, at least on the Maori news segment of Radio NZ’s Morning Report.
It transpires he is such a busy fellow – not surprisingly, given the size of his patch – that some of his work is being done by Labour Party colleague Leanne Dalziel.
And this is newsworthy – why?
No, not because he is having a sheila help him out.
It’s because he is having a Pakeha help him out.
Yep. Maori in Christchurch are being helped by a Pakeha.
This, of course, is precisely what would happen in any general constituency. We MPs represent all our constituents, not just some of a favoured ethnicity.
Indeed, helping only the Maori people or only the Pakeha people would be considered racist in any other polite society.
Complaining that a Maori had to turn to a Pakeha for help would be considered racist, too.
But we live in a special country, and we set aside some electorates so that only the people of one race can vote in them.
Actually, this Tirikatane bloke happens to think racially separate electorates are such a helluva good idea that he has been pushing for Maori seats on the Nelson City Council and (Alf is informed here) across New Zealand local government generally.
So there is a particular piquancy in the Radio NZ news that –
Christchurch East MP Leanne Dalziel has confirmed she has had to pick up some of Rino Tirikatene’s Christchurch work, but says it is because her Labour colleague is so busy.
Mr Tirikatene represents the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tonga, an area which includes all of the South Island, Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands and Wellington.
No doubt about it, that’s a big bit of territory to cover.
Much bigger than Eketahuna North, which happens to the be the country’s smallest electorate and can be circumnavigated by Alf on foot in an hour or so, depending on how many drinks he has on the way.
Anyway, Tirikatane ousted Maori Party MP Rahui Katene at the last election and Katene is obviously sour about this, because she has accused Tirikatene of ignoring people who need his help in Christchurch.
Ms Katene claims he is referring Maori constituents to Pakeha MPs in Christchurch.
Oh, the outrage for our special people when they have to turn to a Pakeha MP for help.
Leanne, of course, is happy to oblige.
Ms Dalziel says MPs have always stepped up to help the Te Tai Tonga representative, as the area is so large.
She says Mr Tirikatene has frequently been down in Christchurch and he also has a staff member based there.
There is more detail in an earlier Radio NZ item.
Katene here is saying people affected by the earthquake are being ignored and constituents are still coming to her for help on issues such as roads, water and jobs.
Uh, oh. Here the language gets a bit more robust.
She says that’s a real problem because Labour Party MP Rino Tirikatene does not seem to be doing anything to help Maori he represents.
Ms Katene claims Mr Tirikatene is referring Maori constituents to the Pakeha MPs in Christchurch.
She says people in Aranui, Bexley and Wainoni are seeking assistance but the focus is still on the central city. She is asking what is Labour’s commitment to the Maori electorate.
Tirikatene declined to be interviewed on the claims, which is a astonishing, because Alf would give his eye teeth and maybe even his supply of scotch to be interviewed on Radio NZ.
But he did provide a brief response.
He says he’s very active across Te Tai Tonga and his office presence is connected throughout the South Island.
Mr Tirikatene says he’s dealing with an ever-growing workload of constituent matters from people who were dissatisfied by the poor service that Rahui Katene gave when she was in office.
Oh, and we get a good idea of what Katene is really up to in this report.
She has returned to work as a lawyer in Wellington,
…but recently told Te Manu Korihi she would like to be part of the Maori Party leadership team when the current co-leaders step down.
The matter is aired at Maui Street, which observes that Rahui Katene is doing what she can to remain relevant
… and that involves stirring the pot.
Rino has responded, quite rightly too, saying that many constituents have come to him citing the poor service Rahui gave last term. This, I think when examining the evidence, holds true.
The evidence is set out in the post. It is neither here nor there to Alf who won or should have won the seat.
What interests him is that Pakeha helping Maori can land an MP in trouble when we have these race-based Maori electorates.
If a Pakeha hairdresser complained that a Pakeha competitor had sent customers to a Maori hairdresser to have their hair cut – wouldn’t the bloody Race Relations Commissioner step in?