Maanu, mana and the murky matter of institutional racism polluting the water debate

Publicly revealed for the first time…Maori Council plans for an eel farm in the English Channel.

It looks like the hard-working, long-serving member for Eketahuna North needs to brush up on his understanding of “institutional racism”.

The expression was used this morning by that Maanu Paul feller, interviewed (here) on Morning Report.

The Maanu Paul feller, of course, is a Maori Council leader, although he has not found himself in that position without controversy (as you will learn here).

In fact he got himself into hot water for talking about Maori claims to water and as recently as August last year (we are reminded here), the council gave the bugger the old heave-ho.

A row has blown up within the New Zealand Maori Council after one of its senior figures was expelled for speaking publicly.

Council deputy chair Richard Orzecki says Maanu Paul was expelled for bringing the organisation into disrepute by making public comments.

Mr Paul has spoken to the media on a number of issues, the latest being about the organisation’s Waitangi Tribunal claim for water ownership rights on behalf of 30 hapu.

It seems, therefore, he is a sort of Maori Lazarus who has risen from the political dead.

But fair to say, Maanu Paul maintained he had not been sacked and would continue to comment publicly until Sir Graham Latimer, the big chief of the outfit, directed him otherwise.

The Maui Street item posted above, by the way, mused on whether Maanu’s connections to the Maori Party had anything to do with his expulsion.

Maanu is one the Party’s most prominent and vocal supporters. It will be interesting to know whether his connections and pro-Maori Party/National Party actions were getting up the nose of the increasingly left-wing Maori Council.

If Maanu is pro-Maori Party/National Party, he has a curious way of showing his loyalties.

In his interview on Morning Report, he accused John Key of manifesting institutional racism.

And he said the Maori Party should walk away from its relationship with the Government while its mana is still intact.

The party’s leadership will meet the Prime Minister on Wednesday to discuss his statement that the Government could ignore any ruling the Waitangi Tribunal makes on water rights.

Council co-chair Maanu Paul says John Key is manifesting institutional racism when he says no one owns water.

He says the Maori Party should get out of the governing relationship while its mana is still intact.

But Mr Key says he hopes the Maori Party does not leave and he, as Prime Minister, was just stating the Crown’s position.

Alf is bemused by that stuff about institutional racism.

The Boss is being condemned for saying nobody owns the water.

By nobody, it is fair to suppose he is saying Pakeha do not own the water.

And Asians don’t own the water.

And Hottentots don’t own the water.

And Eskimos don’t own the water.

Have we missed anybody out?

Oh, yes.

And Maori don’t own the water.

Oops.

That’s the problem. Maanu Paul is saying they do.

At what point they start owning the water will be the stuff of interesting, but costly, litigation.

Do they own it while it is up in the clouds, prior to becoming precipitation?

Do they own it during its fall from the clouds to the earth?

Do they own it when it has fallen into puddles in Alf’s back garden?

Do they own it after it has flowed from Alf’s roof and into his water tank?

Do they own it after it has been flushed down the bog and (the process differs from place to place) finishes up in the ocean?

And if they do, bearing in mind the ocean is an enormous mass of water, at what point do they no longer own it – or do they own the lot, no matter whose shores it reaches?

It’s a bit like another great conundrum that puzzles Alf: what, exactly, is “the Maori Economy” and at what point does it butt against the national economy?

But this is to digress.

More immediately, Alf harks back to the Maui Street item on internal strife in the Maori Council and the suggestion it attests to to the council’s growing irrelevance.

The National Government has selected the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) as their Maori vehicle of choice when it comes to consultation and access.

The problem for the Maori Council is that they are a creature of Statute (The Maori Welfare Act 1962) and, consequently, relies on the acquiesce of the government of the day. On the other hand the ILG set their own mandate and enjoy access to their own capital, i.e. the government does not fund them and, therefore, cannot strangle them when they fall out of favour.

The Maori Council is also, ideologically speaking, non-aligned with the current government whereas the ILG falls firmly in line with the Nat’s ideological position (e.g. privatisation). The Maori Council is creating issues for the government, for example by fuelling debate on Maori rights to fresh water, while the ILG is actively supporting the government’s asset sales campaign.

It is easy to see why the government has turned to the ILG at the expense of the Maori Council.

This gives us a hint of what Maanu Paul and the council’s Waitangi Tribunal action is all about.

While he warns the Maori Party it risks losing its mana, he is really doing his damndest to restore the Maori Council’s mana.

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