Hipkins had been rubbished already by critics left and right – but (yawn) here comes a cultural riposte

Dunno where Tariana Turia has been, these last few days.

Somewhere far behind the eight ball, apparently.

She has just despatched a media statement (here) to dismiss accusations of conflict of interest against our Hekia as “ridiculous”.

Co-leader of the Māori Party, Tariana Turia, has spoken out about the ‘ridiculous’ accusations levelled at Hekia Parata over a supposed conflict of interest with a ‘second cousin’.

“If Hekia’s whānau is anything like ours, there will be literally hundreds of whanaunga that might be described as a second or third cousin, twice removed – or whatever the correct terminology is” said Mrs Turia.

Alf had thought this matter was no longer on the commentariat’s agenda.

Yawn.

Is is there anything left to discuss???

The accusation of a conflicted interest had been raised, of course, by Labour’s Chris Hipkins, presumably making his play for promotion to his party’s front bench.

His feeble flailing led to the parliamentary hacks leaping to write and broadcast items like this.

A new Christchurch school which will be run by a relative of Hekia Parata, is waiting on Government approval.

Te Pa O Rakaihautu was endorsed by the ministry just before work began on the overhaul of the city’s education sector in October last year.

The school is chaired by the Minister’s second cousin Rangimarie Parata Takurua.

An important BUT was belatedly injected into the story at this point.

Ms Parata has said that she wasn’t involved in the endorsement – and will make arrangements for others to handle further processes.

So that’s that, then – isn’t it?

Nope.

Labour associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins said this wasn’t good enough.

He says the conflict of interest should have been declared up front and brings in to question other decisions the minister will be making which have the potential to benefit this school.

He’s gotta be joking.

We are talking about second cousins – right?

Yep.

The nepotism thing has become extremely thin…

And so the conflict of interest rap didn’t stick with commentators, be their leanings to the left or the right.

For the purposes of this post, let’s look at what was said at No Right Turn.

I oppose nepotism and corruption, but this is ridiculous. Most people don’t even know who their second cousins are. Its a relationship so tenuous that it matters only to genealogists; the idea that it could constitute a conflict of interest in and of itself is simply absurd.

There may be good reasons to oppose this school’s application, but this is simply not one of them. Labour needs to find better ammunition than this.

That was two days ago.

Hence Alf’s surprise at Tariana’s belated entry into a matter that – so far as he could tell – had never been a goer.

She opted to make a cultural point.

“This is a cultural chasm, which Chris Hipkins has quite happily fallen into.

“In an English cultural context, systems of “degrees” and “removals” are often used to describe the exact relationship between two relations and the ancestor they have in common.

“Māori tend to focus more on our connections to each other than our distances apart.

“Whanau Ora is about celebrating all of these connections as being the foundation of our future. Our approach to whakapapa manifests itself in many Māori having strong and intimate relationships with a very wide extended whānau; whereas other New Zealanders tend to be most familiar with the direct ‘first cousins’ – the children of the siblings of their parents”.

“For Chris Hipkins to then manipulate these differences for the point of political point-scoring is questionable – and I’ll be interested to hear what his Māori colleagues have to say about the slur being made against the particular Principal involved (Rangimarie Parata Takurua).”

A more telling blow was struck in Tariana’s wrap-up.

“The facts speak for themselves – the Ministry of Education endorsed the new school, Te Pa o Rakaihautu, in October last year – two whole months before Hekia was appointed the Minister of Education”.

“Let’s be sensible about all this – there are 2548 state schools in New Zealand. The chances of Minister Parata having relations in other schools is extremely high. What does Labour want – for every Minister to disclose a copy of their family tree before they take up a portfolio?”

So what’s your come-back on that lot, Mr Hipkins?

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