In March last year, a surveyed conducted for Three's The Hui revealed that Maori were concerned about much the same issues as Pakeha.The top concerns for Maori were the cost of living, followed by housing. But these were not the issues that were being protested about this week...

IT'S NOTEWORTHY that many of the Maori politicians who supported the Te Pati Maori-organised demonstrations this week, were the very same politicians who virulently opposed the occupation of Parliament grounds for twenty-three days in February-March 2022. Over a quarter of those protesters were Maori, but they were certainly not supported by the Maori politicians presently declaring their support for 'decolonisation' and 'a Te Tiriti (Treaty)-centric Aotearoa'.

While politicians like Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and her fellow Green MP Teanau Tuiono might view this week's demonstrations as part of an ongoing campaign to retain Maori 'gains' achieved under the Labour Government's agenda of so-called 'decolonisation', they were rather less receptive -indeed hostile - toward Maori who participated in the Wellington occupation less than two years ago.

A survey conducted by Curia for the online radio station The Platform revealed that 27 percent of the protesters were Maori. This fact rather undermined the argument of a political establishment that sought to caricature the occupation as an open-air convention of white supremacists. Nevertheless, that did not stop politicians like Davidson and Tuiono attacking the protesters as neo-fascist. 

Marama Davidson declared that there needed to be 'repercussions' for the protest influencers, organisations and politicians, who inspired and legitimised the occupation. She retweeted Tuiono's intemperate comment: ''If you find yourself on the front lawn of Parliament and all you see around you are religious fundamentalists and literal Nazis – without a trade union in sight – then it isn’t a protest to improve people’s lives. It’s an alt-right recruitment drive.'

It seems that, in the eyes of a Maori political elite with an agenda of its own, only the protests they agree with are legitimate. The rest can be dismissed as the work of troublemakers or even neo-fascists.

What Maori politicians like Davidson and Tuiono chose to ignore is that many working-class Maori who participated in the occupation were protesting at the economic policies that have consigned them to the bottom of the economic pile. These were the very same policies that a large Maori caucus, including a number of Maori cabinet ministers, supported throughout the six years of the Labour Government - and which was loyally supported by a conservative Green Party. Largely left without a political voice in Parliament, Maori took matters into their own hands. And they got attacked for doing so.

Despite the claim by the previous Labour Government that the task was to 'build back better' after the coronavirus pandemic was over, little has changed for the Pakeha and Maori working class. Against the backdrop of the steeply rising cost of living, these are very difficult economic times for both Pakeha and Maori. Yet the protests this week were not directed at an economic system that has enriched the few at the expense of the many.  Rather, they were a protest led by an alarmed Maori political elite concerned that the policies generated by a radical interpretation of the Treaty of the Waitangi risk being scrapped by a National-led government intent on weeding out Labour's race-based policies.

This represents a threat to the interests of a Maori elite that is not seeking to upend the economic status quo, but rather gain a greater foothold within it. The call for a 'Te Tiriti-centric New Zealand' might appear progressive, but it would entrench an economic status quo where the majority of Maori remain in poverty while Maori tribal business interests continue to control assets now approaching $100 billion. But it is now the formal policy of a Green Party that has abandoned its universalist and social democratic approach. But its middle-class support base doesn't appear to have noticed that the Green Party has become a race-based party.

The alternative to a political project that pretends to be emancipatory but is only interested in shoring up the status quo in the interests of a Maori elite, is a truly transformative project based on the working class - of all races - - and that challenges the continued dominance of neoliberalism and the rule of the one percent. But the politics of parties like Te Pati Maori and the Green Party remain wedded to an identity politics that undermines class solidarity. While the Maori elite might champion 'decolonisation', it's a curious 'decolonisation' that leaves intact the very economic structures that work against the interests of working-class Maori. As Martin Luther King said in 1967:

'The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and racism. The problem of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.'


  1. The allegiance of such ''leaders' is to their class and privileged positions not to the people.

  2. I'm Maori, and it annoys the hell out of me that people like Marama Davidson act as if they speak for all Maori. Believe me, they don't.


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