Viewing cable 05WELLINGTON663

05WELLINGTON6632005-08-30 04:48:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Wellington
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/30/2010 
     ¶B. 04 WELLINGTON 909 
     ¶C. WELLINGTON 134 
Classified By: Siria Lopez, Auckland Consul General, 
for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D) 
(U) This cable originated from AmConGen Auckland.  It 
replaces and updates Wellington 661. 
¶1.  (C)  Summary:  Although the Maori Party has made 
impressive gains in membership and general support in its 
one year of existence, it is unlikely to capture all seven 
Maori constituency seats in the September 17 election.  Its 
probable 3-5 constituency 
seats would still make the Maori Party a potential 
coalition partner, however.  Maori leaders had been 
insisting that it would be up to their followers to decide 
on a coalition partner.  But following an August 29 speech 
by National Party leader Don Brash that called for an end 
to separate Maori-oriented Government ministries, the Maori 
party announced it had definitively ruled out a coalition 
with National. 
¶2.  (C) Given that either Labour or National is likely to 
need coalition partners to form a government, National's 
announcement carries some risks.  It seems more and more 
that National has no natural coalition partner other that 
NZ First, and a previous coalition with that party in the 
1990s was not a success.  But the Nats probably figure they 
gain more from tapping into "middle New Zealand's" 
unhappiness with Labour's preferential treatment of Maori 
and other groups than it does from holding out for the 
unlikely chance that Maori voters would choose a National- 
Maori party coalition.  As Labour has also tried to 
distance itself from Maori party leadership, the Nats may 
also be trying to play on some voters' fears that a Labour 
victory would mean a leftist, Labour-Greens-Progressives- 
Maori coalition.  End Summary. 
Background:  Maori Party Makes Electoral Registration 
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¶3.  (SBU)  Maori anger over a perceived Labour Government 
turnaround on Maori claims to New Zealand's foreshore and 
seabed led to the creation of the Maori Party in July 2004 
(reftel A).  Since then the Maori Party has sought to 
become the Maori voice in New Zealand's parliament.  For 
the September 2005 election, the Party will contest all 
seven exclusively Maori constituency seats, as well as 
other general electorate and list seats for a current total 
of 51 candidates.  Dr. Whatarangi Winiata is Maori Party 
President but the party's most popular and visible figure 
is co-leader (and former Labour Party member) MP Tariana 
Turia.  Turia will run against her Labour Party nephew for 
the Te Tai Hauauru seat.  Pita Sharples, an educator, is 
the other party co-leader and is taking on the charismatic 
but politically wounded Labour MP John Tamihere in Tamaki- 
¶4.  (SBU)  Despite the odds against its survival -- and 
Tamihere's predictions of its stillborn birth -- the Maori 
Party has evolved into a real Maori political alternative 
to Labour.  Since its inception, the Party has managed to 
sign up more than 19,000 new members through "flaxroots" 
efforts, an impressive achievement.  Notwithstanding, voter 
numbers are more important than total card-carrying party 
members.  Under New Zealand's political system, Maori 
citizens have the option of signing up for either the 
general roll or the Maori electoral roll, which votes on 
the seven Maori constituency seats (seats the National 
Party has long pledged to abolish).  Currently, 204,519 
have enrolled on the Maori roll; 166,822 on the general 
roll.  This is a nearly 9% increase over 2002 figures for 
both rolls.  Of first-time enrollments, mainly younger 
voters, 55 per cent are opting for the Maori roll.  The 
latter represents the fruits of the Maori Party's strategy 
to focus registration efforts on first-time, younger voters 
who lack a history of voting for Labour (reftel B). 
¶5.  (SBU)  But what makes the Maori Party worth watching is 
its potential as a coalition partner. It is widely assumed 
that Turia will win her electorate seat.  The Party is also 
expected to capture other Maori constituency seats.  Each 
MP gained increases the party's legislative influence. 
(NB: The Maori party would be allocated additional list 
parliamentary seats if it gains more of a percentage of the 
party vote than it meets with its electorate seats alone. 
If the Party gets more electorate seats than party vote 
share, it will keep those "overhang" seats until the next 
election.  This will affect the number of seats the major 
parties would need to form a coalition.) Since neither 
Labour nor National are expected to win clear majorities, 
they will need parliamentary partners to form workable 
governments.  National Party's Don Brash's speech of August 
29 in which he promised to review Maori-based government 
agencies, however, have incited Turia and Sharples to spurn 
National as a coalition partner.  Despite the Maori Party's 
birth as a 
protest against Labour's foreshore and seabed legislation, 
now that it has ruled out a coalition with National, Labour 
is its only potential coalition partner. 
Policies:  Difficult to Assess 
¶6.  (C)  From the start, the Maori Party has been 
criticized for its lack of policy pronouncements.  This 
situation is little better in the immediate lead-up to the 
September polls -- that is if a voter desires articulated 
party platforms in the conventional, Euro-American sense. 
In May, the Party did publicize the centerpiece of its 
policies or "tikanga" but it actually consisted of 
sweeping, idealistic guiding principles firmly based on 
Maori socio-cultural values.  One searches the "tikianga" 
document in vain for the Party's position on taxes or 
health care.  For that, one must often rely on the ad hoc 
emergence of specifics as uttered by party politicians on 
the campaign trail.  For example, we now know that the 
Maori Party wants to lower the retirement age of Maori to 
60, make tertiary education free for everyone and eliminate 
tax for those earning under $25,000.  It has also slowly 
filtered out that the Party wants to make Maori language 
compulsory for all civil servants, affirm Maori authority 
on the national resource review process and reinstate New 
Zealand's moratorium on genetically-modified plants. 
¶7.  (SBU)  In terms of foreign policy, a Maori Party 
representative, Charles Joe, spoke to a University of 
Auckland audience mostly in the idealistic generalities of 
the "tikanga" document.  Perhaps because the audience was 
non-Maori and the other party politicians present offered 
specifics, Joe also confirmed that the party wanted NZ's 
nuclear-free stance maintained, supported NZ's 
international peacekeeping role and had a "no first-strike 
policy."  The Party also placed priority on the UN draft on 
indigenous people and wanted an international treaty for 
indigenous nations.  As Turia has said in the past, Joe 
added that his party would oppose any international 
treaties or agreements that breached the principles 
enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi.  That is to say its 
foreign and trade policies would be driven by adherence to 
Maori values.   (Note:  The Maori Party has been accused of 
refusing to criticize Robert Mugabe's regime simply because 
he is a black African leader.  The Party also opposed a 
recent bill to strengthen NZ's anti-terrorism finance laws. 
Still, it did support the rightist Federated Farmers in the 
farmers' land access battle with Labour.  End Note) 
Election Prospects 
¶8.  (C)  The Maori Party has been challenged from its 
inception by the poverty of its core constituency. 
Financially disadvantaged, the party has focused instead on 
harnessing "people power" by drafting volunteers to go 
door-to-door to drum up support.  Labour's John Tamihere 
told Auckland Consul General that the Maori Party's real 
strength lies in the seductive, emotional appeal of its 
message of grievance to relatively well-off, middle-class 
Maori.  As a result, it enjoys strong support from 
influential Maori institutions such as Maori radio 
stations, TV, university, language schools and health and 
welfare organizations.  This Maori infrastructure provides 
the Party with its transport and information resource needs 
and thus makes up for any ostensible lack of cash.  Another 
Maori political observer agreed that Maori institutions, 
although funded under Labour governments, are "hotbeds" of 
Maori Party support.  She and Tamihere both observed that a 
large Maori turnout in September will hurt Labour. 
¶9.  (SBU)  Before the election date was announced, many 
observers were predicting that the Maori Party would obtain 
at least five constituency seats.   In several polls, Maori 
party candidates such as Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira 
(for Te Tai Tokerau) were pulling way ahead of their Labour 
rivals.  Since then, however, some leads have narrowed; 
Sharples is now running neck-to-neck with Tamihere (who 
probably now prefers Labour Party money over Maori 
institutional support).  Harawira's lead over Labour's 
Dover Samuels has almost halved.  The Maori Party (and 
Labour) is losing some votes with the entry of independent 
candidates and those of Destiny New Zealand, a party allied 
with a conservative Maori Christian church.  (Destiny also 
appeals to socially conservative Pacific Islanders, also 
being courted by the Maori Party, who were upset by 
Labour's prostitution and civil union bills.) 
¶10.  (SBU)  Perhaps more influential than election rivals, 
however, is the Labour tactic of scaring Maori by claiming 
a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National.   This 
message is being drummed into Maori and other left-leaning 
voters.  The Labour tactic is particularly effective on 
those Maori concerned about National's threat to reduce 
welfare benefits.  Some Maori voters may try to reconcile 
their divided loyalties by voting for the Maori Party for 
constituency seats and ticking Labour for the party/ "list" 
¶11.  (SBU)  Although it is also contesting 35 general 
electorate seats in an effort to appeal to non-Maori, the 
Party is not expected to win many, if any, of these seats. 
The small size of the Maori electorate vote in general 
means it will not obtain many list seats.  A more realistic 
scenario is that the Maori Party will win 3-5 Maori 
constituency seats--but not 7. This result would still make 
the Party a potential coalition partner for Labour or 
National, notwithstanding the major parties' avowed 
distaste for such an arrangement.  In an August TV debate 
with National's Don Brash, when asked about possible 
Labour-Maori Party talks, PM Clark swatted the party off by 
replying it was the "last cab in the rank." Brash more 
tactfully said that he couldn't see cooperation happening. 
Earlier, at a July Diplomatic Club lunch in Wellington, 
Turia noted that the Maori Party had not offered itself as 
a coalition partner, nor would it.  But, she added, if 
approached by one or more parties, it would put the issue 
of which party to vote for and under what terms (e.g. 
confidence and supply or a full coalition) to its voters. 
As noted earlier, however, Brash's August 29 speech has 
squashed, for now, speculation about  National-Maori Party 
Long-Term Goals:  More Maori Constituency Seats and More 
List Seats 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
¶12.  (C)  Echoing Turia, co-leader Pita Sharples told 
Consul General that the Maori Party was not going "hell for 
bent" to be in the Government right now.  The question of 
coalitions does not loom large for the party.  For the 
September election, it was trying to get the Maori voice 
heard in Parliament and to stand staunch on the Treaty of 
Waitangi.  If it succeeded in getting seven MPs in, this 
would have the desired impact and momentum.  Then, the 
following year, the Party would undertake a national 
campaign to move every Maori from the general to the Maori 
rolls in order to increase the number of Maori constituency 
seats.   Thus, in a subsequent election, the Party could 
enjoy, for example, fourteen seats in addition to general 
electorate and list seats.  It was with this long-term goal 
in mind that the Party had decided to contest the general 
electorates, go for the list vote and choose several non- 
Maori election candidates of European and Pacific Island 
descent.  There is, Sharples declared, not much of a long- 
term future for the Maori Party "if we are not inclusive 
and if we have just Maori sitting there-we must go for all 
of New Zealand."