Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi promises to be an “unapologetic” voice for tangata whenua in Parliament, saying Labour’s Māori Caucus is “subjugated”.
Waititi, the MP elect for Waiariki, said the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted how “absolutely” subjugated the Māori caucus was because “we didn’t hear anything from them”.
Instead, it was iwi who stood up and took leadership, he said.
Waititi said “dangerous” and “unacceptable” legislation was nearly passed, such as the ability for police to search marae and homes under the Covid-19 Health Response Bill. The Government removed explicit references to the power in the legislation after backlash.
“No Māori in their right mind would allow that to happen. It looks like it was a return back to the terror raids on Tūhoe.”
If he ended up in Parliament, Waititi promised he would make changes in the “system” he says keeps Māori “in second place”.
“That system doesn’t belong to us. So our job is now to go through and start to manipulate that system and make disruptions here and there.
“That’s exactly what I’m committed to doing.”
He said he wanted to see changes to the Māori Electoral Roll. Currently, Māori are only able to switch between that roll and the general roll every five years.
The Māori Party campaigned to register all Māori to the Māori Electoral Roll and allow them to switch rolls at any time.
With more people on the Māori Roll, Waititi said they could be entitled to about 19 seats instead of seven.
Waititi stood for Labour in Waiariki against former Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell in 2014.
When asked why he switched parties, he said he didn’t want to be “subjugated into a mainstream party”.
He added: “I’m now on the right waka which is a liberated waka and is unapologetic about the Māori voice and Māori aspirations.”
Waititi became co-leader of the Māori Party after former leader and Waititi’s father-in-law John Tamihere stepped down.
Tamihere told TVNZ1’s Q+A on Sunday it would “100 per cent” be the right move for Waititi to take over from him if he was in Parliament.