National | Bullying

'I tae Māori mai, ka hoki Māori atu' - Nanaia Mahuta

Just when you think Christmas cheer would wash over Parliament, allegations of bullying and verbal abuse are raring their ugly heads in the National Party. It's not the first time that bullying has taken centre stage at Parliament but it raises the question: How safe is the working environment for Māori politicians?

Christmas is a time to spread love and cheer. How are Māori MPs holding up?

Foreign Affairs Minister and veteran politician Nanaia Mahuta said the job came with ups and downs. Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis told Te Ao Mārama that the Māori caucus was a great support and Peeni Henare noted that the job came with challenges.

At times this year, Māori MPs have been the target of vitriol. Māori Party co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi and Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson were some of those who were victims of online threats.

Bullying allegations

Some MPs like Green co-leader Marama Davidson have attracted criticism for doing their job. She told Te Ao Mārama her work in sexual violence prevention meant engagement with women from all walks of life, including gangs but "when I have engaged with those whānau, I have attracted incredible criticism."

Parliament is rife with allegations of bullying, the latest involving just-retired MP Nick Smith over allegations of verbally abusing a staff member, swearing at him saying, "you're the f****** secretary". New leader Christopher Luxon wouldn't comment on the situation but said the culture in Parliament and the party needed to lift.

In 2019 the Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace was released. Its recommendations included explicit investment in the development of a culture of dignity and respect in the parliamentary workplace, enhanced and extended pastoral care and a programme of monitoring, evaluation and audit of the cultural health of the workplace.

Māori MPs have found their own strategies to calm themselves when tackling the work in front of them, Davidson saying it came from the support from her party,

Henare said he does karakia and clears the environment in his office and Mahuta said she likes to go back to her roots.

" I came here Māori and I will leave Māori," Mahuta said.