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Whakatau 2023 | Pasifika

Pasifika community in for a ‘rough ride’ under new government - academic

An academic predicts Pasifika communities are in for a rough ride over the next three years, while a researcher says the incoming government’s opposition has a lot of diverse Māori representation.

The University of Auckland’s Sir Collin Tukuitonga said National, ACT and New Zealand First had no Pasifika MPs, and ACT also wanted to get rid of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

With three parties with Māori representatives on the left, Victoria University researcher Dr Lara Greaves said people would be waiting to see how diverse Māori representation was reflected in Cabinet.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said he was optimistic the new government would form reasonably quickly.

Pacific set for ‘rough ride’ over next three years - academic

Prominent Pacific academic Sir Collin Tukuitonga said Pasifika communities were in for a rough ride over the next three years.

With the special votes counted, National and ACT were poised to begin negotiating to form a government with New Zealand First. NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters, had ruled out working with Labour.

None of the parties had Pasifika MPs and ACT had said it wants to get rid of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Sir Collin said.

Angee Nicholas - National’s only Pasifika MP-elect - lost her Te Atatū seat to Labour’s Phil Twyford in the special vote count.

“We’re going to have a rough ride. And that’s why it’s extremely important for our community leaders to speak up, because I suspect that the dedicated programmes targeting Pacific education or health or jobs or housing will be difficult to achieve,” he said.

The last government had 10 Pasifika MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

“No one is in Cabinet to represent our interests so credible Pacific leaders, community groups need to speak up. If they see something unacceptable, they need to speak up and they need to lobby their local MPs,” Sir Collin said.

It was even harder when the National and ACT parties campaigned on there being no place for ethnic-based government programmes, he said.

“Even though we know in healthcare, for example, where you have ethnic-based services, you tend to have better outcomes.”

New Zealand also had a big part to play in the development of and aid assistance to the Pacific Islands, he said, so it was important the country’s leaders had a good understanding of the region.

Earlier this week, National Party leader Christopher Luxon said due to the timing of the final election results, he probably would not be able to leave for the Pacific Island Forum on Wednesday because his priority was to form a government. In his place Sepuloni would go, accompanied by National’s Gerry Brownlee, to build relationships with world leaders.

Sir Collin thought the lack of representation on the right would continue to be a trend because with the exception of very few, the values of National, ACT and NZ First did not align with traditional community values that were common in the Pacific.

“The policies, the ideology that drives those parties - it doesn’t align with the community orientated thinking, you know [Pasifika communities] are always thinking about others, about the greater good rather than the individual.”

Diverse Māori opposition - researcher

A Victoria University researcher said the incoming government had a lot of diverse Māori representation.

With special votes counted, there were now 32 Māori MPs in Parliament, 26 percent of the house.

Associate professor of political science Dr Lara Greaves said having diverse representation in Parliament helped create policy based on the lived experiences of those communities.

“Having three parties that have Māori representatives on the left shows that there will be quite a bit of diverse Māori opposition that will be able to highlight issues from their kaupapa, their policy perspective, and to try to get attention for that.”

Greaves said there would be many people waiting to see how diverse Māori representation was reflected in Cabinet.

“It’s going to be quite interesting to see how the Cabinet shapes up, and what Māori are in Cabinet from what party and in which role. We’re going to have this quiet interesting conservative Māori presence in Cabinet, and that’s going to be just a different take on it all.”

Bolger optimistic of ‘sensible agreement in a reasonably short time’

Bolger said he was optimistic the new government would form reasonably quickly. Special votes have been counted, revealing the National and ACT parties need New Zealand First to form a government.

Bolger formed a coalition government with Peters in 1996, and said he was a capable politician.

“He’s smart, he understands politics, he understands that the three parties that have to form the coalition have to reach agreement,” he said. “I am very optimistic they will reach a sensible agreement in a reasonably short time.”

Bolger believed all three parties should be able to work together.

During the campaign, ACT leader David Seymour ruled out working with Peters, describing him as untrustworthy. But on Friday, the ACT leader said he would work with NZ First, though he did not regret his comments.

Bolger said that he would not describe Peters as untrustworthy.

“No, I don’t put him in that category at all. I think that’s a mistake by David Seymour, and if you’re going to work with someone, which the [Electoral Commission] says you will, I think putting up names to criticise people is not a wise way to start.”

Overhang leads to two extra parliamentary seats

University of Otago professor of law Andrew Geddis said the strong electorate results of Te Pāti Māori forced an overhang, creating two additional parliamentary seats.

He said that, combined with National’s loss of two seats after the special vote count, had narrowed the margin by which they clung to power.

“If you have a party like Te Pāti Māori that wins more electorate seats than its share of the party vote might otherwise give it, you can’t take those seats off them. They’ve been elected by the voters of that electorate, they retain those seats.

“So the way our system works is it adds those seats on to the total in Parliament to encompass the extra two seats that Te Pāti Māori won above and beyond what it would have got on its share of the party vote.”

With the house set to swell to 123 seats after the Port Waikato by-election and only 59 seats between them, National and ACT could no longer claim a parliamentary majority.

Geddis said the results solidified New Zealand First’s place in coalition negotiations.

“The three of them have to get what they want out of the process and that’s not going to be easy. There’s going to have to be trade-offs. They’re going to have to work out what they want, what they’re prepared to give up, what they’re not prepared to give up and so on. That can really begin in earnest now that those numbers are absolutely set in stone.”

Geddis said the special vote count had consistently fallen in favour of the left since the introduction of MMP owing to the younger, more transient demographic of those unable to cast an ordinary vote.