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Labour sits well at Waitangi Day

Opinion Piece

Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party, as well as Maori in general, will go into tomorrow’s Waitangi Day holiday in good heart.

Ardern’s decision to spend five days in the Waitangi area has proved a shrewd one. She has been warmly welcomed by her hosts and the Iwi Leaders Forum.

While predictions have a habit of coming unstuck, it does seem that the disruptive protests of other years will not be seen this time.

A key reason is that political leaders will receive their official powhiri at the upper grounds and not Te Tii Marae for the first time in decades, to avoid the disruptions there that saw Helen Clark, John Key and Bill English all make decisions not to attend Waitangi.

However, Labour also goes to Waitangi with Maori in their strongest position within government in the MMP era. Labour itself has 13 Maori MPs including its deputy leader, and senior Maori MPS in the coalition government hold 18 ministerial portfolios.

The only possible cloud is Labour’s election policy of charging for commercial water. Maori see that as taking ownership, and the Government has some work to do to get their assent to any proposal.

But many of the main planks of Labour’s 100-day plan, particularly reducing child poverty, will have big benefits for Maori.

Labour will have also been heartened by the first Newshub poll since the election. While National was steady at 44.5 percent, Labour surged 5.4 percentage points to 42 percent. It is the closest the two largest parties have been since 2010 and with the Green’s 6 percent, has the left in front.

This was basically at the expense of New Zealand First, which at 3.8 percent would not be in Parliament without an electorate seat.

Ardern could also be excused a feeling of schadenfreude at the troubles of another, with reports of possible challenges to Bill English — or more likely his deputy Paula Bennett — even though these have the hallmarks of being speculative.

The rest of the country seems set to treat Waitangi Day as just another welcome holiday, with many taking today off to give them a last long weekend of the summer. At least Easter is early this year, with Good Friday falling on March 30.