The following is an open letter from from Chief Executive of Whānau Ora and Te Whānau o Waipareira, John Tamihere, to the editors of NZME newspapers. The letter addresses an article published in the New Zealand Herald about funding arrangements for Mr Tamihere's political campaigns.
As a Māori leader I must come close to holding the record of being posted on the front page of the New Zealand Herald for all the negative and wrong things that stereotype Māori.
It is a sad day for democracy in Aotearoa when Māori get demonised for being honest in publicly ensuring that every cent spent to advance the Te Pāti Māori, or Māori causes by Māori people is somehow deemed illegal or unworthy.
When I was elected as the Tāmaki Makaurau candidate for the Te Pāti Māori in 2020, our leadership determined that under no circumstances would we launder money through side trusts, foundations or auctions. In addition, we would not take money from foreign interests. We were on a journey to liberate our peoples right to participate in the political process and to do that we needed to be honest and upfront about funding our right to our voice in the political process.
Accordingly everything the Herald has printed is correct in regard to money because we disclosed everything in our audited financial statements. There is no cover up or attempt to be covert or dishonest.
Readers of the article published by Mr Nippert in the Herald could easily be swayed to that view. This story played out in the middle of the late Queen Elizabeth’s funeral where the NZ Herald on September 16, gave me until 2:30 PM that day to respond to allegations that somehow what and how we had funded our political ambitions was somehow wrong in a free democracy.
I wrote back on that date indicating that the NZ Herald and this particular columnist and I had adverse history. I asked that are they alleging illegality on my part, the part of the National Urban Māori Authority or the part of Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust. I asked that they particularise the allegations because in joining a number of dots you are purposely misleading the public.
So, we are in negotiations with the Charities Commission, a binding decision has not been made contrary to the Herald’s allegations. And should the Charities Commission find against us, of course we will litigate this because we have a right to overtly and openly stand up in a free democracy for our indigenous, political voice.
Our case can be distinguished on its facts in regard to a landmark decision against Greenpeace. That litigation has yet to be heard because a decision has yet to be made that would trigger us contesting it. Mr Nippert and Murray Kirkness, the NZ Herald editor, were all copied in on this.
I am going into some detail on this story because good Pākehā friends need to know what some of their kinfolk get up to and they just have to stop it and stop them. It’s not for Māori to correct things all the time and defend themselves all the time from malicious framing of us always in a negative way.
If it was not for whistleblowers in the NZ First Party, we would never know that the richest man in New Zealand, Graeme Hart, and his sons had funded thousands of dollars to NZ First, under cover of anonymity because they broke those donations up under $15,000 installments. But Mr Hart is deemed a nice, clever, Pākehā businessman who beat the law by making a number of donations under $15,000 to protect his anonymity.
If I as a Māori leader had done that, the Herald would have printed a story saying rules should be changed because Tamihere subverted them and that’s the allegation in this particular piece of work published on the front page. Remembering the Herald did print those numbers but it made no allegations against Mr Hart for doing that.
Māori want a fair and just go, not to be demonised for being honest and upfront. Te Pāti Māori demand that the Electoral Laws change so all funds channeled to political parties are fully disclosed as we have. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. This is the hallmark of a just society and an open democracy.
John Tamihere is a former Labour Cabinet Minister and Chief Executive of Whānau Ora and West Auckland Urban Māori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira.