Tariana Turia

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Photo of Tariana Turia
Parl. Electorate List Pos. Party
45th List 20 Labour
46th Te Tai Hauauru 16 Labour
47th Te Tai Hauauru None Labour
47th Te Tai Hauauru N/A Maori Party

Tariana Turia (born 8 April 1944) is a New Zealand politician. She gained considerable prominence during the foreshore and seabed controversy, and eventually broke with her party as a result. She resigned from parliament, and successfully contested a by-election in her former electorate as a candidate of the newly-formed Maori Party.

Contents

Early work

Turia was born in 1944, and has roots in the Whanganui, Ngati Apa, Nga Rauru, and Tuwharetoa iwi. Before entering politics, she had considerable involvement with a number of Maori organisations, working with Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) and a number of Maori health providers. She also had associations with the Te Kura Kaupapa and kohanga reo movements.

Political career

Turia entered the New Zealand Parliament in the 1996 election as a list MP for the Labour Party, ranking 20th on the party list. In the 1999 election, she remained a list MP, but ranked sixteenth. In the 2002 election, however, she contested the Te Tai Hauauru Maori electorate, and opted not to place herself on the party list at all. Te Tai Hauauru (roughly, the Maori voters of the west of the North Island) returned her as their member of parliament.

Although never a member of Cabinet, Turia has held a number of non-Cabinet ministerial roles. From Labour's electoral victory in 1999, she served as Associate Minister of Maori Affairs, Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment, Associate Minister of Health, and Associate Minister of Housing. In 2002, she also became Associate Minister of Corrections. After the formation of the Labour-Progressive coalition in 2002, she dropped the Corrections role and gained full ministerial rank as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector.

Foreshore and seabed legislation

When debate about ownership of New Zealand's foreshore and seabed broke out in 2003, and the Labour Party proposed vesting ownership in the state, Turia voiced dissatisfaction. Along with many of her supporters in Te Tai Hauauru, she claimed that Labour's proposal amounted to an outright confiscation of Maori land. When it became publicly known that Turia might vote against Labour's bill in parliament, tensions between Turia and the Labour Party's leadership increased. The hierarchy strongly implied that if Turia did not support Labour policy, she could not retain her ministerial roles.

By-election

On April 30 2004, after a considerable period of confusion about Turia's intentions, she announced that she would resign from parliament on 17 May. This precipitated a by-election being called in Te Tai Hauauru, which Turia contested as a member of the new Maori Party that formed around her. On the same day that Turia announced her resignation, Prime Minister Helen Clark sacked her from her ministerial posts.

Her supporters see Turia as having bravely defied her party in order to stand up for her principles. Her critics, however, portray her as a dangerous radical. The Labour Party has criticised Turia for putting the foreshore and seabed issue before the party's wider policies for Maori development, and says that she has unreasonably focused on a single issue. Helen Clark said that Turia had shown "an astonishing lack of perspective". Turia described the Te Tai Hauauru by-election of 10 July 2004 as a chance to test her mandate, and to ensure that she had the support of her voters, but doubts remained about the significance of the by-election, since none of the major parties put forward candidates. Labour called the event "a waste of time and money".

Turia received 92.74% of the vote in the by-election, and resumed her seat in Parliament on 27 July 2004.

mi:Tariana Turia

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