Only some honour in political New Year honours

Few would begrudge Turia her New Year honours. ?Instead of sitting around and complaining, she actually got up and did something, which is more than can be said for most politicians.

Former Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has topped the list of politicians in the New Year honours, being made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Dame Tariana was elected to Parliament as a Labour list MP in 1996 and stood down at the September election along with co-leader Pita Sharples.

She was elected in 2002 in Te Tai Hauauru for Labour but quit to set up the Maori Party and in July 2004 won the seat under the Maori Party banner.

Between 2008 and this year, with the Maori Party in a support arrangement with the John Key-led National Government, her ministerial portfolios included Whanau Ora, Disability Issues and the Community and Voluntary Sector.

The Whanau Ora policy, which devolves social policy delivery to communities and whanau and aims to support families rather than individuals, is seen as her proudest legacy.

Before entering politics Turia was chief executive of Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority and worked in Te Puni Kokiri. She was also manager of the Whanganui Regional Development Board Trust.

Turia said the honour was as much for her people as it was for her.

“It’s humbling really because there are so many people out there who do such great work, so to be honoured in this way, for me, is more of an honour for my hapu and iwi.

“The recognition from my people over the last 40 years helped to keep me going and focused on what I had to do.”

The only time I think she seriously slipped up and lost support from non-Maori is when she insisted the Maori Wars were New Zealand’s equivalent of the WWII holocaust. ?It’s something that’s stuck with me, and I’ve never really been able to square that away as being a reasonable comparison. ?Luckily, she learned from that and toned down her public rhetoric at least.

Other political recipients include Tony Ryall ?

Ryall, who was MP for the Bay of Plenty, was first elected in 1990 and rose to Cabinet rank under Jenny Shipley in 1997.

As state-owned enterprises minister he played a pivotal role in the Key Government’s unpopular partial privatisation of three state-owned electricity generators and Air New Zealand before stepping down at the last election.

Ryall said he was humbled by the honour, which reflected the efforts of so many who had assisted him over the years. He rated his proudest achievements as speeding up cancer treatment times and lifting the number of elective surgeries during his six years as health minister.

Just as well it is to recognise more than just the last few years. ?It is an open secret that his departure was strategic, as he’s left some clangers in his wake. ?Be that as it may, on balance, he’s a worthy recipient to receive recognition.

Which leaves us with the one that makes us all shake our heads: ?Murray McCully

McCully was honoured for services to foreign policy, leading New Zealand’s successful bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, which was achieved against predictions on the first ballot.

He said success for New Zealand depended on having a good reputation and a good campaign. “I think we had both of those going for us.”

But the honour should not be seen as a sign he is about to quit politics. “It’s no great secret that I am marginally closer to the end of my career than to the beginning but I have just entered a new three-year contract with my constituency of East Coast Bays and there’s certainly nothing in the award that changes that.”

I think it is exactly a sign that he’s on the way out. ?He’s had the shoulder tap from the PMO that he can either go quietly or there will be some blood on the floor.

Tania Billingsley won’t see McCully’s honour as anything but the perversions of the old boys network. ?To give honours to sitting MPs is generally not done, unless there are exceptional circumstances – after all – they can still totally embarrass the government making a mockery of others that received a similar recognition.

If McCully isn’t smart enough to quietly fade away during the next year and a half, I suspect Key’s top drawer will get unlocked to help the process along.


– Vernon Small,?The Dominion Post