Vernon Small at Stuff reports:
For many Pakeha the first memory of him may be as the leader of the young kapa haka group he had trained for the ceremony at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
But political commentator Rawiri Taonui, indigenous studies adjunct professor at Auckland University of Technology, sets his contribution in a context going back to the 1970s.
“He’s one of a declining number of Maori leaders who is a full embodiment of the Maori renaissance going back to the 1970s and 1980s, helping establish the first kohanga reo, the first kura kaupapa at Hoani Waititi, getting urban marae up and running and contributing to the development of Maori tertiary education and the renaissance of kapa haka.”
He said Dr Sharples was at the cutting edge of the debate on the foreshore and seabed and of the development of an independent Maori voice in Parliament and of local body Maori representation.
“It has been a huge and significant contribution.”
Sharples has made an fine contribution to New Zealand.
Rival Labour list MP Shane Jones, who is lining up to take Dr Sharples’ Tamaki Makaurau seat, also gave credit to Dr Sharples’ cultural achievement, but he was less flattering about his political legacy.
“He’s not been a strong or decisive figure in his parliamentary leadership. He was always a figure of the cultural renaissance and that’s incredibly important; no-one can take that away from him. But in terms of a parliamentary scrapper or a beacon for a brighter set of policies through Parliament, Dr Sharples has probably been one of the weakest Maori ministers that we’ve had, certainly in my lifetime.”
Dr Taonui could not disagree more.
“History will look back at Pita Sharples as one of the finest Maori politicians of this generation.”
He had tried to address every issue including criminal justice and the health system. “I think actually he has been one of the best [Maori affairs ministers] and probably the best in the last four years.”
I’d put him somewhere in-between. Turia was and is the sharper political operator, but Sharples was excellent at developing positive relationships 0 and relationships are what politics thrives on.
His other big achievement was helping win in Parliament mainstream acceptance of kaupapa Maori “in a more relaxed and open atmosphere than at any time in our history”.
Not for him “white motherf……” outbursts and the occasional angry rhetoric of Mana leader Hone Harawira.
Sharples has always been warmly regarded by most New Zealanders.