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The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"The indigenous New Zealanders are having a powerful influence on this campaign"
 real 28k

Friday, 26 November, 1999, 14:43 GMT
Politicians woo the Maori
two men rubbing noses The Alliance party leader receives a traditional Maori greeting

By Michael Peschardt in Auckland

The Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, are having a powerful influence on campaigning ahead of Saturday's general election.

All the parties need their support, and are going out of their way to win it.


You, Maori, you honour your traditions. We do not and that is a mistake.
Jim Anderton, leader of the Alliance party
Non-Maori political leaders have embarked on a charm offensive.

Jim Anderton, the leader of the Alliance party said: "You, Maori, you honour your traditions. We do not and that is a mistake. We should learn. We must do more."

But Maori want more than words. They want land and compensation.

Each year, great ceremony surrounds the day the Waitangi Treaty was signed with European settlers more than 150 years ago.

The Maori say that they have been robbed of their land ever since.

Who speaks for the Maori?

Their one-time spokesman, Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First, has lost support.

Maori in boat Maori perform traditional ritual to commemorate Waitangi Day
He has turned the campaign into something of a confessional on prime time television.

Mr Peters said that leadership was all about courage and admitting that you have made mistakes. He said that he had made some, and went into partnership with people in parliament who he should not have trusted.

Suddenly, all the politicians are admitting to frailty, but many voters may not think it has come soon enough and could punish them at the polls.

Labour expects to win the majority of Maori support, and that may be enough to dislodge a minority national government which has tended towards the accident prone
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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
New Zealand's poll: Change at the top?
25 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Shipley's late NZ election appeal
24 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
NZ minister fired in Maori row
02 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Maori battle for equal rights

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