The party representing New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people will get its first Cabinet posts under a multiparty deal New Zealand prime minister-elect John Key signed yesterday to form a center-right minority government.
In return for the Maori Party’s support, Key agreed to back off on his pledge to scrap the special seats in parliament set aside for indigenous Maori lawmakers.
He also said he would review a law nationalizing the nation’s shoreline — an area Maori claim they had traditionally owned but was “stolen” by a law passed in 2004.
The new government would be sworn in Wednesday, Key told reporters yesterday after signing deals with three small parties, adding the votes of 11 lawmakers to his center-right National Party’s tally to give it 70 votes in the 122-seat parliament.
The coalition deals with the rightist Act Party and centrist United Future Party put the new government in position to carry out Key’s campaign pledges to cut taxes, build infrastructure to boost the flailing economy and soften the ambitious environmental policies of outgoing New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
“We face very significant economic challenges ahead,” Key told reporters. “And the way out of economic difficulty is through economic growth.”
One of Key’s priorities in government will be to amend New Zealand’s greenhouse-gas emissions trading scheme to make it more favorable to business and farming.
He said yesterday he had also agreed to an immediate repeal of Clark’s ban on electric power generation from coal.
However, Key has said he still wanted to cut New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050.
He said that the coalition agreement with the Maori Party “is very much about inclusion ... as we will only succeed if we have all New Zealanders rowing in the same direction.”
New Zealand’s complex proportional voting system means there are multiple small parties that usually prevent one party from getting an outright majority in elections, forcing the winner to negotiate support agreements.
The Maori Party, founded four years ago, had previously been allied with Clark’s center-left Labour Party.
In Key’s new government, the party will hold the posts of Maori Affairs minister and Community and Voluntary Sector minister.
Maori have been appointed to Cabinet posts in earlier governments but these will be the first appointments from the Maori Party, which is dedicated to the promotion of indigenous issues.
Maori make up 15 percent of New Zealand’s 4.3 million people but are among the poorest, worst housed, least healthy and suffer higher unemployment and crime rates than most other citizens.
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