John Tamihere

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The Honourable
John Tamihere
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Hauraki
In office
Preceded by new electorate
Succeeded by electorate abolished
Majority 7,238 (14.51%)
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Tāmaki Makaurau
In office
Preceded by new electorate
Succeeded by Pita Sharples
Majority 9,444 (60.52%)
Personal details
Born 1959
Nationality New Zealand
Political party Labour
Occupation Lawyer

John Henry Tamihere (born 1959) is a New Zealand former politician, media personality and political commentator. He was member of Parliament from 1999 to 2005. He served as a Cabinet minister in the Labour Party from August 2002 to 3 November 2004. He was intending to stand again for Parliament in the 2014 election but decided not to.

Early life[edit]

Tamihere was born in 1959[1] in Auckland as the 10th of 12 children to a Māori father of Ngāti Porou, Whakatohea and Tainui descent, and a mother of Irish and Scottish descent. He is brother to convicted murderer David Tamihere.[2] He attended St Mary's School in Avondale and St Peter's College where one of his most influential teachers was Tom Weal, deputy leader of the Social Credit Political League 1970–1972. John Tamihere rated Tom Weal as his most influential teacher. Tamihere said that Mr Weal would link things to politics and, in particular, to New Zealand's agricultural policies. He would emphasise that grass was the most important New Zealand crop as it was the basis of the wool, meat and dairy industries. Mr Weal alerted John Tamihere to the impact that Britain's joining the European Common market would have on New Zealand's economy and society. New Zealand would have to wake up quickly to the loss of the relationship with Britain, find new markets and new ways of doing things, and start to back itself. "The way Mr Weal brought education to life gave me a strong interest in what I call the Kiwi-isation of our society", wrote John Tamihere.[3] Tamihere gained arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland, being the first person in his family to attend university. After graduating, he became a lawyer, eventually working for the Māori Land Court and the Department of Māori Affairs. In 1991 Tamihere became the chief executive of the Waipareira Trust, which provided health and education services to Māori in the Auckland region. He also served as chairman of the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Board.[4] Tamihere had a relatively high-profile before entering politics, having been selected as Person of the Year by The Sunday Star-Times, New Zealander of the Year by North & South magazine, and Man of the Year by Metro magazine.

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1999–2002 46th Hauraki none Labour
2002–2005 47th Tāmaki Makaurau none Labour

In the 1999 election, Tamihere stood as the Labour Party's candidate for the Māori electorate of Hauraki. He won the seat with 60 percent of the vote: his nearest rival gained only 15 percent. Immediately upon entering parliament, he became chairman of the Māori Affairs Select Committee, and also served on the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. In the 2002 election, Tamihere contested the newly formed Tamaki Makaurau electorate, which he won with 73 percent of the vote. He gained the second-highest majority amongst the Māori MPs, exceeded only by that of Parekura Horomia, the Minister of Māori Affairs. Tamihere was appointed to Cabinet in 2002.[5] He served as Minister of Small Business, Minister of Youth Affairs, Minister of Statistics, and Minister for Land Information, as well as functioning as Horomia's deputy as Associate Minister of Māori Affairs until 2004.[6]

Prior to the events mentioned below, Tamihere often figured as a perceived "rising star" of the Labour caucus: some commentators expected him to play a prominent role in the party's future, and sometimes even mentioned his name as that of a potential Prime Minister.[by whom?]

Views and opinions[edit]

Tamihere has a high public profile, much of it derived from his beliefs on a number of issues. He has made a significant impact in Māori politics by campaigning on behalf of "urban Maori", who often have no remaining links to their iwi (tribal structures). According to Tamihere, traditional structures such as iwi do not reflect the reality of modern Māori life, and have proven inadequate for solving today's problems. Tamihere has condemned modern iwi organizations as "new feudal tribal constructs", dominated by an elite group far removed from the majority of Maori. These comments have angered many prominent Māori leaders, but won him considerable popularity with ordinary Māori voters, as well as with a large measure of non-Māori supporters.

Tamihere has also attracted both criticism and praise for his views on Māori self-sufficiency. According to Tamihere, too many Māori "blam[e] others for our failure", and Māori need to "take responsibility for our own actions." This has placed him at odds with Māori politicians such as Willie Jackson, who accuse Tamihere of "victim-blaming". Tamihere, however, claims that the "victim mentality" holds Māori back, and that Māori need to abandon it if they wish to improve their living standards.

The foreshore and seabed controversy of 2004–05 put considerable strain on the Labour Party's Māori MPs, with many showing dissatisfaction with the party's policy. Two Labour MPs, Tariana Turia and Nanaia Mahuta, chose to vote against Labour's legislation, and Turia elected to leave the party. Tamihere, however, eventually voted in favour of the legislation, and has defended it from its critics. Tamihere has also criticised the new Māori Party established by Turia and her supporters, saying that it will ultimately fail. According to Tamihere, the party's leaders "belong to a relatively wealthy, educated elite", and do not represent ordinary Maori.

On 17 November 2012, Tamihere was barred from the Labour Party Annual Conference after criticising the party for being "too focused on issues like gay marriage."[7]

Controversies and loss of seat 2005[edit]

On 15 October 2004, Tamihere requested leave from his Ministerial portfolios after accusations of dishonest financial dealings made against him. The accusations against Tamihere included: accepting a "golden handshake" from the Waipareira Trust after stating that he would not take one, and failing to pay tax on this payment. Tamihere said that he had "done nothing to bring shame", but portrayed standing down from his Ministerial roles during investigation as the "honourable" course. On 22 October, the Waipareira Trust accepted that it, not Tamihere, had the responsibility for tax on any payment, but other allegations relating to the financial management of the Trust persisted.[citation needed] On 3 November Tamihere resigned from his Ministerial portfolios, citing as untenable the retention of his responsibilities during on-going investigations. On 21 December, an official investigation cleared Tamihere of the tax charges, and on 14 March 2005, the Serious Fraud Office cleared him of the charges relating to his stewardship of the Waipareira Trust.[citation needed]

John Tamihere then found himself in more trouble when on 4 April 2005 the magazine Investigate published an interview[8] in which he insulted the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers. About Prime Minister Helen Clark he said, "But she's no good with emotions. She goes to pieces. She'll fold on the emotional side and walk away or not turn up. She knows it's going to get emotional and it upsets her. We've never had a great relationship". Tamihere also made comments regarded as derogatory about other members of the Labour Party: Steve Maharey was called "smarmy" and lacking in substance, and Michael Cullen was depicted as cunning and manipulative. The party's homosexual MPs were also criticised.

Tamihere denies that the interview he gave was on the record, a claim disputed by the journalist in question. Helen Clark speculated on Tamihere's having had a "liquid lunch",[9] and indicated that a return to cabinet for Tamihere was no longer certain. Tamihere was advised to take leave to consider his position, and began attempting to mend relations with his colleagues.

A week later, however, more comments emerged from the interview. Tamihere was reported as being highly critical of women leaders, saying that they achieved their position through preferential treatment. He also stated that he was "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed" in the Holocaust, saying that while he found the Holocaust revolting, he believed that repeated mention of it was simply used to make people "feel guilty". He also alleged that Clayton Cosgrove, previously believed to be one of Tamihere's closest allies in the party, had conducted a "nasty" campaign of telephone harassment against Clark and her husband when Clark deposed Mike Moore as party leader in 1993. These latest revelations were regarded by many as the end of Tamihere's career within the Labour Party, and Clark indicated that she saw no chance of Tamihere being elected to Cabinet again. The revelation of these comments also ended talk of a potential move to another party, the National Party being frequently mentioned, and also ended attempts by opposition parties in New Zealand to portray Tamihere as a victim of the Labour Party and to use the comments to point out the flaws within the Labour Party. At the Labour Party caucus meeting on 12 April, Tamihere attended despite being placed on stress leave by Clark. He apologised for his comments and was censured by the meeting, but was not asked to resign from the party.

In May 2005, Tamihere was cautioned by the New Zealand SPCA after he left two cats when he moved house. Neighbours complained when the cats had not been cared for after eleven days.

He was convicted for three drink driving and other driving offences between 1978 and 1995, according to the National Business Review.[10]

In the 2005 election, Tamihere lost his electorate seat to Pita Sharples and left Parliament. He had previously decided not to seek a list placement, stating that this decision was due to his desire to determine whether he had the "people's mandate."

Subsequent career and political aspirations[edit]

After his election loss, Tamihere sought re-election to the Waipareira Trust. He was voted back onto the board by members of the trust, but the board itself tried to remove him by changing the governance rules. This resulted in a legal case which Tamihere and the four other newly elected board members won.[11]

Tamihere previously co-hosted a talkback show, Willie & JT,[12] on Radio Live with Willie Jackson. He is well known for his trenchant political commentaries on television, radio and through other media.[13] Tamihere and Jackson also have a New Zealand current affairs debate-based TV show, "The world according to Willie and JT". In 2007, Tamihere and Jackson ran for the mayoralties in Waitakere City and Manukau City respectively.[14] Both were unsuccessful, Tamihere finishing second behind the incumbent, Bob Harvey.[15] From 2011-2012, he hosted the TV3 show Think Tank that deals with issues affecting New Zealanders and particularly those of importance to Maori.[16]

In October 2012, Tamihere made moves to resume his parliamentary career by indicating that he would like to stand again for the Labour Party in the 2014 election,[17] but his name was not on Labour's list.[18]

In April 2013 Tamihere made headlines when he removed a wheel clamp himself.[19]

In the 2013 New Zealand local elections, Tamihere stood successfully for a seat on the board of the Waitakere Licensing Trust, which owns and operates a chain of wholesale liquor outlets and bars in West Auckland. He also stood, but narrowly missed out, for a seat on the Waitemata District Health Board, which also covers the North Shore and Rodney areas. Tamihere said that he did "very well in West Auckland but just could not carry the North Shore votes." He said that he did no campaigning for either post, such as attending public meetings, putting up placards or handing out pamphlets, preferring to "just put my name on the ballot to see what happens".[20]

Roast Busters[edit]

In November 2013 on RadioLive, Willie Jackson and John Tamihere interviewed a 'friend' of an alleged rape victim, "Amy". Amy discussed information she knew about an incident by a group called the "Roast Busters" that was under investigation in New Zealand. Jackson and Tamihere asked her why and how much the girls had been drinking, and why they were out late at night. "The other side comes to it, were they willing drinkers?" They also questioned why the girls, some as young as 13, had not made formal complaints to the police, asked "how free and easy are you kids these days?", and asked Amy what age she had lost her virginity. They also described the Roast Busters' actions as "mischief". Jackson and Tamihere also implied that some young girls who had consensual sex with the young men may now "line up and say they were raped as well". Amy said she believed those involved were rapists, which was met with a small laugh by the hosts, who then said: "Well if some of the girls have consented that doesn't make them rapists, right?" Many on social media were angry with the pair, calling for them to be fired or to step down from their positions.[21] Vodafone, Telecom, Countdown and Briscoes suspended all RadioLive advertising due to the interview. Four other advertisers pulled their campaigns from the station earlier.[22]

On 11 November, the pair stood down from their show for the rest of the year.[23] Jackson returned in early 2014 with new co-host Alison Mau, replacing Tamihere, who did not return. This resulted in Tamihere launching legal action against Mediaworks alleging breach of his contract. Mediaworks eventually settled and apologised.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Designing the 21st Century" (PDF). Local Government New Zealand. 25 July 2004. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  2. ^ Stokes, Jon (12 March 2007). "Brother believes convicted killer will be out by 2009". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  3. ^ Tamihere, John; Bain, Helen (2004). John Tamihere: Black and White. Auckland: Reed Publishing (NZ). pp. 33–44. ISBN 0-7900-0964-1. 
  4. ^ Coffey, John; Wood, Bernie (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908-2008. Huia Publishers. p. 316. ISBN 978-1-86969-331-2. 
  5. ^ "Members of Executive Council Appointed". The New Zealand Gazette: 2948. 20 August 2002. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Resignation of Executive Councillor". The New Zealand Gazette (145): 3671. 11 November 2004. 2004-vr7398. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "The Full Monty - John Tamihere Interview". Investigate. April 2005. Retrieved 20 December 2007. 
  9. ^ "PM Seething Over Tamihere". Newstalk ZB. 4 April 2005. Archived from the original on 18 November 2005. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  10. ^ "John Tamihere Under Fire Again". TVNZ. 13 December 2000. Retrieved 21 December 2007. 
  11. ^ Stokes, Jon (22 December 2005). "Court backs Tamihere's election to trust board". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 21 December 2007. 
  12. ^ "Willie & JT on RadioLIVE". MediaWorks. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  13. ^ for example, Kate Chapman, "Tamihere:Cunliffe's deputy pick 'smarmy'", The Dominion Post, 2 December 2011 (retrieved 2 December 2011)
  14. ^ Thompson, Wayne (23 August 2007). "Jackson and Tamihere running for mayor". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  15. ^ "Your Vote 07 – The results". New Zealand Herald. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Trevett, Claire (2 October 2012). "Tamihere eyes Labour comeback". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "Labour List for the 2014 Election Announced" (Press release). New Zealand Labour Party. Scoop. 23 June 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "Can you unclamp your own car?". 3 News NZ. 12 April 2013. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. 
  20. ^ Wayne Thompson, "Local elections 2013: Tamihere aims to alter trust thinking" NZ Herald, 14 October 2013 (Retrieved 21 october 2013)
  21. ^ "Roast Busters: Radio show hosts 'victim blaming' - National - NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 5 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Roast Busters: More advertising pulled from RadioLive - National - NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 8 November 2013. 
  23. ^

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hauraki
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Tāmaki Makaurau
Succeeded by
Pita Sharples