In the early ’80s, Joe Te Pania was a driver with the firm “Ginty’s” in Wellington
As a Maori with leadership qualities, he was targeted for recruitment to the Socialist Unity Party, by party leader Ken Douglas and his right hand man, Driver’s Union official Richie Gillespie.
By the mid ’80s, Te Pania was a card carrying member of the SUP and was working closely with Jackson Smith on the “National Question“. He and Smith were working closely, but discretely, with several of the prominent Maori radicals of the day, including Tom Poata .
An high-flier, by 1987 Te Pania was chairman of the Wellington regional committee of the SUP.
By 1988 Te Pania was a member both of the SUP’s Central Committee and their Commission for the “National Question“.
Te Pania worked in the Distribution Workers Federation with Jackson Smith until 1990, when he became Maori Educator for the Trade Union Education Authority.
TUEA was set up by a 1985 Task Force which included Jackson Smith, ex HART leader Mike Law and current Labour MP Maryan Street. Seen by some commentators as a “payoff” by Labour for SUP/Union support in the 1984 General Election, TUEA was staffed almost exclusively by SUP and Workers Communist League members and was taxpayer funded to the tune of $3,000,000 per annum.
Te Pania used his position to Work on establishing “Runanga” linking unions to the Maori community and ran a series of Huis around the country for Maoris on Labour’s Runanga-Iwi bill. This Bill, giving Iwi (tribal) Authorities a quasi-governmental role, was, like most of Labour’s Maori policy, supported by the SUP.
Te Pania was effectively a taxpayer funded SUP activist.
In a June 1990 Te Pania gave an interview to the SUP’s “Tribune” on “How the Runanga Iwi Bill Can Develop the Treaty”.
“Dignity and respect are at the heart of the Treaty“, Joe believes. Those things can be realised today by developing self-determination. “If we are to have that we need to be developing a Maori economic plan.”
In 1993 the National Government abolished TUEA, so Te Pania went to work for several years as a “policy analyst” for the fledgling NZ Qualifications Authority.
Working in NZQA’s “Whanau” division, Te Pania’s job including checking that NZQA initiatives were in accord with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Te Pania was in a position to influence the education of every NZ school pupil.
It would be interesting to know if this former truck driver could have gained such an influential educational post without SUP backing.
After leaving NZQA, Te Pania worked for some time as Nga Toa Awhina for the Public Service Association. Here, Te Pania was able to exert considerable influence on one of NZ’s largest trade unions.
While the SUP dissolved a few years ago, some members still seem to be networking for socialism.
Te Pania, is still active in Maori causes and has, for some years, been chairman of Porirua’s Maraeroa Marae.