Friday, April 18, 2014
Mike Butler: Iwi lose New Plymouth vote battle
Tribalists lost the latest battle in the war for separate Maori representation on Tuesday when the New Plymouth District Council voted against a proposal that would have seen iwi representatives appointed to standing committees with full voting rights. Proponents of such set-ups either don’t understand or don’t care that extra race-based representation is one quick way to destroy our basic right as citizens of one person one vote.
Moreover, proponents cite “treaty partnership” as a justification without either knowing or caring that references to claimed partnership only go back to 1989, when Sir Geoffrey Palmer opined that the treaty principle of co-operation could mean “the outcome of reasonable cooperation will be partnership”.
Whatever the outcome, there will be no winners in this war. Our political system is based on citizenship, not ethnicity. Any move to install race-based representation will alienate those who hold to the one-person-one-vote principle and any move to oppose it will make tribalists feel marginalized.
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd brought a proposal which would have seen representatives from Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa, Ngati Maru, and other Taranaki tribes appointed to standing committees to the table after speaking with various elders. (1)
Judd, deputy mayor Heather Dodunski and councillors Gordon Brown, Howie Tamati and Marie Pearce voted in favour of the proposal. Councillors Keith Allum, Murray Chong, Shaun Biesiek, Grant Coward, John McLeod, Richard Jordan and Colin Johnston voted against it. Councillors Richard Handley, Len Houwers and Craig McFarlane were absent.
Councillors reported extreme pressure from tribalists and from those who opposed the move both in New Plymouth and around New Zealand.
Te Atiawa representative Peter Moeahu called for Government intervention. "It is of grave concern when New Plymouth councillors deliberately act contrary to local government law and spit in the face of iwi, the Crown's treaty partner," Moeahu said.
"The law is clear: Council has a legal obligation to engage with iwi. They refuse to do so. I am in Wellington next week and will raise this issue with government officials. I expect other iwi of north Taranaki may do the same."
As an aside, history buffs would know that another Te Atiawa person, Wiremu Kingi, started the armed uprisings of the 1860s at Waitara, 15km northeast of New Plymouth, on March 17, 1860.
Separate Maori representation in local government has existed since 2001, when the Environment Bay of Plenty regional council established three Maori seats according to the terms of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Act 2001.
Maori representation on the proposed Auckland super city became controversial in 2009. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended that two Maori members should be elected to the Auckland Council by voters who are on the parliamentary Maori Electoral Roll, and that there should be a “mana whenua” forum, the members of which would be appointed by mana whenua from the district of the Auckland Council.
That proposal did not eventuate. In the end, central government imposed a Maori statutory board to be appointed by the Maori Affairs Department but paid for by Auckland ratepayers.
Human Rights Commissioner Joris De Bres wrote to all councils, in 2011, asking them to consider the question of Maori seats in their three-yearly representation review. In response, of 78 councils nationwide, 49 told De Bres that they had already considered the Maori seats option but had not taken it any further, and three councils – the Nelson City Council, the Wairoa District Council, and the Waikato District Council – agreed to start the process of establishing Maori seats.
Affected electors were entitled to demand a poll. When a poll was demanded in Nelson, a 43.4 percent return in May 2012 showed 79.41 percent against the proposal and 20.22 percent for it.
Results at that time of the official poll in Wairoa, which has a large Maori population, showed that of only 47.3 percent of electors who voted, 51.89 percent were against and 47.95 percent for.
A similar poll held by the Waikato District Council, in April 2012, rejected separate Maori representation. Of the 12,762 (30.16 percent) of electors who voted, 10,111 were against the idea, while 2517 favoured it.
New Plymouth councillors have reaffirmed what ratepayers have already shown-- that they do not want separate Maori representation. Whatever the outcome, there will be no winners in this war for race-based representation in local government.
1. Te Atiawa take issue to Crown, http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/9951215/Te-Atiawa-take-issue-to-Crown
at 12:14 PM