Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Mike Butler: Amalgamation and race
I had a phone-call from a Napier councillor who thanked us for campaigning against amalgamation but asked us to stop talking about the Maori board because it upset some people. An earlier email from another person suggested we were “playing the race card”.
It is difficult not to talk about a Maori board because the proposal is to replace the Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke's Bay and Hawke’s Bay Regional councils, with a Hawke’s Bay council that has five local boards and a Maori board, with a headquarters in Napier.
It would be odd not to talk about a Maori board since it is part of the proposal.
Amalgamation is a central government initiative with a similar push in Northland and Wellington at the same time as the Hawke’s Bay push.
The Local Government Commission is controlling the whole process with chair Basil Morrison, a current Waitangi Tribunal member and a former member of the New Zealand Geographic board the main driver.
The Waitangi Tribunal advocates for groups making claims under the Treaty of Waitangi and the New Zealand Geographic board is the body that insists on changing place names to Maori.
The Hawke’s Bay proposal includes an appointed Maori board as well as a co-governance Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Committee comprising 10 councillors and 10 iwi/hapu appointees.
The proposal does not indicate who would appoint the Maori board but because 10 iwi/hapu groups that have or will receive treaty settlement cash formed part of the consultation process it is likely the Maori board will be appointed by those 10 groups.
If that is the case, a Maori board will not represent all Maori in Hawke’s Bay. A Maori board will just represent those 10 small groups.
There is no indication of any demand for a Maori board from Hawke’s Bay people, or from those with some Maori ancestry, and one phone call from a person with such ancestry showed she was dead against a Maori board.
The only Maori board example we have is that imposed on Auckland. The Maori Statutory Board beefed up race-based spending there when it submitted a $295-million wish list for the draft 10-year plan.
That wish list included compulsory teaching of Maori in all Auckland schools, a naming protocol in Maori, financial literacy programmes to promote Maori engagement in trade delegations, foreign direct investment, innovation and export.
The Hawke’s Bay population comprises 24.3 percent Maori, 4.4 percent Pacifika, 3.6 percent Asian, and 67.7 percent everyone else, according to the 2013 census.
The Napier councillor who phoned me was concerned that having a Hastings anti-amalgamation group (the Napier council also opposes amalgamation), criticizing a Maori board, the task of getting the support of Maori groups to campaign against amalgamation would be more difficult.
The assumption appeared to be that Maori would vote for anything Maori.
But Hastings councillors with constituents in the largely Maori suburb of Flaxmere and Napier councillors with constituents in Maraenui are wary because amalgamation would put these constituents both further away from representation and could end an existing myriad of special council deals for them.
Maori voters in those areas would be faced with the choice of opposing amalgamation to retain existing special deals or supporting amalgamation in the hope that a new Maori board appointed by treaty settlement groups that have never done anything for them may bring new special deals.
Meanwhile, everyone else who make up 67.7 percent of the region’s population will have to admit that a Maori Board full of appointees distorts the democratic system that we have that is based on each citizen over the age of 18 having a vote regardless of race.
And the 4.4 percent Pacifika and 3.6 percent Asian could be forgiven for expecting separate Pacifika and Asian boards for them.
Think for a moment of the reaction if the proposal was for an “old pioneers board” appointed by descendents of white settlers who lived in Hawke’s Bay in 1840. The proposed Maori board is along those lines except that the 10 treaty settlement groups came into being over the past 20 years.
Because Maori boards form part of amalgamation proposals for Northland and Wellington as well as for Hawke’s Bay, they deserve as much scrutiny as rates, debt and representation, and must form part of any decision when casting a vote.
For these reasons, Hastings Against Amalgamation will continue to draw attention to issues associated with an appointed Maori board.
at 11:09 AM