The Mayor of New Plymouth Andrew Judd’s choice of words in defining himself as a “recovering” racist is cute, somewhat unusual but entirely his to make. Mr Judd’s mistake however was to describe and imply his personal opinions are indicative of what he assumes are also the racist opinions of the wider public or indeed councils on Maoridom throughout New Zealand.
He appears not to understand that what is actually at stake here is the relationship between the public's widespread and long standing acceptance of one person one vote and the erosion of that fundamental principle by appointed representatives based on ethnicity. It has also been reported that Judd wanted half his council to be Maori as of right which could well be offensive to many Maori who may wish to stand as a ratepayer - not defined by race, cultural or any historical grievance or connection.
Patronizing sanctimony towards any race of people has no place ahead of understanding the crucial drivers of a well-functioning representative democracy. Regretfully, Andrew Judd as the elected leader of the council apparently saw an opportunity to push this agenda ahead of principled decision-making by councilors who are duty bound to understand that the allocation of privilege in all its forms has no place within local or central Government. It needs to be remembered that the New Plymouth councilors who rejected the mayor’s proposal, did not elect Judd as their leader - the public did, which makes his views on the wider public decision to reject race based representation, all the more surprising.
Nobody however should be surprised at the widespread interest in Mayor Judd’s controversial personal opinion which he is perfectly entitled to hold. I suspect he thought “his” council would follow his lead, to which he reacted.
To comment or even promote a point of view that differs from the conventional wisdom of the day is to invite a public flogging albeit in a verbal way - in these enlightened times. Another wonderful example is the environmental debate where opprobrium is heaped on those who do not see climate change (it used to be called global warming) as anything other than a natural occurrence with some help from fossil fuels.
Receiving your fair share of abuse (as Mr. Judd undoubtably has) from those who always know better, is something of a badge of courage to be worn with some pride. Whether they be those with strident views on the environment, or reformers of the sheep industry, they tend to believe theirs is the one and only true God. The Middle East is a most appallingly tragic case in point as those with extreme views seek to impose their beliefs on all others. At least in New Zealand most adhere to the principle of equality of all people before the law. Our law makers – whether in Central or Local Government were always elected by due process – until now it would seem.
There would be an uproar if Governments gave those rate and taxpayers who paid twice the amount of tax than others, two votes instead of one because of their contribution to the nation’s coffers.
Equally unjust would be a proposition that all Maori over the age of sixteen should be given a type of “gold card” concession to exclude them from paying GST due to their ancestors being some of the first people in NZ. If we as a country were to establish that or a similar principle, then those Europeans who emigrated to NZ in the first ships to arrive should also be given special legislative status. Where then does that leave recent immigrants to NZ who fled their own country to leave behind the tribal selective privilege which our own Government is now proposing.
Andrew Judd is correct to say that a reasoned and widespread debate should be held before any decisions can be made but given that the Government has had six or so years of secret discussions with Iwi over fresh water governance, it is fair to say that the public will have no say and even less influence over the process to decide the makeup of their local council into the future.
Democratic freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it (Pericles c495 BC)
It seems to me that the public's rejection of Mr. Judd’s view on race based representation is a sure sign the public are indeed prepared to defend their freedoms even if their elected Mayor is not.
It is also worth remembering that this year is election year for Local Government councilors and Mayors. Enough said!