Sunday, February 27, 2011

Michael Coote: A mockery of democratic processes

First published in The National Business Review, February 25, 2011: The Maori Party is going to miss Hone Harawira, long an independent MP anyway. Mr Harawira’s virtue lies in making cunning, hardened Maori racists like Pita Sharples appear moderate and reasonable in their relentless campaign to undermine New Zealand’s liberal democracy and its core principle of legal equality between persons.

Without the Harawira figleaf, we will get the naked lunch – so to speak - from the Maori Party and it won’t make pretty eating.

Already with the ill-conceived Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, the rump of the Maori Party will vote for enactment only in order to come back and renegotiate it later, with particular emphasis on diluting ever further the qualifying criteria for Maori tribes to gain customary title to vast swathes of the foreshore and seabed.

If there was any doubt as to the dirty business the Maori Party will go to, to keep on chipping away at the legal equality of all other Kiwis with part-Maori New Zealanders – for that is today’s racial reality of our now UN-recognised “indigenous” people – we need only consider the Maori statutory board fuss that has broken out in the new Auckland supercity.

The relevant cabinet papers and minutes that threw up the Maori statutory board like a cup of cold sick into the faces of Auckland ratepayers – households and businesses - make for intriguing reading.

The four papers concerned can be found posted on the Department of Internal Affairs’ website in its legislative reviews section, under the heading of government decisions in response to the Royal Commission on Auckland governance.

Once the prospect of separate Maori council seats was quashed by prime minister John Key and minister of local government Rodney Hide, minister of Maori affairs Sharples went into overdrive to find some substitute.

In the cabinet paper of August 24, 2009, three alternatives for Maori representation that did not involve dedicated Maori council seats were aired, namely use of existing legislation (option 1 and preferred by Mr Hide), an independent Maori statutory board (option 2 and first preference of Mr Sharples), and a dedicated council committee (option 3 and second preference of Mr Sharples).

Of special note in the diagrams of the options, option 2 (the statutory board) stated that the board would have powers “to appoint person(s) to sit on Council Committee(s), in particular those that deal with management and stewardship of natural and physical resources.”

Strangely, at point 71 of this cabinet paper, Mr Hide went on to state, “However, if Cabinet has a desire for Parliament to determine the form and function of a body to assist the Auckland Council to meet its statutory responsibilities with respect to mana whenua and other Maori, the Minister of Local Government is comfortable with option 2.”

Small wonder Mr Sharples now feels able to claim that he and Mr Hide put up a joint cabinet paper, which they both signed, wherein they together agreed to the board.

In January of this year, the newly appointed board, with Mr Sharples as its guiding spirit, stunned the Auckland city council by announcing it would be appointing two voting members per each of 20 council committees, panels and forums.

A screaming match ensued over the budget for this board, which rather missed the real issue in allowing unelected persons to vote with elected councillors, because that effective casting vote for board members and their nominees is how Auckland’s ratepayers are going to find themselves soaked for the “Maori tax” on virtually any council initiative proposed.

But rust never sleeps, and so having won his Maori statutory board from the John Key-led National minority government, Mr Sharples was off trying to fashion Auckland’s new mayor Len Brown into one of his racist glove puppets.

In November last year Mr Sharples persuaded Mr Brown to attend a hui in Porirua held by the Iwi Leadership Group (hardly a focus group of Auckland ratepayers, but presumably the trip was paid for out of their rates).

Afterwards Mr Sharples proudly announced that Mr Brown had promised the hui to try and talk Auckland city councillors around to accepting dedicated Maori council seats – this on top of the statutory board’s two voting seats per council committee.

Revealingly, another hui attendee, Tukuroirangi “Undiegate” Morgan, acknowledged that the majority of Auckland’s ratepayers would never vote for Maori seats in a referendum.

More of Mr Sharples’s sneaky tricks will no doubt be applied to creating a Maori shadow city council in Auckland - complete with racially selected councillors and a ratepayer-funded statutory board voting unelected on council committees.

This sorry saga is a tragedy for local government reform right across New Zealand, a promise of things to come for Maori tribal ownership of the foreshore and seabed, and the product of a racist political movement that has lately polled 2.3% public support.

On the web:


Anonymous said...

This whole shambles illustrates the need for a new dimension in our political system.
We need to adopt two elements of the Swiss political system - the ability of the citizens to block legislation under certain conditions and the power to initiate binding referenda, again under certain conditions.

Of course the two major Parties don't want this. They want to construct legislation which suits them and their lackeys and to impose it without hindrance on the citizens. Tough luck if they didn't ask for it, don't want it and object strongly to it. We may as well be living under the juristiction of a warlord!

So my suggestion is to dump both major Parties and support a new or current Party which will commit itself to Direct Democracy. Another option is to support Independent Members of Parliament whose first, second and third loyalties are to their constituents.

New Zealand belongs to all of us - not just to the Maori Party, not just to the politicians -
but unless we get off our backsides and take effective action we are going to get more of the same.

A point of interest: In two recent binding referenda the Swiss voters decided (a) to veto the construction of any more mosques and (b)
that foreigners convicted of certain crimes be automatically deported. Howls of outrage from some quarters as you would expect. I'm sure that most Swiss voters would respond,"This is our country and we the citizens are going to have the final say on what goes!"

Now wouldn't it be terrific if we could say that in New Zealand?


Anonymous said...

Binding referendums, (the word referendums is the English equivalent of the Latin word referenda and is used by people who speak and write in English) mean government by hysteria.

Why do we have to choose Anonymous. The Name/URL option does not work.

K M Findlay

Anonymous said...

The Above comment is right on the mark.
If all those over 50 joined Grey Power, (at present only 90,000 members) this lobby group with over 500,000 menbers could become the voice of the people and, as done by the Swiss. we could maintain some control over decisions made in Parliament.

Anonymous said...

The system is flawed. We need Democracy, not "democracy". We, the People, are democratically redundant at close of polls on election day (the day on which we elect our dictators for the next three years).

Parliament shouldn't be making our decisions, We The People should. The Swiss almost have it right.