Sunday, August 25, 2013
Mike Butler: Debunking local govt 'partnership'
Auckland Maori Statutory Board demands plus moves to amalgamate local bodies have prompted the new rich tribal corporations to use the “partnership” claim as a means of demanding reserved seats at the ‘main table’ of their nearest territorial authority as a treaty right. This week’s statement from the tribalist co-chair of the Better Local Government Working Party directed at local authorities north of Auckland presents reasoning that only the most gullible and poorly informed could accept.
In a lengthy letter to the Northland Age on August 22 (1), co-chair Rangitane Marsden quotes the Treaty of Waitangi as a basic scripture to justify a special role for tribes that sits outside the democratic process in which voting rights are based on citizenship, not race . He also uses the shroud-waving Maori disadvantage argument in a further attempt to legitimise his claim for reserved Maori seats.
His treaty argument goes like this: “Te Tiriti o Waitangi (as treaty partners) affirms iwi/hapu as "kaitiaki of all of our natural taonga -- land, foreshore, sea, waterways etc" -- within our tribal boundaries, and indeed the area the councils are operating in.”
Unfortunately for Marsden’s argument, neither the treaty nor te tiriti have the word "partners", and te tiriti does not use the word "kaitiaki". Check the treaty texts if you don’t agree.
The part of Article 2 that Marsden has distorted beyond recognition, says, in the closest English, that: "The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand, the possession of their lands, dwellings and all their property". The simple phrasing of Article 2 gives no scope for Marsden's assertion that iwi/hapu continue as kaitiaki, or guardians, of land foreshore, sea, waterways etc.
Another version of this argument uses the word “rangatiratanga” which translates the word “possession” in the original English draft that te tiriti was translated from. This nonsensical view appears to argue that possession continues after an area is sold.
Neither does Marsden’s shroud-waving Maori-disadvantage argument stand closer scrutiny.
Shroud-waving is the practice of focusing on the negative to influence public opinion. Marsden is in effect waving a shroud when he writes that because the position of “iwi Maori” in Northland is “not positive”, iwi authorities want to change “the negative statistics of social economic wellbeing” by having reserved seats on council.
What are “the negative statistics of social economic wellbeing” that Marsden alludes to?
Maori continue to draw disproportionately more welfare. Maori made up 15 percent of the population in the 2006 census. In 2012, 36.5 percent of those receiving an unemployment benefit were Maori. Twenty eight percent received a sickness benefit, 22.4 percent received an invalid’s benefit, and 42.7 percent received a domestic purposes benefit. These are national figures. (2)
Benefit dependency among Maori in Te Taitokerau, the area Marsden wants a special treaty-based deal for, is a few percentage points higher with one standout being a higher proportion of one-parent families – 29-1 percent compared 18.1 percent for Maori elsewhere in New Zealand. (3)
Another standout is a higher proportion of the Maori descent population in Te Taitokerau having no qualification -- 33.8 percent compared with 22.4 percent of the Maori descent population in the rest of New Zealand.
There is nothing in Marsden’s reasoning that would suggest how dedicated Maori seats at council would have any impact on the high uptake of welfare – unless he wants to get the council into a whole new round of race-based affirmative action. What would ratepayers think about that?
A further argument Marsden uses is that “the return of settlement assets” puts tribalists like him in a position to end Maori disadvantage. Does this argument stack up?
Marsden is also the chief negotiator for Ngai Takoto, a Far North tribe with 489 registered members that are waiting for over $27-million in cash from a treaty settlement agreed to last year.
If Marsden’s treaty settlement of $27-million is divided among Ngai Takoto’s 489 members, each would get $55,214 -- which is not a bad windfall and way above the average going rate for other tribes – and much more than for other tribes in the Far North. But one year’s salary is not going to solve on-going financial problems, while the main drivers of poverty – sole-parent families, benefit dependency, educational underachievement – remain unaddressed.
Marsden has slipped up his treaty argument, has failed to suggest any solution to the Maori disadvantage problem, and obviously hasn’t run treaty settlement figures through a calculator to estimate the likely impact. This is a poor showing for a wannabe politician.
Although this may appear like a parish pump spat only relevant to the Far North, there are 70 newly rich tribal corporations throughout New Zealand clamouring for reserved seats as a treaty right. These arguments are coming to a place near you very soon, if they have not already arrived.
1. It must be two, Rangitane Marsden, Northland Age, August 22, 2013.http://www.nzcpr.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=45034#p45034
2. Ministry of Social Development fact sheets http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/statistics/benefit/2012-national-benefit-factsheets.html
3. Te Tai Tokerau, Parliamentary Library. http://www.parliament.nz/resource/0000235929
at 11:33 AM