Friday, July 12, 2019

Karl du Fresne: Taking a short cut to power

Sigh. Here we go again.

According to a TVNZ news report, Northland Maori are lobbying for greater representation in local government. Despite having one of the highest Maori populations in the country, Northland iwi leaders say the lack of Maori representation on district councils means Maori are not being heard.

Ngati Hine kaumatua Pita Tipene laments that local government legislation and processes are “shutting out our people”. Not for the first time, compulsory Maori seats have been touted as one possible answer. But the solution to the lack of Maori representation is achingly obvious.

According to TVNZ, Maori make up an estimated 50 per cent of the Northland population. It follows that if Maori candidates put themselves forward for election and persuade other Maori people to support them, Maori councillors will be elected. Weight of numbers will ensure that.

If Maori engaged more actively in local government both as voters and candidates, 50 percent of Northland council seats could be occupied by Maori – possibly more, since non-Maori voters are likely to support good Maori candidates, just as they have done elsewhere in New Zealand.

That 50 percent figure gives Northland Maori the potential to become highly influential and possibly even dominant in local government. The remedy is in their hands if only they choose to seize it. Isn’t that how democracy is supposed to work?

In the indelicate but admirably blunt language of Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis in 2016, Northland Maori need to get off their arses and vote. But some Maori leaders prefer to take a short cut to power.

We keep hearing that Maori are disempowered. They are “disengaged”, to use a fashionable term – too disengaged, evidently, to use the democratic rights open to every citizen.

The only possible solution, we're frequently told, is to create special mechanisms which would guarantee them a place at council tables, such as the creation of special Maori wards or the establishment of voting rights for unelected Maori representatives – as was disgracefully provided in law for Auckland City and adopted by the district council in my home town of Masterton, among other places.

What we’re really talking about here is power through the back door. The advocates of guaranteed Maori representation want to bypass the democratic hurdles that other candidates for public office must leap over.

The debate then becomes a philosophical one about whether Maori are so disadvantaged and demoralised that they must be given political rights not available to others.

The powerful counter-argument is that to grant special rights to any segment of the population, whether on the basis of race or any other factor, is a potentially lethal compromise of democratic principles, which hold that no group of voters should wield more power than others.

Ordinary New Zealanders obviously recognise this hazard, even if their elected leaders don’t. Every time well-intentioned but wrong-headed councils have pushed for the creation of Maori wards, they have been emphatically defeated in referendums.

We’re told this is because we’re a racist society bent on preventing Maori from acquiring power. 

But hang on a minute. The evidence shows that where strong Maori candidates put themselves forward for office, Pakeha as well as Maori voters will support them. Does that sound racist?

In the last local government elections three years ago, Porirua elected its first Maori mayor, Mike Tana, who beat a favoured Pakeha rival. Wellington acquired a Maori deputy mayor, Paul Eagle – now the Labour MP for Rongotai – and a new Maori councillor, Jill Day, who has since taken over the deputy mayoralty. Eagle, incidentally, had increased his majority in three consecutive council elections.

In those same 2016 elections, South Wairarapa voters elected three Maori to their district council. Napier gained a Maori councillor, Api Tapine, and Wiremu Te Awe Awe was elected to the Horizons Regional Council. All this happened without the benefit of separate Maori wards or other forms of special treatment.

No doubt there were other examples that I’m not aware of. I could also point out that two previous mayors of Carterton, Georgina Beyer and Ron Mark, are Maori, and that former rugby league star Howie Tamati served on the New Plymouth District Council for 15 years (yet contradictorily insisted in 2015 that New Plymouth Maori needed their own ward).

All of these people were elected by Pakeha voters. Racist? I don’t think so. The record shows that non-Maori voters will back good Maori candidates. But of course such candidates have to put themselves forward first, rather than wringing their hands in anguish over supposed Maori disempowerment.

Oh, and did I mention that there are 29 Maori MPs in the current Parliament, including 23 elected by voters on the general roll. Racist? Really??

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of the Dominion-Post. He blogs at


Brian said...

There is a Worldwide tendency.. “To weak a word” how about conspiracy? It is an answer to label those people of European origin Racist; and thus dimish Western values and democracy when it suits. Or in N.Z. when Indigenous Rights, slavery, and colonial issues comes directly into conflict with Iwi demands. But mostly its aim is the aphrodisiac of gaining ultimate tribal power.
In a world dominated, with a few exceptions, by the United Nations which has and still is, encouraging minorities to embarrass and then blackmail weak Governments like N.Z. into providing ongoing ethnic financial extortion.
New Zealand is a prime example of having Politicians with a distinct lack of backbone, who now ignore the majority, and constantly pay out annual Blackmail on the pretext for supposed and newly invented wrongs.
Are the majority of New Zealanders Racist? If we turn over the coin, we find that after all the shenanigans of the Apartheid era some decades ago; the tables have really turned.
We now have an overwhelming emphasis on Maoridom, and a increasing hatred of what is wrongly named White Supremacy. Such as forcing us to learn a made up language; re-inventing our colonial history and educational indoctrination. The latter giving the impression that the original white settlers were villains, robbers; while an idyllic natural situation was wiped out with the advent of colonialism.
Yet when we take a long look at pre European N.Z. from the first Maori invasions, how did they advance their civilisation? They had on arrival a constant meat source in the various breeds of Moa. So they wiped it out completely, and then turned to cannibalism. Apart from that, they did not advance one step out of savagery.
Even the pre-stone age hunter gatherers had the sense to move on elsewhere, when animals became in short supply.
Karl has it right; my only extra comment on his Blog is “Do we remain a democratic society with the use of the vote to determine our Governments, both Local and Central? Or do we turn to Tribal/Ethnic and eventually a Marxist country?
I would suggest that one answer is... “Ask why the vast immigrant exodus from third world dictatorships continues unabated!”. “Ask why those people under Communism risked life and limb, before the fall of the Berlin Wall to reach Western Civilisation.”?
If you consider British Colonialism was bad; read the 1905/6 accounts of German South West Africa, and the exterminations on Shark Island.
Maori were lucky that the British got here first; otherwise the World would now have to rely on historical accounts of what was a Maori!

Unknown said...

The Treaty Debate (2010)RNZ covers one angle of how we got here: the influence of post colonial scholars (Fanon, Cesaire) helped along by Pakeha historians let to biculturalism which institutionalised culture. But here is another angle: I just finished composing this letter to the Editor of The Press:
Dear Editor,
Landmarks (1982) VHS was New Zealand's most watched documentary. It told of the fascinating struggles and achievements of New Zealanders as they forged a modern state. John MacKenzie broke up the large estates; the bayonet out performed the patu.
In the New Zealand Wars documentary series (1998), informed by post-colonialism,  Belich aim[ed] to “challenge discourses of scientific racism, colonial military superiority, Pakeha nationalism, monoculturalism and the myth of good race relations” . “Belich’s histories are best situated in relation to bicultural discourses that advocate equal power sharing of ‘two peoples'” [Lisa Perrott ]. It is now in every secondary school. This is one example of how media are used to shape our notion of nation and our cultural memory. That's a bit Racist (TVNZ) suggests resistance to the current state of the decolonising narrative? The claim that we non-Maori caused the negative statistics of the Maori working class is debatable and the Ngai Tahu influence sits uneasily over the Public Library?
here is a link to the Landmarks series if you are interested

Allan said...

As the article indicates, there are Maori throughout NZ that are prepared to play by the rules of democracy & prosper. With disgusting political acts, like signing the UN Indigenous peoples treaty, sends a message to descendants of Maori, that a FREE RIDE is their right. So don't blame the part Maori for the attitude they foster, place the blame where it belongs. At the feet of the globalist agenda politicians that the population have continued to vote into power..