Successive governments have been incredibly generous to those who call themselves Maori, for example more than 90 pieces of legislation make special mention of Maori culture and interests. Any financial announcements by the government invariably include an allocation for the tangata whenua. Before the start of lockdown in March $56 million was set aside for the group and the subsequent budget allocated $900 million to help Maori cope with Covid-19.
There is no Samoan Party, Indian Party or Irish party, so why have one for Maori? Of course it probably wouldn’t exist but for the seven separate parliamentary seats set aside for the group. This situation is in reality racist, undemocratic and in breach of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. It is racist because it discriminates against non-Maori ethnic groups who have no special rights of representation in parliament. It is undemocratic because our political system should be based on equality for all New Zealanders. And it is in breach of the UN Declaration because Article 1 states All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and Article 21 says The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage …
Another undemocratic feature in the present political landscape is that people with some Maori blood can be on the general or Maori roll, special treatment afforded to no other group. As is well known, all Maori today are in fact part-Maori - Tipene O’Regan for example is one sixteenth Maori and is far more Irish. I have often wondered how they regard their non-Maori ancestors from Ngati Dublin, Ngati Glasgow, Ngati Dubrovnik and Ngati Arty Farty.
Many historians and academics contend that being descended from the country’s original Polynesian immigrants gives today’s part-Maori people special status. However if we delve back into the past, there is significant evidence which shows that Maori are not the indigenous people or mana whenua as is often claimed. As the archaeological digs late last century in the Waipoua Forest and the Poukawa Valley show, backed by iwi oral history and the observations of some early explorers and travellers, there were people here hundreds of years, if not thousands, before the first Polynesians arrived in the 13th century.
For the current Maori Party, however their indigenous claims are not in question and their policies seek to increase their separatist and privileged status. They were the only Party contesting the recent election which campaigned solely for improving the lives and influence of a particular ethnic group. Amongst other things, it seeks for Maori:
- A separate parliament.
- More money from the racist Waitangi Tribunal and for Maori businesses.
- The return of conservation land to whānau, hapū and iwi Māori.
- The guarantee that the seven Maori seats in parliament can never be abolished.
- A Treaty of Waitangi Commissioner to provide oversight of the Crown.
However they are not in a strong bargaining position, but that would change after future elections if they were required by Labour or National to help form a government. Back in 2008 and 2011 John Key needed the Party so there were Maori Party ministers and some of their policies were adopted.
The country doesn’t need a Maori Party but it has one and it’s not going away anytime soon. It is not currently required in the government so its policies are unlikely to get any traction over the next three years. However, the two MPs, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Parker, will be vocal and try to advance their cause though private members’ bills. They have already signalled that one such bill will seek to have the Treaty of Waitangi incorporated in the MP’s oath of allegiance. The Party of course has its own version of the Treaty which wrongly claims that in Article 1 iwi did not cede sovereignty to Queen Victoria. It is also seemingly unaware that the Treaty was made between the Crown and all New Zealanders both natives and settlers.
Another policy they are advocating, which is currently being promoted in politically correct circles, states Remove the racist provision that allows for referenda to overturn council’s decisions to establish Māori wards. Many would argue that actually having Maori wards is racist as it provides the group with specialist treatment no other ethnicity is permitted. One can also argue that providing special representation in local government is insulting to part-Maori because it implies that they can’t compete successfully in open elections.
Politicians from Hobson to Ardern have echoed the cry: “We are one people”. Let it be so – there should be no special or separatist treatment for Maori or any other group. What the government and parliament should be planning is the removal of all special legislative provisions for Maori, the abolition of the special seats and the termination of the Waitangi Tribunal. Only then will we have a true democracy with equality for all. As things stand part-Maori are more equal than others.
Roger Childs is a writer and freelance journalist. He is a former history and geography teacher, who wrote or co-authored 10 school textbooks.