It concerns me that any council could have succeeded in hoodwinking the public into thinking that anybody was listening — especially those submitters who might be partially supportive of Maori wards but object to the way it has been handled.
It didn’t need to happen this way.
Despite attempts by some of the nation’s most influential citizens to justify their local council’s contemptuous treatment of its own people, it is clear that this misguided move will do great damage to otherwise healthy interracial relationships.
You can’t force people to accept laws that are nakedly divisive when our recent history is one of acknowledgement of injustices, followed by significant progress with reconciliation and compensation. Why not build on that?
Most people know there is still more work to be done and are prepared to accept policies that are seen to be fair in that restoration process — even the introduction of programmes that include a bit of affirmative action.
Unfortunately these gerrymandered policies would be better placed in those societies ruled by a small group of ideologues who claim to know what is best for the rest. They have no place in a modern New Zealand that prides itself as the world leader (in fact, light years ahead of any other comparable country) with its treatment of minority groups.
There is a better way and it shouldn’t require a “stale, pale, male” like myself to point out the options that are available to your local authority.
If the council governance and executive were smart, they could easily implement a policy that recognises the council’s responsibility to all its citizens and have it endorsed by the tried-and-proven democratic process that is the basis of our communal and peaceful coexistence.
Put simply, offering ratepayers a number of options that include different formula that would each achieve the same objective: “enabling Maori a greater say in the council decisions that affect them, and us all”.
Presuming that this process would be readily endorsed by the community of eligible voters via the normal voting process, one must assume that the will of the people would result in the most popular version becoming the policy of choice.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this new-found vehicle may not require the introduction of race-based representation at the council table at all.
Council already appoints Maori representatives to various committees, some of them with full voting rights — so any suggestion that the current system isn’t working for Maori must be examined as a reflection on the abilities of those appointees who are responsible for putting the Maori view.
However, l suspect some sections of Maoridom (the most vocal) would not accept a continuation of the current system because actually, the need for Maori to be heard more often isn’t the real objective of this disastrous legislation.
More likely it is a naked grab for power and the “voice at the council table” is really a red herring which will fool nobody.
Finally, l want to appeal to all those people of goodwill throughout the country, irrespective of race or social standing, to rise up and express their abhorrence of these undemocratic manoeuvres. We should demand that all council’s proposing the introduction of Maori wards has a rethink about the best ways of introducing programmes that will ensure the freedoms and interests of all citizens are protected.
We are our brother’s keeper, but we need to be inside the tent pissing out — rather than the other way round. That way we can all take responsibility for one another together.
Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.