Tuesday, August 25, 2009


In 1984 the American historian in her book, The March of Folly from Troy to Vietnam, published the chilling thesis that governments when confronted with choices almost invariably made the one that was not in their own best interest and which led to catastrophe.
In is hard to avoid thinking that the Cabinet's decision on Maori seats is one of those.
It goes so much against the grain of political reality.
New Zealand's brand of parliamentary democracy has since 1867 recognized that the country's Maori citizens needed a particular democratic structure and set aside for that population four seats in the Parliament elected from a Maori electoral role.
By the end of the last century enrollment on that or the general roll was a matter of individual choice. Some of the thinking behind that was that the Maori roll in time would fade away. It has not and in 2008 there were seven Maori seats - for which, by the way, anyone however much Maori by descent or not was eligible to stand or enrol.
Each Maori seat represented app 60,ooo citizens compared with the tally of app 58,000 for North Island general seats and slightly less in the South.
Auckland takes in one Maori electorate and much of another.
If the parliamentary pattern were imposed on the Super City there would be two Super City Maori seats.
What is so hard to grasp about that?
What defies the notion of "one person one vote" in that?
Well spin, ignorance, racism and fudge has made a simple and just democratic electoral concept seem as far away as Mars.
Rodney Hide's repeating the one vote one person mantra has made it seem as if Maori voters would get more than one vote.
The Maori mantra of mana whenua has made Maori seats seem some invested privilege.
The truth is that there are going to be some 120,000 Auckland citizens who have chosen to exercise their democratic rights in a way guaranteed by law who will be denied that right in local government.
There has been no attempt to explain why a system of parliamentary government which works perfectly well for 4 million citizens - and which with the Party Maori as a significant element of government now works better than it ever has - should fail when applied to the next largest unit of government New Zealand will have?
The failure of both sides of the debate to make this simple argument - that we do it for parliament why are we not doing it for local government- is the first serious ding in what could have been a great step forward for Auckland.
Worse there will now be some special Maori committee by way of compromise which will simply be a fringe activity frustrating genuine representation and contribution.
That compromise will likely be just another factional trough representing only some Maori and not anything like all.
There are 30 iwi represented in Auckland's Maori population not two - the largest of them being neither Tainui or Ngati Whatua.
Well more power to Pita Sharples' arm as he tries to reverse the cabinet decision in Parliament.
If we had any sense and wanted to make this thing work we would all be on his side.
We should insist that the representation aspects of the bill be a conscience vote and accept whatever is a truly democratic outcome and not accept either 1% bullying or factional special pleading.
There are 150 years of practical politics and 120,000 reasons why there should be Maori seats and it would truly be a folly that will come back to bite the political bum if those simple truths are ignored.


  1. Rubbish. The government is right to oppose this. New Zealanders are sick of racism, and special seats set aside for any race is racism in its pure and repugnant form.

  2. Mark what are you scared of? Certainly not racism as I am pretty sure you have never experienced it based on that sort of comment. Rodney and the equality brigade have you in living in fear. Time to stop pretending the world started yesterday and you get a clean slate every morning.

    I am white, pakeha, european, [what ever term you are most comfortable with] by the way. Just in case you thought I was a gun toting Maori militia just waiting to take over your little world....