Friday 5 February 2021

Safeguarding Maori Wards: A Significant Treaty Victory.

Nothing New Here: At the level of national affairs, ethnicity has been recognised as a significant aspect of political representation since 1867. That was the year New Zealand’s 13-year-old parliament deemed it expedient to create four “Maori Seats”, for the purposes of giving a voice to, and representing the interests of, New Zealand’s “native” population. Extending the principle to local government does not seem unreasonable.

MAORI HAVE A SIGNIFICANT victory to celebrate this Waitangi Day. Monday’s announcement by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta heralds a significant shift in the representative breadth of local government in New Zealand. Maori wards are about to become a common feature of this country’s democratic architecture. Mahuta’s reforms will be remembered as an important historical step towards realising fully the bi-cultural constitutional assumptions implicit in the treaty signed at Waitangi on 6 February 1840.

Not all New Zealanders will celebrate Mahuta’s legal changes. Many will decry the Government’s decision to retrospectively eliminate the legal rights of New Zealand citizens. They will further lament the damage Mahuta’s reforms will inflict upon the unitary character of the New Zealand state.

The world does not look kindly upon states that openly proclaim the existence of two (or more) categories of citizenship. It condemned the United States of America’s “Jim Crow” South (1878-1954). Likewise South Africa’s apartheid regime (1948-1994). The Israeli state’s legal elevation of Jewish over non-Jewish citizens raises similar misgivings. The liberal-democratic tradition – out of which the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born - proclaims the equality of all human-beings, and looks askance at any state which bestows legal rights upon one group of its citizens while statutorily withholding them from another.

In the case of Maori wards, the arguments in opposition are generally represented by the phrase “single standard of citizenship”. Local government representation is based upon the number of New Zealanders living within the democratically determined geographical boundaries of regions, districts and cities. Constitutionally, the ethnicity of those New Zealand citizens (or permanent residents) is not supposed to signify.

Except that, at the level of national affairs, ethnicity has been recognised as a significant aspect of political representation since 1867. That was the year New Zealand’s 13-year-old parliament deemed it expedient to create four “Maori Seats”, for the purposes of giving a voice to, and representing the interests of, New Zealand’s “native” population.

Conceptually, it is but a short step from “Maori seats” to “Maori wards”.

If New Zealand’s constitution has survived its deviation from strict liberal-democratic theory at the national level for 154 years, without serious mishap, then what possible objection can their be to replicating that deviation at the local level? Anomalous though New Zealand’s special “indigenous” provisions may be in terms of liberal-democratic theory, they have proved remarkably successful in practice. Proof to many New Zealanders of their country’s improvisational genius.

Ours may be a No. 8 Wire constitution – but it works.

Why, then, was legal provision made for citizens to challenge councils’ decisions to create single, or multiple, Maori wards? After all, no such provision exists allowing citizens-initiated referenda to overturn the creation/composition of general council wards. What was it that made it acceptable for plans to provide effective local representation for New Zealand’s indigenous minority to be vetoed by its local ethnic majority?

It is very difficult to escape the conclusion that the referenda provision vis-à-vis Maori wards was nothing more than a sop to a deeply racist colonial Cerberus. The well-meaning framers of the legislation understood that it would be impossible for them to deliver Maori wards with their progressive left hand, without at the same time giving Pakeha electors an opportunity to snatch them back again with their reactionary right.

The framers’ understanding of Pakeha prejudice was validated repeatedly when nearly all attempts to establish Maori wards were voted down by huge majorities. The descendants of the Pakeha settlers who made the country called “New Zealand” clearly possessed a strong intuition that the colonial state erected on the tribal lands of its conquered “natives” would not long survive any concerted effort to take the bi-cultural implications of the Treaty of Waitangi seriously.

The results of those referenda make it clear that, were the democratic anomaly of New Zealand’s Maori seats put to the vote, their retention would, almost certainly, be rejected decisively. The Pakeha majority’s disdain for the principle of local Maori representation is likely exceeded only by its antipathy for special Maori representation in the New Zealand parliament.

This is the obverse side to the constitutional coin Mahuta and her Labour, Green and Maori Party colleagues have just tossed.

To the Pakeha majority, the principles of liberal-democracy are morally and constitutionally unassailable. To the Maori minority, they’re simply unbeatable.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 February 2021.


Simon Cohen said...

In the 2018 census Maori made up 13.7% of NZ's population. And in the local body elections of 2018 13.5% of those elected were Maori.
Can somebody explain to me the need for Maori Wards.

greywarbler said...

Good for Maori pressing and getting Maori wards. With more leadership from Maori and less from the vulture commercial side of materialistic pakeha, we might be able to save the country from dire results, both environmental and a decline to abject humanity for the many, and the unlovely view of those in power spitting on the downtrodden which an alert photo-journalist captured showing aged Palestinian women being spat at either with spittle or invective by a younger settler woman. So low can we go when we do not act with restraint, concern for fairness and compromise.

Simon Cohen said...

Greywarbler do you really believe that Maori are less materialistic than Pakeha. How does Ngai Tahu differ from other major commercial organisations. And environmentally how does the deliberate slaughter of Moa differ from other extinctions.
And please advise of the relevance to this discussion of a Palestinian woman being spat upon. It has as much relevance as a young Tongan rugby player being king hit by a Maori mongrel mob member and sustaining serious brain damage.

Andrew Nichols said...

Can somebody explain to me the need for Maori Wards.

Easy. The Maori folks in those general wards already have to speak for all constituents and cannot solely be an advocate for Maori. Maori ward councillors like Maori MPs can bring an authentic mandated Maori Treaty partner voice to the table.

That wasnt hard was it?

Nick J said...

The world changed with the Industrial revolution. New technologies, ideas and political pressures pushed every culture globally into modernity. Maori couldn't avoid it, the wonder is that they survived the impact and have become a modernised people. The cost was colonisation and diminishment of their culture.

Conversely for settler NZ the price has been the heritage of the shabby treatment of tangata whenua. If some of the payment for this is Maori council wards its a cheap price. But it is not enough.

I remember the first stirrings of the Maori cultural renaissance. Nobody was asking to return to pre colonial times, it was seeking to reestablish mana and cultural recognition. And to stamp that heritage as indivisible from what it means to be a Kiwi. Thats a pretty inclusive and generous gift. Whats to quibble at a few Council seats?

John Hurley said...

Just because we are the majority doesn't make us wrong. Maori are individuals, what is this is all about power as when Ngai tahu (less than 2% of Christchurch in 1971 got themselves the lions share of recognition in the rebuild).

Dear John

Good to hear from you. It does not surprise me that Tourism Christchurch wants to present Christchurch in a new way. The city council has for some years now bowed to pressure from Ngai Tahu to give more recognition to the tangata whenua, in all aspects of the city's development, and that seems fair enough, given the tribe's huge heft from new commercial and property wealth. But I am uneasy about rewriting history to suit one group's point of view.

I was on a committee for the recent revamp of Victoria Square and it was clear to me that whatever the Maori representatives wanted would be granted almost without question. They were sensible suggestions, and I was happy to agree with them. I especially liked the tanaka patterns in the pavements. But the two new wooden pou on either side of Queen Victoria's statue were pretty obviously aimed at reducing the Pakeha presence in the space. Previously some had wanted to remove the statues of Cook and the Queen altogether. Yet the Market Place was never a place of Maori habitation. Their seasonal camp was over the river, on the Law Courts site. There were burials there and at the St Luke's site and the later Police Station site, and an adze was found well below the surface in Hagley Park, but it was never a permanent settlement, as far as we know. I am also uneasy about calling the city Otautahi instead of Christchurch. Maori retreated from the site after
the 1850s and were almost invisible in the city for the next 100 years. Christchurch was a Pakeha creation, and that also needs to be acknowledged. Otautahi was another seasonal camp, and never a pa like Kaiapoi.

It's all a matter of maintaining perspective and a proper sense of proportion, and being fair to all parties involved. Yes, there was a Maori presence in this place for centuries before Pakeha arrived, but after selling the land they had very little to do with building the city.
Dr Geoffrey W. Rice ONZM FRHistS
Emeritus Professor of History
University of Canterbury Auther Victoria Square - Cradle of Canterbury.

PS Mr Trotter - What about Post-modernism; critical theory and Post colonialism which seeks to deconstruct the Wests (and all that)?

Geoff Fischer said...

Geographic constituencies are a common feature of democratic political systems around the globe, but they are not necessary or fundamental features of democracy. If they were, then the MMP system would not be "strictly" democratic because it removes ultimate power from the representatives of geographic constituencies in favour of formally organised and constituted political parties which operate over the country as a whole. In other words it is political parties rather than geographic constituencies which are effectively represented in the New Zealand parliament.
The system was changed from FPP to MMP to remedy the situation in which parties supported by up to a quarter of the population had no representation in Parliament. A perhaps unintended consequence of MMP was that the democratic process became the province of political party hierarchies, their professional advisers, and the mass media, rather than grass roots political activists and the membership of mass political parties (which virtually ceased to exist).
So from a democratic perspective, MMP has been a mixed blessing, but one thing it should have allowed us to do is think about questions such as "What is the essence of democracy?", "Are geographic constituencies necessary in a democracy?" and "Could there be better ways of arranging a democratic state and electoral system?"
The conventional discourse assumes that the essence of democracy is structural, encapsulated in phrases such as "one person, one vote" and "peaceful transfer of power" when the reality is that representative democracy replaced monarchy and aristocracy as the dominant mode of political organisation in the modern world simply because it promised to be more responsive to the concerns of the population as a whole.
Now, all around the globe liberal democracy is manifestly failing the responsiveness test, just as absolute monarchy failed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the case for reform has become urgent.
The proposal for Maori wards in local government can be seen as an attempt to engage with and respond to a section of the population who have, to date, been alienated non-participants. In that respect it is not undemocratic. It does not challenge the principle of "one person one vote" and does not mean that a Maori vote will have greater weight than any other vote.
However the weakness of this particular reform is that it is not universal. It is an ad hoc response to the claims and concerns of a particular element of the population which does not properly address the fundamental failure of modern democracy to adequately respond to the concerns of the public as a whole. Non-Maori voters sense that they are to be left out in the cold by this particular reform and they react predictably. For most, racism is not a factor in their response.
Even those Maori who now support Maori wards will be disappointed by the eventual outcome of the reform.
Electoral reform must be fundamental and universal. It must create structures which take political power away from the professional and managerial class (aka "the political class") and restore it to the people as a whole. That can be done quite simply, but it would be naive to suppose that it will be effected by the very class which has most to lose through the creation of a genuine, effective and responsive democracy.

John Hurley said...

Chris can you explain why non Maori take a political position at odds with their own groups well-being. I'm thinking of Scott Hamilton and Paul Spoonley. Is recreated biculturalism just. It seems like we are creating a new Church of Maoridom?

Scott Hamilton is looking hard for KKK(NZ) - he's sure there out there but just can't quite find enough.
One explanation is that people on the left see our society as irredeemably unjust so it must be destroyed and rebuilt. Vincent O'Malley seems to be seeing a nascent cooperatively based economy nipped in the bud by the Waikato Invasion. Catherine Delahunty said she saw the Treaty as a way to have a renegotiation (where does she think she fits into it?).

See this for example. How do we teach TOW to kids: a lunch box and one kid takes 95%. That is a classic case of faulty thinking in so far as the new psychology (Cognitive Behavioral Psychology) teaches us to be the attorney for the defense (defuse the thought bomb).
I'm not planning to do that now but how many people own a lot of land; there are just more of us. Try looking out of the plane as you fly to Auckland: "everyone owns some of that and it isn't me"?

Anonymous said...

Do Maori wards mean that the remaining wards become Pakeha/Asian wards? Will this lead to an over-representation of Maori in local bodies? Should other voters think about the ethnicity of their representatives too, as well as their opinions and records?

greywarbler said...

Simon Cohen I am sorry that you react as usual in an attacking manner as soon as a Palestinian-Israeli matter crops up. A case of embarrassment perhaps to be countered at all costs? I fear that is not so. I won't answer your queries, as there is no way of discussing something about values with one as concreted into one's ideas as you are. But please try and leave the question of Maori advancement for those who care about NZ and embracing our different cultures in a fair and reasoned manner.

greywarbler said...

Much has changed in the history milieu in Prof Rice's time, as he says. The Industrial Revolution brought in efficiency and machines which have become more powerful than their creators year by year. Yet we are still people who haven't changed that much in tens of thousands of years according to scientific study. So we need to think with our agile brains how to do things in today's environment, culturally as well as climactically.

And we should think back to the start of that failed experimental civilisation the USA, when Franklin summarised; "We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately". So let's hold hands with Maori and free up the humanity in us, and do positive things in concert, which means together; not nitpick about equivalence and the legal meaning of a full-stop in 'that' sentence, or whatever is the latest delaying tactic.

Simon Cohen said...

Greywarbler has once again shown his absolute inability to answer any reasoned argument and has to resort to personal abuse.

John Hurley said...

I have sent this to Mediawatch , RNZ and HRC. In my experience those who call others racist can't defend it. The accusation is the defense.

In the control room they’re surprised at the lack of scornful comments coming in over text. Usually the criticism of the use of te reo Māori is comprehensive, and lately, the one-hour midday news show has been accused of being too tailored to Māori. Someone in the room says, “Are the racists on holiday today or something?” and everyone cracks up. While met with the humour intended, Dunlop says the criticism can be pretty relentless, though things are shifting. “A lot of the messages we get in now are getting less worried about the reo now, they’re getting more worried about the coverage, which I’m kind of taking as a compliment!”

Would someone explain why objecting to non-traditional (commonly understood names) is racist. By that I mean Rakaia is Rakaia; Auckland is Auckland.
According to Research NZ only 10% want the name New Zealand to change to Aotearoa yet media persistence is relentless. Almost as though a small group thinks it has the moral authority to make change; being in a strategic position that controls what we can and cannot know.

Isaiah Berlins distinguishes between positive and negative liberty. Those with positive liberty (government and RNZ) in forcing us to adopt new words as opposed to those that are commonly understood impinge on our negative liberty (like being forced to like Marmite). There are other arguments such as "negative statistics" . Taken one by one these draw a long bow and aren't water tight.
So why are people who are irked by a switch to te reo words racist?

John Hurley said...

greywarbler said...

So let's hold hands with Maori and free up the humanity in us, and do positive things in concert, which means together; not nitpick about equivalence and the legal meaning of a full-stop in 'that' sentence, or whatever is the latest delaying tactic.

I had Twitter argument. She said a Maori is someone with whakapapa whether 1/64, 1/32, 1/3rd and "what's your preoccupation with blood" (Nazi). I pointed out that you can choose your own identity but you can't force others to accept it in so far as loading guilt and entitlement. It reminds me of cowboys and Indians.