Barton on Maori Seats

has an interesting article on Maori Seats in Auckland. But first his final summary:

  • Maori make up 11 per cent of the region and 9 per cent of local body winners.
  • Asians comprise 19 per cent of greater Auckland but hold just 4 per cent of council seats.
  • Pacific peoples make up 14 cent of the population. They, too, have 4 per cent of elected local body positions.

So over the Region, Maori are barely under-represented at all – nothing compared to Asian representation or Pacific representation. So the issue is not about representation, but whether the Treaty demands reserved seats for Maori.

Barton says:

The slightly ajar door has the Maori party scrambling to come up with a proposal that would be acceptable to National – understood to be just two, rather the previously proposed three, seats. And with candidates required to show affiliation to mana whenua (local Maori with ancestral ties to the land) and voted in by Aucklanders on the Maori electoral roll.

That is an improvement, but unless they increase the number of ward seats, there should be only one seat for those on the Maori roll – as Maori also get to vote for the at large Councillors.

An issue that may be worth considering, is that some of those currently on the Maori roll, may not want to lose the right to vote in a geographic ward, and be forced into a Maori ward. Normally you can only change rolls after each census – so not until 2011.

Also what if someone wants to vote on the Maori roll for parliamentary elections but would like to vote in a geographic ward for the elections? Perhaps there should be seperate rolls?

Why should there be ?

It’s the Treaty, stupid. Why the Government chose to ignore the Royal Commission’s extensive research and consultation on this matter is difficult to fathom. The Commission concluded there should be three safeguarded seats for Maori – two voted from the Maori electoral roll and one appointed by a mana whenua committee.

And the Royal Commission got it badly wrong. Even if you agree that there should be Maori seats, their proposal had a vote for a Maori Councillor worth four times as much as a vote for a geographic ward councillor.

The principle of equality of vote (within a small tolerance) is a vital one.

Its primary reason was “to give effect to obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi”. General considerations of equity and fairness of representation also came into play, said the Commission, but to a lesser extent.

It is highly debatable that the intent of wording of the Treaty requires reserved Maori seats. They only came about through a desire to allow Maori to vote despite not having individual land titles. Now yes they have assumed a different significance over time – but it is all too simplistic to just call them a Treaty obligation.

The provision of three safeguarded seats for Maori is also consistent with the spirit and intent of the Local Government Act 2002, which requires local authorities to establish processes for Maori to contribute to decision making.

And there is a big difference between a process to contribute, and reserved seats.

I don’t agree with the position Barton advocates, but it is a very good article.

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