The Local Electoral (Māori Representation) Amendment Bill

May 18th, 2010 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

No Right Turn alerted me to this private members bill drawn from the ballot. He supports the intent, but not the details of the bill. I have problems with both.

The bill basically forces every city council, district council and regional council to have one or more wards – reserved for voters of descent.

I think such a move would be appalling, and push us towards a Fiji style country, and set back race relations massively.

I also think it shows how dangerous it can be when the debate keeps shifting down this path.

At a national level, we have had the Maori seats since 1867. They were well intentioned, allowing Maori who owned property communally to vote – a right limited then to property owners.

In an ideal world the seats would have been abolished in 1879 when the property requirement was abolished. It is somewhat shameful that up until 1976, Maori were not even allowed to vote on the general roll.

I regard it as a shame that the Royal Commission’s recommendation to abolish the Maori seats (and in exchange have a lower threshold for Maori parties) was not implemented. Have race based seats is just not something that long-term I think is likely to create a more harmonious New Zealand.

However I do generally accept the proposition that regardless of the lack of a principled rationale for race based seats, that trying to unilaterally abolish them would be an act that would in itself be disharmonious and create a huge backlash. There is a huge difference between not creating something, and taking something away. Hence I don’t think it is wise to try and abolish the Maori parliamentary seats, unless one could get widespread agreement from Maori to it.

But having said that, I think it is important that the Maori parliamentary seats be seen as a historic exception, and not the rule. However we are in some danger of ending up there.

In 1998 Tuariki Delamere sponsored a bill to allow the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to create a Maori ward or wards.The argument was that it was only for that one Council which had special needs, and the parliamentary seats was a precedent. And people thought well, why not allow it.

It was not supported by National, but in 2001 Labour passed it as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Act 2001.

The exception then became an option for all, and Labour passed the Local Electoral Amendment Act 2002 which allowed any Council to establish Maori wards either on their own initiative or by referendum, which can be  upon petition by 5% of electors.

So a historical anomaly became a one off example in one Council, and then became an option for all Councils.

And it didn’t stop there. The Royal Commission on Auckland recommended that the new Auckland Council have three Maori seats, regardless of whether or not the people of Auckland wanted them. Labour demanded that the Government create Maori seats for Auckland, rather than even leave it to Auckland to decide. So again, the debate shifted from should they even be allowed, to should it be created without consultation.

And then finally we have the Local Electoral (Māori Representation) Amendment Bill by Te Uroroa Flavell, which would impose Maori wards on every council in New Zealand, dividing every single authority up into Maori and non Maori.

Now it is all well intentioned, and supporters will claim the means justify the ends. But again I don’t think we want to end up like Fiji with race dividing voters electorally.

So I fully expect Flavell’s bill to be voted down. No doubt the Greens will vote for it. I suspect Labour would love to vote for it, but they may vote against it on the basis of its flaws (beyond the principled opposition to it). NRT describes these:

Currently councils can establish Māori wards, and if they do, their number is determined by the number of people on the Māori roll in that district. Flavell’s bill would change this to being determined by the number of people of Māori descent. However, voting in those wards would still be limited to the 60% of Māori on the Māori roll. Which means that those wards will be systematically undersized, and those Māori systematically over-represented.

This would be a huge gerrymander. Basically voters in the Maori wards would have twice as much power as those in other wards. NRT also fisks the justification from Flavell:

Flavell’s justification for this change is that

This change is made because 40% of the Māori population is under 18 years and is therefore excluded under the current formula.

But this is simply incorrect. The current formula uses the definitions from the Electoral Act 1993, which specifically includes people under 18. So those people would already be represented (though unable to vote)

Incidentally I believe electorate populations should be based on the adult population, not the total population – but that is a debate for another day.

NRT concludes:

I don’t think this is an attempt at a stitch-up; rather its likely a mistake born of not reading the law closely enough. But the result is a deeply flawed bill. Fortunately, those flaws can be resolved at select committee.

The mistake can be easily resolved. But I don’t think the bill should proceed. Generally I support most bills going to a select committee, but this bill seeks to move in a direction which I so strongly disagree with, that I don’t think it should even get past first reading.

Incidentally under this proposed law, four local authorities would be forced to have the majority of their seats elected from Maori wards. Think about the level of resentment that would cause amongst non-Maori? I don’t mean the resentment would come from having a majority of Maori on a local authority. I, for one, would not care a damn if the majority of Wellington City Council was Maori. I would object though if the majority had been elected from wards which I am banned from being eligible to enrol in, because of my lack of the right genes.

It is a pity that the debate on this bill will now be whether or not Maori seats on Council should be compulsory or voluntary. In fact the debate should be about whether Labour should have ever created them at all in 2001.

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15 Responses to “The Local Electoral (Māori Representation) Amendment Bill”

  1. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,684 comments) says:

    Wiser heads within Maoridom will know that pushing this nonsense will simply accelerate the demise of Maori seats in Parliament.

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  2. david (2,483 comments) says:

    YOu don’t have to look very far to see that there is a lobby that promotes seperatism and apartheid under the guise of equality and redress for (real or imagined) greivance. Expect Bills of this kind to be in the ballot on a regular basis.

    Every time one is selected and tossed out, there is an opportuunity to cry “racism”, “anti-Maori”, “unfair”; like water dripping on the stone eventually one will get through and a select committee will tinker and pontificate on a mountain of submissions and push the Government of the day a little further back into a corner.

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  3. CJD (334 comments) says:

    It is an insult to Maori to imply that they are somehow not good enough to compete on equal terms with other race groups. We have to get beyond this nonsense and begin to concentrate on the real issues in this country.

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  4. stepheng (24 comments) says:

    Note that Flavell’s proposal makes perfectly good democratic sense if you exclude Māori from the general roll (back to 1893-1975, yee-haw).

    Setting that point aside, NRT says ‘Currently councils can establish Māori wards, and if they do, their number is determined by the number of people on the Māori roll in that district. Flavell’s bill would change this to being determined by the number of people of Māori descent.’
    Then NRT goes on to note that the number of wards *isn’t* determined by the number of people on the Māori roll [rather it's determined technically by the 'Māori (seat) electoral population', which is just the (obvious) projection of the share of Māori voters on the Māori roll onto the Māori(-descended) pop as a whole. (So, roughly, if x% of Māori electors are on the Māori roll then x% of Māori kids, x% of Māori adults who can't be bothered to register to vote, and so on, get factored into the Māori (seat) electoral population.].

    This is needlessly confusing. Don’t say a number is determined one way then argue the alternative immediately, say instead something like ‘Flavell thinks that the number is determined by such and such, and proposes Z as a corrective. But the number isn’t determined that way, and in any case proposal Z stinks.’

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  5. CJD (334 comments) says:

    One New Zealand for all citizens! The only way forward!!

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  6. minto57 (197 comments) says:

    I dont know where you got the 1976 date about Maori not being allowed on the general roll.
    They certainly were not policing it

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  7. David Farrar (1,812 comments) says:

    Minto: It is when the law was changed. Not surprised it was not policed as unless you DNA tested people,impossible to prove if you are of Maori descent or not.

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  8. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    The detail of this bill is in the future… and we all know it.
    banana republic/Maori Sovereignty

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  9. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @ Minto: “I dont know where you got the 1976 date about Maori not being allowed on the general roll.”

    I don’t know where DPF got that date, either. It was 1975 that the law change he refers to took place. Before then, “Maori” (meaning persons with more than 50% Maori blood) HAD to enroll on the Maori roll, “Europeans” (meaning persons with less than 50% Maori blood) HAD to enroll on the European roll, while “half castes” (50/50 split lineage) got to choose.

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  10. CJD (334 comments) says:

    “AG-Maori” (meaning persons with more than 50% Maori blood) HAD to enroll on the Maori roll, “Europeans” (meaning persons with less than 50% Maori blood) HAD to enroll on the European roll, while “half castes” (50/50 split lineage) got to choose.

    I didn’t live here then, but if this is true it is horrifying!!

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  11. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    CJD

    Don’t just take my word for it … http://www.elections.org.nz/maori/ntkm-democracy/maori-vote.html
    “Law changes in 1893 and 1896 completed the almost total separation of the Māori and European electoral systems. From then until 1975 only so-called ‘half-castes’ were allowed to choose which seats they wished to vote in”

    Kinda helps explain why we were a bit late to the view that South Africa was so morally repugnant that we shouldn’t play rugby against them …

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  12. CJD (334 comments) says:

    I didn’t doubt you mate…thanks for the link though!

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  13. Nicholas O'Kane (168 comments) says:

    “The exception then became an option for all, and Labour passed the Local Electoral Amendment Act 2002 which allowed any Council to establish Maori wards either on their own initiative or by referendum, which can be upon petition by 5% of electors.”

    Can some lawyer tell me if councils by their own initiative or by referendum on petition of 5% of people abolish the maori seats? If so it could be a good idea to start a campaign at the this years local body elections to elect politicians to local bodies with maori seats to abolish them, or launch a petition drive for referenda to abolish the maori seats

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  14. Graeme Edgeler (3,222 comments) says:

    Can some lawyer tell me if councils by their own initiative or by referendum on petition of 5% of people abolish the maori seats?

    yes.

    A council, or 5% of enrolled electors, may require a poll asking about Maori council seats.

    If so it could be a good idea to start a campaign at the this years local body elections to elect politicians to local bodies with maori seats to abolish them, or launch a petition drive for referenda to abolish the maori seats.

    There’s only one council that has them.

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  15. V (660 comments) says:

    The undemocratic techniques slowly introduced to the population over time reminded me of a youtube video “How to Brainwash a nation”.

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