Maori Seats look set for a no

The Herald reports:

The Cabinet is expected to reject Maori seats on the Auckland Super City council today.

This is no real surprise. It is in line with National’s long standing policy, and the Government’s initial decision.

Blair M in comments in a previous thread suggested as a compromise a non-voting Councillor, and this is an option which I think could have been worth pursuing, and might even have application for local bodies beyond Auckland.

The Royal Commission proposed three Maori seats – two from voters on the Maori electoral roll and one appointed by mana whenua – the local Iwi effectively.

Now I have never been a fan of separate electoral rolls, despite the good intentions of those who back them. I think it is unhealthy long-term to have New Zealanders divided up into those with some Maori ancestry (no matter how small) and those without. Especially as long-term over a quarter of New Zealanders will have some Maori ancestry. It becomes arbitrary. And long-term I fear we end up like Fiji with the population split 50/50 and divided on our differences instead of united.

The idea of mana whenua representation on the Auckland Council holds greater appeal to me (and to the Maori Party it seems). Iwi are permanent entities that have historical and ongoing legitimate interest in what happens on their traditional lands. They do have legal rights under the common law, let alone any moral obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

However allowing Iwi to appoint a voting Councillor runs contrary to democratic principles. You may have half a dozen Kaumata deciding on a Councillor who gets the same voting power as someone elected by 80,000 people. So I can’t support a voting mana whenua Councillor.

The compromise which I think would have been worth pursuing is the idea that local Iwi within a Council’s area can appoint a non voting Councillor. The Councillor has all the same rights as an elected Councillor – attend all meetings, speak on any issue, be paid a salary, request information from management – but in the (hopefully) relatively rare cases where there is a partisan vote split, they would not have a vote.

The members of the Iwi would have their voting represention done through the elected Councillors (whom they vote for like everyone else), but the Iwi as a whole would have the ability to have a voice at Council (not buried in a seperate Committee) to protect their interests as the original mana whenua.

One of the issues New Zealand has never really grappled with, is the constitutional relationship between Iwi and the Crown. It seems to me the idea of allowing each Iwi to appoint a non-voting Councillor onto their local authority could be a significant step forward.

Where a local authority has more than say three local Iwi, then perhaps you would require the Iwi to select just three representatives between themselves (or even two). So if there are two local Iwi, they each appoint a non voting Councillor. If there were six local Iwi, they would decide amongt themselves on two or three non voting Councillors.

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