Maori seats and tribunal will pass best-by dates

07/02/2020

National Party leader Simon Bridges says that Maori seats and the Waitangi Tribunal should eventually go.

Bridges cited the Royal Commission in 1986, which proposed that if the country adopted the MMP system, it should abolish the Māori electorates.

That logic still stood, he said.

“We have more Māori in Parliament today than in a very long time under a MMP environment, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to impose that.  . .

We not only have more Maori in parliament, we have more in senior roles – deputy Prime Minister, deputy leaders of National and Labour, and co-leader of the Greens. Only the Labour one holds a Maori seat.  The National ones are there as electorate MPs in general seats, the other three are list MPs.

Ending Maori seats has been National Party policy for years. That it didn’t happen when National was last in government is due to it inviting the Maori Party into coalition.

And as Dame Tariana Turia, one of those invited into the coalition, pointed out in a discussion on Agenda in 2008 Maori seats didn’t give a Maori voice:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

Maori should be asking themselves what they’ve got from this government after voting Labour MPs into all their seats.

They should also ask why they need Maori seats when there is no one Maori voice.

Maori seats have long passed their best-by date and the Waitangi Tribunal will pass its eventually too:

“When we have moved past grievance, which I hope all New Zealanders would like to see at some point in time and those historic[al] issues with settlements have been full and final, you do have to say what is the role of the Waitangi Tribunal?” he said.

While many people would say a new, updated role for the tribunal should be found, Bridges said that was not his view.

He wanted to be clear he still saw a strong role for the government in partnership iwi, hapū and Māori in general when it came to the likes of te reo and partnership schools.

The Tribunal has a role until the final Treaty settlements are made.

After that it should go so we can all get over the grievances and move on to growth, together.

 


2/4 for Act’s plan

13/08/2018

Act wants fewer MPs a smaller executive and no Maori seats:

ACT is drawing a line in the sand on the size of government with a new bill aimed at rolling back the state.

Party Leader David Seymour today revealed his Smaller Government Bill which will reduce the size of Parliament to 100 MPs, limit the size of the Executive to 20 Ministers, and remove the Maori seats.

“The growth in government over the past two decades has not delivered better outcomes for New Zealand. We need smaller, smarter government”, says Mr Seymour.

“New Zealand has too many politicians for its size. Our Government costs more and delivers less than it did 20 years ago.

“The Smaller Government Bill will cut the size of Parliament 100 MPs, bringing us into line with other developed countries.

The number of electorates is determined after each census.

The General electoral population is the ordinarily resident population shown in the last census less the Māori electoral population.

All electorates must have about the same population size.   The number of South Island General electorates is fixed at 16 by the Electoral Act 1993.  To calculate the number of electorates the Government Statistician:­

  • divides the South Island General electoral population by 16 (this result provides the average electoral population for South Island electorates and is referred to as the South Island quota)
  • divides the Māori electoral population by the South Island quota to work out the number of Māori electorates, and
  • divides the North Island General electoral population by the South Island quota to work out the number of General electorates for the North Island.  . .

If the number of MPs was reduced the size of electorates would have to increase and rural electorates are already far too big.

Clutha Southland covers an area of 37,378 square kilometres, West Coast Tasman is a little smaller and Waitaki covers an area of around 34,000 kilometres.  It doesn’t matter how hard, smart and effectively  MPs representing these electorates work, it is impossible for them to give the same level of service to constituents spread over these huge area as the MP for Epsom, the smallest electorate, which covers an area just under 20 square kilometres.

“It will also restrict the number of high-paid Ministers to 20. Our Executive is far too big – currently standing at 31 people.

“Almost half of the Government MPs hold a position in the Executive. We have too many pointless ministerial portfolios. They are not improving the lives of New Zealanders and this bill will do away with them.

Quality rather than quantity should be the rule for the executive.

Fewer, more able ministers would serve the country better, and at a lower cost, than the over-populated and under-talented one we have now.

“The bill will also remove the Maori seats. New Zealand is a modern, diverse democracy. There is simply no longer a place for one group of people to be treated differently under the law.

“We now have 27 Maori MPs, 20 of whom were elected through the general roll. Even without the seven Maori seats, Maori would still be proportionately represented in Parliament.

The problem of size in rural general electorates is even worse in Maori seats.

Te Tai Tonga, the largest, covers an area of 153,671 square kilometres and is nearly four times as big as Clutha Southland. It covers the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, and extends into the lower North Island as far as the Hutt Valley.

It isn’t humanly possible to service an area that big effectively which means constituents are getting inferior representation.

In 2008 then-Maori Party leader Tariana Turia said:*

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

The seats by themselves didn’t give Maori a voice. They have also often given them inferior representation, sometimes because of the MPs and always because of their size.

The Royal Commission on MMP said there would be no need for Maori seats under this system, but that was ignored.

Its prediction that MMP would bring more Maori into parliament anyway has been proved right.

Getting rid of Maori seats is National Party policy. It was set aside in negotiations with the Maori Party after the 2008, 2011 and 2014 elections. It is New Zealand First policy and is now Act policy. That could mean a majority of parliament supports this part of Seymour’s Bill should it be drawn from the ballot.

Maori choose whether they are on the general or Maori roll every six years.

If the greater number of people switching from the Maori roll to the general one in the first month continues it will result in one fewer Maori electorate.  If that trend continued the seats would eventually disappear by attrition any way.

“Our plan would also require all parliamentary candidates to stand in an electorate, and all elected list MPs would be required to open an office in the electorate in which they stood.

“List MPs serve an important function in our democracy, but they should be required to serve New Zealanders and solve real problems, not just collect a salary and spend their time in a Wellington office. . . 

The requirement to serve New Zealanders and solve real problems should apply to all MPs but I wouldn’t go as far as requiring all of them to stand in an electorate.

Some MPs might be more effective if they serviced a nationwide constituency, for example an ethnic community, than a single electorate.

I give Act’s plan a rating of 2/4.

Seymour’s plan to reduce the size of the executive and get rid of Maori seats has merit.

But reducing the number of MPs is simply populism that would make already over-sized electorates even bigger and requiring all MPs to stand in electorates is a blunt instrument that wouldn’t necessarily improve performance.

* Dame Turiana’s quote was made on Agenda. The only record I can find is on a blog post I wrote here  where the link to the quote no longer works.


This doesn’t mean Maori are over-represented

10/12/2013

Kiwiblog makes an interesting observation on the make-up of parliament:

Incidentally with Williams and Hayes both replacing non-Maori MPs, the number of MPs in Parliament of Maori descent is a record 25 out of 121, or 21% of Parliament. That is a significant over-representation. The makeup of the Maori MPs in Parliament is:

  • Maori seats 7
  • General seats 6
  • List seats 12

Very very hard to claim you need the Maori seats to continue, to maintain effective Maori representation in Parliament.

The breakdown of the 25 Maori MPs is also interesting:

  • National 9
  • Labour 7
  • Greens 3
  • Maori 3
  • NZ First 1
  • Mana 1
  • Independent 1

That might be over-representation as a percentage.

It doesn’t mean Maori are over-represented.

As Te Ururoa Flavell pointed out most Maori seats are too big which makes effective representation much more difficult.

The solution isn’t more Maori seats, it’s getting rid of them.

That would add another general seat in the South Island and several in the North, all of which would be smaller and easier to service than the biggest electorates are now.

The Royal Commission which designed MMP said there would be no need for Maori seats under this voting system.

That the majority of Maori MPs hold general or list seats proves that.


No more Maori seats good sign

09/10/2013

The Maori Party is blaming the Electoral Commission for no increase in the number of Maori seats.

The Maori Party is disappointed at this week’s announcement from the Representation Commission, that no new Maori electorate will be created following the census and the Maori Option.

“Proper investment by electoral agencies in promoting Maori engagement with Parliamentary politics could have convinced another 4% of electors to join the Maori Roll, and secured an eighth Maori seat,” said Co-leaders Tariana Turia and Te Ururoa Flavell. 

“The Electoral Commission’s campaign did not do enough to ensure that people were fully informed of the difference between the two rolls.  The feedback we received from rangatahi is that the information provided from the Electoral Commission left them feeling that they had more choices on the general roll.”

“The Electoral Commission spent around $1.5million on the Maori Option Campaign, but measured their success based on the number of times their advertisements were viewed, not on results or ensuring that the message received by whanau were transformed into action – the action of filling in the forms and sending them back in.” . . .

It’s the Commission’s job to ensure people are informed of their options and to present the facts not to influence them one way or the other.

People are better on the general roll – most seats are smaller geographically making it easier for MPs to service and for constituents to access MPs and electorate offices.

. . . “The Maori Party will be making submissions on new boundaries for the current Maori seats – we think it is quite unrealistic for the whole of the South Island and part of the North Island to be represented by one MP, for example. The lack of access to Maori electorate MPs is a valid reason for Maori electors to opt onto the General roll – which reduces the number of Maori seats. The whole system works to disenfranchise the Treaty partner in Parliamentary politics.”

Te Tai Tonga is too big and poorer access will influence decisions on which roll to go on.

But that problem isn’t confined to Maori electorates. Some general seats are bigger than some Maori ones.

We’d all be better off if there were no Maori seats because more general seats would make all electorates smaller.

No increase in Maori seats is a good sign that people are recognising that, as Tariana Turia said, Maori seats don’t give Maori a voice.

It might also reflect that more Treaty settlements have been concluded and more Maori are moving from grievance mode to growth.


Maori seats to stay at 7?

24/07/2013

Today is the last day for people to change between the Maori and general electoral rolls .

The number doing so will determine if there is a change in the number of Maori seats.

. . . The latest campaign opened in March – and preliminary results show 5200 people joined the Maori roll halfway through – most of them being new voters.

Nearly ten thousand more people would need to join it by Wednesday to be on par with the number of people who joined in the 2006 option – which saw no increase in Maori seats. . .

A report in June said:

The 6774 voters moving from the General Roll to the Maori Roll are essentially cancelled out by the 6727 leaving it to go on the General Roll.

Unless there’s been a large number of people opting for the Maori roll and very few for the general roll in the last month it is likely the status quo of seven Maori seats will remain.

The Maori seats are an anachronism which ought to have disappeared when MMP was introduced.

No new ones is good, fewer would be better and none at all would be best.

The seats were taken for granted by Labour for years and the area most of them cover make it much more difficult to service them and constituents to get access to their MPs.


Can’t change one rolll without changing other

03/05/2013

The Electoral Commission wants to allow Maori voters to change between the general and Maori rolls more often.

Current law allows Maori to opt for the general or Maori roll every five years, after the census.

The results could increase, or decrease, the number of Maori seats. A change could also have an impact on the number of people in general seats – increasing or decreasing the population.

Boundaries are considered after every census. The South island population is divided by 16 to get the number of people in each electorate, plus or minus 5%.

That includes the number of people in Maori seats.

There is always some change between censuses which could put seats under or over the 5% tolerance. Enabling Maori to opt for one roll or the other in isolation from consideration of all electorates could exacerbate that.

It could also allow Maori more of a say – being able to move from one roll to the other for a by-election then back for the general election, for example.

I think Maori seats have outlived their usefulness and would definitely not be in favour of allowing people to opt for a different roll any more often than every five years when the boundaries for all seats are set.


Information not persuasion

12/02/2013

This year Maori have the first chance since 2006 to choose whether they’re on the Maori or general electoral roll.

“If you are Maori and on the electoral roll, then this year you get to choose which type of electoral roll you want to vote on,” Enrolment Services national manager Murray Wicks said.

“There hasn’t been a Maori Electoral Option since 2006, so we want to make sure that Maori have access to all the information about the option and what it means before making their decision when the option period begins.

“It’s an important choice, and we want people to be confident to take part.”

The Electoral Commission is bound to present information on the options rather than persuade and says Maori organisation tasked with spreading the word should be strictly impartial.

Kiwiblog noted yesterday that one of those organisations is the Maori Council which is in the midst of legal proceedings against the government.

How impartial will it be?

Other groups, not employed by the Commission are free to persuade and they usually urge people to sign up for the Maori roll.

It would be good to see a campaign explaining the disadvantages of that and the benefits of being on the general roll.

As Tariana Turia said, Maori seats didn’t give Maori a voice:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

Maori seats not only didn’t give Maori a voice, they gave and continue to give them inferior representation because most of them are too big to service effectively and provide constituents with ready access to their MPs.

Te Tai Tonga covers 161,443 square kilometres – the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island and part of Wellington. Te Tai Hauauru is 35, 825 square kilometres in area, Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers 30,952 square kilometres and Waiariki 19,212 square kilometres.

Maori seats were created when the right to vote depended on the ownership of land. That hasn’t applied for decades and there are now more Maori MPs in general seats and on the lists than representing Maori seats.

This gives them better representation than the Maori electorates which were taken for granted until National invited the Maori Party to be a support partner in government.


Fairness and equity when it suits

09/11/2012

Trans Tasman comments on the Electoral Commission’s recommendations on MMP:

The Commission had recommended the 5% threshold be cut to 4%, and abolition of the one-seat (or “coat-tail” rule). It said the one-seat rule’s effect had been to undermine the principles of fairness and equity and the primacy of the party vote in determining the overall composition of Parliament which underpin MMP. This is because it gives voters in some electorates more power than those in others. However it is hard to argue in favour of refined principles of fairness and equity so long as separate Maori seats are retained in the NZ electoral system.

Opposition MPs are keen to support the recommendation, though Labour didn’t regard the one-seat rule as a problem when it gave them the support of Peter Dunne and those he brought in on his coat tails.

Nor will they suggest there is no longer a need for Maori seats because in that case fairness and equity won’t suit them so well.

 

 


Not if but how for Maori Party

06/12/2011

The choice for the Maori Party isn’t if they will reach an agreement with National but how.

In or attached to the government the party will be able to get real policy gains.

The alternative of three years in the wilderness of opposition in competition with Labour, the Green part, NZ First and Mana will do nothing for the party or its supporters.

It could also mean the end of the Maori seats.

National campaigned in 2008 on getting rid of the seats but dropped that policy as a concession to the Maori Party during coalition negotiations.

Act still wants the seats dropped. If the Maori Party chooses opposition rather than supporting the government in some fashion, National will be under no obligation to keep them.


Do candidates help party vote?

03/10/2011

Parties stand candidates in electorates they have no hope of winning so they can solicit party votes.

Does it help?

I don’t know the answer to that but National doesn’t stand candidates in the Maori electorates and the latest Marae Digipoll shows the party has 22.4% of support from Maori on the general roll compared with only 13.2% support from Maori on the Maori roll.

That could mean having candidates helps, but it could also mean Maori who opt for the general roll are more likely to support National than those who don’t.

National support from Maori isn’t high on either roll, but the party gained only 7.4% from Maori roll voters in 2008 and is now getting almost twice that support.

Its coalition partner the Maori Party has 11% support from Maori on the general roll and 27.7% support from people on the Maori roll, compared with 28.9% at the last election.

The Mana Party had 12% support from Maori roll voters but only 1.6% support from those on the general roll.

Support for other parties: Green Party 5.6% on the Maori roll and 8.1% on the general one; New Zealand First  4.1% and 7.1%; Act 0 and 2.1%; Progressive 0 and .6% and other 1.7% and 1.9%.

Act, NZ First and Progressive don’t usually have candidates in Maori electorates either.


No Maori Party in Nat govt no Maori seats?

16/05/2011

Hone Harawira has criticised the Maori Party for being in coalition with National, even though he was a member of it at the time. He’s also criticising the party for contemplating entering a coalition with National again after the election.

One of National’s campaign policies was the abolition of the Maori Seats. If it hadn’t been in coalition with the Maori Party it would have followed through and done that. But this was one of the policies National gave way on during coalition negotiations.

 As far as I know it is still National policy to get rid of the seats. It’s definitely Act policy.

If there’s a National led government after this year’s election with Act as a coalition partner and without the Maori Party it’s a safe bet the seats will go.


Have Maori seats passed their use-by date?

07/04/2011

Otago used to have special seats for gold miners. When the gold ran out the need for the seats declined and the seats were disestablished.

Maori seats were set up to give votes to Maori men when the right to vote in New Zealand depended on land ownership. When universal franchise was introduced these seats should have gone but they didn’t.

The most recent official view that there was no longer any need for Maori seats was the Royal Commission on MMP but its advice wasn’t taken.

Disestablishing the seats was National Party policy before the last election but it was set aside as one of the conditions agreed to in coalition negotiations with the Maori Party.

That party has good reasons for wanting the seats to continue even though Tariana Turia said in a discussion on Agenda in 2008:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

The seats by themselves didn’t give Maori a voice. They have also often given them inferior representation, sometimes because of the MP and always because of their size.

Most of the seats are far too big to service properly. Te Tai Tonga covers 161,443 square kilometres – the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island and part of Wellington. Te Tai Hauauru is 35, 825 square kilometres in area, Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers 30,952 square kilometres and Waiariki 19,212 square kilometres.

But Maori representation isn’t confined to special seats, the majority of Maori MPs in parliament now aren’t there because of the Maori electorates.

Big News lists the 23 who now sit in the house and Kiwiblog notes:

So that is 23/122 MPs are of Maori descent, representing 18.9% of Parliament. Now this means that Maori are over-represented in Parliament, relative to their population proportion. Now I don’t think this is at all a bad thing. My belief is that Parliament should be diverse and broadly representative of NZ, but we shouldn’t have quotas trying to match the makeup of Parliament to the exact population.

But what it does show is how well MMP has worked for Maori representation. We now have seven Maori MPs in Maori seats, three Maori MPs in general seats (all National) and 13 Maori List MPs.

It also reflects my view that one could do as the Royal Commission recommended, and abolish the Maori seats (in exchange for no 5% threshold on the list for Maori parties). Even without the Maori seats, there would be at least 16 MPs of Maori descent in Parliament (and probably more).

Isn’t it interesting that National, the party so often derided for being the party for middle-aged Pakeha men is the only one to have Maori in general seats, one of whom is a woman and all of whom are young?

Whether it is MMP by itself or whether there would have been an increase in the number of Maori MPs under another electoral system because of changing times and attitudes, is a moot point.

But the numbers show we no longer need special Maori seats and who better to argue that than Botany’s new MP Jami-Lee Ross who said in his maiden speech last night:

Mr Speaker, as a new Member of Parliament, I join the ranks of members, past and present, proud to call themselves Maori.  But whilst I am an individual of Maori descent, I do consider myself a New Zealander first and foremost. I have Ngati Porou blood running through my veins, but I can assure the House that I am a New Zealander who believes strongly in one standard of citizenship.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an exceptionally important document in New Zealand. It has a very simple and succinct text, but one that must be read in its entirety. We often hear of the principles of kawanatanga as expressed in Article 1, and of tino rangatiratanga in Article 2. Sadly the often forgotten part of the Treaty is Article 3.

The Kawharu translation of the Maori version of Article 3 reads:

For this agreed arrangement therefore concerning the Government of the Queen, the Queen of England will protect all the ordinary people of New Zealand and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England.

I am not convinced that we have reached the point in New Zealand where we calmly and honestly, talk about the relationship between Maori and non-Maori in the context of Article 3. My strong belief in one standard of citizenship means that I believe in fair, full, and final settlements of treaty grievances, with a strong emphasis on the word final. Believing in one standard of citizenship means that I will treat every single one of my constituents equally, regardless of the colour of their skin.

It also means that I do not subscribe to the view that I, or any New Zealander of Maori descent, requires special seats to be elected to Parliament, to Councils, or any other body in this country. It is my hope that the people of New Zealand will be the given the opportunity, in the near future, to examine the role of Maori seats in Parliament by way of referendum. I am a New Zealander of Maori decent, and proudly so. But I hope to challenge the status quo in my time here. I will be criticised along the way, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that all New Zealander’s should be treated equally. He iwi tahi tatou – we are all one people.

One people does not mean we don’t have differences but nor does it mean we need special seats to ensure fair, proper and effective representation for everyone.


Maori seats not needed

18/10/2009

The Maori Party is aiming for 18 seats in parliament by 2017.

I hope they succeed because that will prove there is no need for Maori seats.


MMP will have to change

09/09/2009

When MMP was introduced we had 60 general electorate seats, five Maori seats and 55 list seats.

Every six years electorate boundaries are changed to take account of population changes and every six years proportionality decreases.

We now have 70 electorate seats and 52 list seats. Two of those list seats are overhang ones because the Maori Party won more electorates than their party vote entitled them to hold as a percentage of the overall parliament.

Calculations on boundaries start with dividing the South Island population by 16 to give the number of people in each electorate and then dividing the North Island population into areas with that many people, plus or minus 5%.

The North Island population is growing faster than that of the South so every six years the North Island gets at least one more electorate.

Maori also get a change every six years to say whether or not they want to be on the Maori or general roll and if enough opt for the Maori roll another electorate is formed.

The number of seats in parliament is set at 120 (without an overhang) so each extra electorate seat results in one fewer list seat.

If the country decides it wants to continue with MMP something will have to change before the imbalance between electorate and list seats causes problems.

I can think of only three possible solutions:

We could reduce the number of electorate seats, but provincial seats already cover far too great an area.

We could increase the number of MPs to retain a better balance between list or electorate MPs. But I don’t think that will find favour with the majority who think we already have too many MPs.

We could change to an electoral system where population changes don’t matter.


Editorials on Maori seats

26/08/2009

The ODT says:

That Maori believe they are entitled to separate representation because of the treaty is a claim not tested in law, though it may yet be; that seats should be provided for them piecemeal, council by council, as a “gesture” is patronising and scarcely credible.

What next? That each tribe should have a seat? The Cabinet decision may appear to have effectively pre-empted change, but the issue will doubtless return when Parliament debates the legislation. The Government should not retreat from its position.

The Manawatu Standard  says Maori deserve better than this:

The Government’s decision to exclude Maori seats from the new Auckland super city council was the wrong one.

It is a victory for populism over courage, and political expediency over the much more arduous pursuit of justice. What is it that makes acknowledging that Maori hold a special status in this country as its indigenous people so utterly distasteful to so many? Why can we not see any further back than the myopia of Brash-era thinking and view the issue of Maori representation through a broader historical context?

If that were to happen, people like ACT leader Rodney Hide might cease his “one man, one vote” yammering and see an indigenous people whose sense of identity is inextricably linked to the land, and who were systematically marginalised as it was taken from them, divided up and sold for profit particularly in Auckland.

Is it such anathema to ensure they have input into how that land is governed now?

Just two editorials this morning on the issue and they have opposing views.

I’m with the ODT.

UPDATE:

The Nelson Mail says:

Maori are perfectly capable of being elected on their merits when they put themselves forward alongside people of other races. Special consultation is a good thing and already required of all councils by the local government legislation. Guaranteeing seats based on race is something else.

The Taranaki Daily News writes on giving up seats so they can stand:

Are they really so disparaging of their own political prowess that they feel they need a leg-up to compete with others in the political arena? . . . 

 . . . Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that Cabinet will not support separate Maori seats for the Auckland super city is a tip of the hat to the mature political force and nous within Maoridom, rather than a denigration of its status.

It is a recognition that a great deal has happened in the 140 years since Maori seats were established in Parliament in 1868, that much progress has been made to advance the Maori voice, and that they no longer need to stand on the shoulders of others to get noticed.

In fact, we would go so far as to say the idea that Maori need some kind of false apparatus or rigged game to secure their place at the table is patronising and potentially racist in its intentions, a colonial sop that gives the pretence of power while keeping the reins in the hands of the few.

That might have been appropriate 140 years ago, when Maori were a nascent political force still finding their way and learning the ropes.


Forget the trophies, solve the problems

26/08/2009

Maori parliamentary seats were established in 1867. That was the result of more than a decade of pressure for political representation from Maori who were granted the same rights and protections as other New Zealanders under the Treaty of Waitangi.

At that time there were three special seats for Otago and Westland gold miners and one for an Auckland Pensioners’ Settlement. Those seats went when the need for them ended, Maori seats continued, not for their benefit but from discrimination.

All Maori men aged 21 or more were granted the right to vote 12 years earlier than European men who, until 1879, had to own or lease property of a certain value before they could vote.

However, one of the reasons for establishing separate seats was a fear that Maori would swamp the Pakeha vote in some areas and their size meant second class representation from the start.

This was not the only discriminatory aspect of Maori franchise. Secret ballots had been introduced for general electorate in 1870 but Maori were required to vote by show of hands. This continued until 1910 when voting by show of hands was no longer compulsory however, it was not until 1937 that the requirement for secret ballot became law in Maori electorates.

From 1919 until 1951 Maori had to vote on a different day from the general election. They were not permitted to stand in European electorates until 1967, and they were then only able to register to vote in them if they identified themselves as “half-castes”.

The Royal Commission on MMP recommended that Maori seats be discontinued when the new voting system was introduced. That was disregarded and the number of seats has grown as more people choose to go on the Maori roll.

 There hasn’t been a corresponding improvement in statistics for Maori people. In too many social and economic measures they are still over represented in the negative ones and under represented in the positive ones

That isn’t because they are Maori. It’s because they are poorly educated, in poor health and have lower incomes.

If the Maori Party put their energy into addressing the root causes of those problems instead of worrying about trophies like Maori seats on a council, their people and our country would all be better for it.


Soft bigotry of low expectations

25/05/2009

We like to think race relations in New Zealand are pretty good.

We’re wrong.

They may not be as bad as they are in some other countries, but they’re not nearly as good as they should be and one of the reasons for that is the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The phrase isn’t original – I think it was first used by George Bush – but it encapsulates the danger of support which harms rather than helps.

One sad example of this is the pressure to have Maori seats on the new Auckland council and the reason given: because Maori won’t be represented without them.

That’s rubbish. Democratic elections allow anyone to stand, they allow anyone to support those who stand and once elected the councillors will be bound – legally and ethically –  to represent all the people in their wards and to act in the best interests of them and the wider city.

Democracy isn’t good enough for some people but those who are arguing for special rights aren’t helping Maori, they’re hindering them, the ones who are supposedly supporting Maori are dragging them down.

They’re telling them, and us, that Maori aren’t good enough to foot it in an equal contest, that people who aren’t Maori wouldn’t vote for Maori candidates, and that the people who are elected wouldn’t fulfil their obligations to listen to Maori views.

That’s bigoted and ignorant.

It’s also self defeating because, as Tariana Turia  said in a discussion on the Maori electorates on Agenda last year, the seats didn’t give Maori a voice:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

If Maori seats didn’t give Maori a voice in parliament, they won’t on the council either.

Rather than wasting their energy demanding special seats, those who want Maori representation should put their efforts in to encouraging and supporting candidates who will give them a voice.

See also:

Jim Hopkins: We’re all in this together

Glenn Jameson on Time to End Racism in New Zealand

Kiwiblog on Hikoi Day


Labour still don’t understand big electorates

01/05/2009

Labour is still questioning the increase in funding to enable MPs in the biggest electorates to employ another member of staff.

This was agreed to in the coaltion deal between National and the Maori Party and recognises that although the number of people in every  electorate is similar, it’s much more difficult to service them over a large geographical area.

Darren Hughes doesn’t understand the situation:

Does he think it’s appropriate to overrule the unanimous decision of the all party Parliamentary Service Commission chaired by an independent person to achieve a result that predominately benefits the National Party and the Maori Party by nearly a $1 million a year,” questioned Labour MP Darren Hughes.

Oh dear, Darren, you’re showing why there was a blue wash through the Maori seats and provinces in the election, you and your party don’t understand the needs of people in large electorates and the difficulty of servicing them.

The funding isn’t for MPs personally, it’s for an extra staff member and associated costs to help them serve their constituents and to help constituents access their MPs more easily. The funding doesn’t predominately benefit the National and Maori parties, it benefits people in their electorates.

The electorates which will get extra funding and the area they cover in square kilometres are:

Te Tai Tonga

161,443

Clutha-Southland

38,247

West Coast-Tasman

38,042

Te Tai Hauauru

35,825

Waitaki

34,888

Ikaroa-Rawhiti

30,952

Kaikoura

23,706

Waiariki

19,212

Te Tai Tokerau

16,370

Hauraki-Waikato

12,580

To understand how big these electorates are, compare them with the size of the 10 smallest ones:

Mt Albert

34

Manukau East

31

Pakuranga

29

Christchurch Central

28

Ilam

27

Northcote

27

Rongotai

27

Te Atatu

27

North Shore

25

Mt Roskill

24

Epsom

23

East Coast and Taranaki King Country which are bigger than Hauraki-Waikato and Northland which is almost as big, won’t get any extra funding.

East Coast

13,649

Taranaki-King Country

12,869

Northland

12,255

TV3’s report on the issue isn’t qutie right either. It says:

After 3 News revealed the 10 MPs holding these seats were to get an extra $92,000, political parties got together and decided that was too much.

TV3 didn’t “reveal’ this. It wasn’t a secret, Kiwiblog and I both posted on it last November when the coaltion deal was announced.


Dear Andrew Williams #2

19/04/2009

Dear Andrew Willliams,

You’ve emailed me again and given I wasn’t impressed with your first two missives I was going to ignore these two, too.

But I was at a National Party regional meeting in Dunedin on Friday and one of the electorate chairs mentioned that she’d got a couple of emails from you and wasn’t impressed either.

She was even less impressed after her polite response requesting you stop sending her unsolicited emails was met by a return message saying something like great to hear from you, we’ve had so much repsonse we’ll deal with yours when we have time.

We’ve worked out you must have got our addresses from the National Party website.

It’s public so any of us whose addresses are there might expect the odd unsolicited email. But our contact details are there because we’re volunteer office holders who members and supporters might wish to contact, not as an invitation for lobby groups to bombarb us with unwanted propaganda.

If you’re going to send us spam the least you can do is include an unsubscribe option so our requests to be removed from your mailing list aren’t met with another unwanted message.

Yours sincerely

Ele


Party not seats give Maori voice

23/10/2008

When she appeared on Agenda in June  Tariana Turia said:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

That’s a pretty damning indictment on the dedicated electorates because she’s saying it’s not  the Maori seats but the Maori Party which give Maori a voice.

Given that, do we need the seats?

Dr Lachy Paterson  says we do:

However, any moves to abolish the Maori seats are likely to provoke an outcry from Maoridom. The fact that all the main parties select Maori for electable seats is irrelevant.

Maori now have their own effective and independent voice within parliament, and the thought of all its representatives returning to the control of Pakeha-dominated parties would be galling.

Maori also see the Maori seats, and the Maori Party, as an expression of tino rangatiratanga, of embodying their tangata whenua status. Perceived attacks on Maori as a whole, such as the fiscal envelope or the Foreshore and Seabed Act, have galvanised Maori opposition in the past and abolishing the Maori seats would no doubt provoke a similar response.

The Maori Party MPs have, for the most part, been moderate and effective representatives.

Their presence in parliament, providing a Maori voice, has defused much of the anger and protest previously expressed by Maori who felt marginalised within the political system and society’s institutions.

Philip Temple, disagrees:

What would most likely happen to the Maori Party if the Maori seats were abolished? Dr Paterson believes that those currently on the Maori roll would vote for Labour with both their votes.

What is much more likely is that their voting pattern would reverse: ex-Maori rollers would give their electorate vote to a Labour candidate and their party vote to the Maori Party.

Even if I am no more than half right, the number of ex-Maori roll voters who would support the Maori Party would almost certainly carry it over the 5% threshold, giving it six or seven seats.

So there would be no fewer Maori Party MPs and possibly several more than they are likely to get while keeping the seats without significantly increasing the party vote.

. . . The number of Maori seats is based on the number of people on the Maori roll.

After the last Maori roll option in 2006, the number of seats did not increase.

Maori leaders expressed disappointment that more Maori had not shifted across from the general roll, despite heavy promotion.

Many Maori roll voters shifted the other way, cancelling out about half the Maori roll increase.

The number of Maori seats is unlikely, therefore, to increase in the future, and certainly not by more than another one or two.

Given that these will almost always be split between the Maori Party and Labour, it is severely limiting for the Maori Party to depend on the Maori seats alone.

In other words, they are shooting themselves in their collective foot.

They should be aiming to take pakeha with them, not remain planted in a fortified political pa shouting threats of civil disobedience across the palisade in response to calls to come out.

Dr Paterson’s thinking seems to be rooted in 19th and 20th-century resentment.

No other country with similar democratic traditions – Australia, UK, Canada, USA – uses race-based separate rolls and electorates for elections to their national parliament.

The MMP electoral system has increased Maori representation in Parliament regardless of the separate Maori seats.

It was one of the key arguments for having MMP in the first place.

It is now entirely legitimate to ask why there should continue to be a separate Maori roll and electorates that distort MMPs democratic and proportional representation.

It is no longer appropriate or fair in the 21st century to sustain racially separate electorates established in the entirely different political, social and demographic circumstances of the 19th century.

Nor is it appropriate to leave the decision on the future of the seats up to Maori.

Whether they stay or go is a constitutional matter which affects us all so any decision on their future should be a matter for us all.

 No group of people speaks with a single voice, but the Maori Party does speak for many of what Tariana Turia calls “her people”.

So when she admits it’s not the seats but her party which give Maori a voice, she’s effectively sabotaging any arguments in favour of keeping them.


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