Democracy doesn’t exclude

15/01/2021

Dan Lander argues against the petition seeking a referendum on a Maori ward for  New Plymouth/Ngamotu :

The petition circulating in our rohe (district) that could force a binding poll on whether or not a Māori ward should be established in Ngāmotu is anti-Māori.

It’s about excluding Māori from meaningful participation in local government, and it’s an affront to the principles of partnership set out in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. . . 

How can that be about excluding Maori who have the same rights as everyone else to participate meaningfully and excluding anyone from standing in council elections on the basis of race would be illegal?

The work to exclude Māori from meaningful participation in local government in Ngāmotu is a total disregard for Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is a program of assimilation.

How can it be assimilation when people who represent a range of ethnicities, gender, backgrounds and views can be elected onto councils?

It is an active commitment to preserving the status quo, a status quo that privileges whiteness, inhibits the process of justice, reconciliation and peace in our rohe, and the prohibits the honouring of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the way it should be.

Ultimately, it is activity that stifles the creation of real unity in Ngāmotu and, rather than strengthening, weakens democracy. . . 

Saying it doesn’t make it so. On the contrary, giving any person or group rights that others don’t have and basing representation on race weakens democracy.

In a Māori ward provides an opportunity for this to become a reality. A Māori ward in our community presents an opportunity to begin the journey toward real and transformative unity.

Giving one group rights not available to others is the antithesis of unity.

It is an opportunity for our community to learn, strengthen and benefit from a uniquely Māori perspective in new and liberating ways. A Māori ward in our community is a vital step forward in our shared journey. . . 

Don Brash responded there’s nothing democratic about racist wards:

. . . we are in no way opposed to Māori representation in local government. What we do oppose is local councils foisting race-based wards on their cities and districts without the agreement of their ratepayers.

What we know is that almost wherever ratepayers are asked for their opinion on race-based wards, they give a very strong thumbs down (the only exception being Wairoa District Council).

What we know is that the number of Māori New Zealanders elected to local government has been steadily rising over the years, from 4.3 per cent in 2004 to 10.1 per cent in 2016, without the crutch of racially-based wards.

What we know is that in Parliament the number of Māori MPs considerably exceeds the proportion of Māori New Zealanders in the total population, with roughly a quarter of all MPs being Māori. The number of Māori MPs would fully reflect the share of Māori in the general population even without the long-outdated Māori electorates.

This time last year, the leader and deputy leader of the National Party, the leader and deputy leader of NZ First, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the co-leader of the Green Party, and the leader of the ACT Party were all Māori, and only one of those was dependent on a Māori electorate to be in Parliament.

National and Act, which are often criticised for their lack of diversity, were the parties whose Maori leaders and deputy were supported first by their parties then voters because they were able candidates in general seats, there as the best people not because of their race.

What that shows is not only that Māori New Zealanders are absolutely capable of winning election without the crutch of racially-based electorates, but also that Māori New Zealanders are no more homogeneous in their political views than other New Zealanders.

Some Māori New Zealanders have radical views; some Māori New Zealanders have more conservative views. In that, they are no different from all other New Zealanders, whether of European, Asian or Pacific Island ancestry.

Rather than being racist and judging people by their race, this is acknowledging all people as individuals with diverse views.

Local government is primarily about issues like local roads, libraries, water supply, drainage and similar matters: it is entirely unclear why there would be a distinctive “Māori view” on any of those issues.

There is no more a distinctive Maori view than there is a distinctive view for any ethnicity, gender or any other identity on these, and probably any other, issues.

Mr Lander stated that the Treaty of Waitangi somehow mandated, or at least implied the need for, separate Māori wards. But that is self-evident nonsense.

The Treaty was not in any meaningful sense a constitution. It simply involved Māori chiefs ceding sovereignty to the Crown; being guaranteed in turn the ownership of their property; with the additional benefit that all Māori would have “the rights and privileges of British citizens”.

We are on a very dangerous path if we are attributing a separate constitutional status to those who chance to have a Māori ancestor – today, with ancestors of other ethnicities too of course. That path would take us to a very dark place.

Rather than agitating for discriminatory wards, why don’t the people who want Maori representation find Maori who would be good councilors, nominate them and help them campaign?

Council elections are democratic and democracy doesn’t exclude – people of any and every ethnicity are eligible to stand and eligible to vote.

The Waitaki District is often regarded as being conservative and monocultural.

In the last council election a Pacific Island woman was elected in the Oamaru ward. It’s possible some voted for her because of her ethnicity but her share of votes indicates that she was elected because people thought she would be a good councillor, as she is, and that’s how it should be.


How about ‘we are individuals?’?

06/02/2020

Steve Elers has a message for Waitangi Day:

. . .I suppose, based on my whakapapa, physical appearance and self-identity, that puts me in the Māori house. But what about Māori who have more Pākehā ancestry than Māori whakapapa?

For example, my wife is a Pākehā and we have two young daughters, Anahera and Māia.

Given my own whakapapa includes Europeans, who were born in Germany and England and migrated here, then technically I suppose our daughters have more European ancestry than Māori whakapapa when it is all added up.

So, does that mean Anahera and Māia are in the Pākehā house? If having a Māori ancestor means one is first and foremost Māori, why is that so and according to who? Perhaps one gets to choose, or is it based on how one feels on the day? . . 

These are questions that some would say someone like me, whose whakapapa as far back as we can trace includes only Scots, can not answer.

Speaking of houses, an in-house publication by the Department of Māori Affairs, now Te Puni Kōkiri – Ministry of Māori Development, states “all Māori have some degree of non-Māori ancestry”.

I don’t know if that publication was correct, but regardless, as Ranginui Walker eloquently stated in his Listener column back in 2004: “The lizards of our colonial past are being laid to rest in the bedrooms of the nation.” That certainly seems so, more and more, as most young Māori I meet are of the lighter shades of brown and many are white.

Someone with a dark complexion like myself was my fourth-great-grandfather Wiremu Tamihana (1805-1866), chief of Ngāti Hauā of the Tainui confederation. Yes, I know everyone has 64 fourth-great-grandparents, but let’s not ruin a good story and let’s not downplay my chiefly heritage.

Tamihana was known as the “kingmaker” because of his role in establishing the Māori King movement. The photograph accompanying was taken by Elizabeth Pulman (1836-1900), who was New Zealand’s first female professional photographer.

My daughters, Anahera and Māia, are direct descendants of both Wiremu Tamihana, through my mother’s whakapapa, and Pulman, through my wife’s father’s ancestry. As far as I know, my daughters are the only descendants of both.

When they’re older, Anahera and Māia can look at that image knowing they are descendants of the Māori chief in it and the English-born photographer who took it. However, I hope they will recognise the multifaceted aspects of their whakapapa and understand they are first and foremost themselves – individuals who have the freedom to determine their own paths in life without being constrained by historical events that occurred before they were born.

What happened before we were born cannot be changed; what we do with what we have and who we are now, usually can.

We can learn from the past but it should not define us.

Our whakapapa might influence and shape us, but should not be used as an excuse for taking no responsibility for our choices and actions, nor to stop us shaping our own futures.

That’s right, none of us was there when the treaty was signed, nor were we there when some of our ancestors stole land from some of our other ancestors, and I’m talking about my Māori ancestors – don’t get me started on the Pākehā ones. Complicated isn’t it?

It is complicated but Elers has a simple answer:

And, no, I’m not proposing “we are one people”, aka Hobson’s Pledge. How about “we are individuals”? . . 

As individuals we belong to families, groups and communities; we have common needs, rights and responsibilities and  we have our common humanity.

Today some will be celebrating the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, some won’t; some will be working, some will be playing; some will be looking back, some will be looking forward.

Given the contradictions in the Treaty with its Maori and English versions and the translations of both that show differences between the two, and that regardless of our whakapapa, we are individual New Zealanders, that’s okay.


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