Speaker David Carter wants to modernise parliamentary protocols.
The move was prompted by a cultural clash over women’s place and Maori custom and initial reaction suggests women are going to lose.
It follows an incident during a powhiri last year where two senior female MPs were made to move from the front row of seats, reserved for speakers.
Chairman of the oldest local Maori authority, the Wellington Tenths Trust, Morrie Love, says there is no shift in society that warrants change at this stage.
He says by accepting the form of the powhiri, the area for that time is deemed a marae, and protocol needs to be genuine and authentic to marae tikanga.
One could ask where Mr Love has been if he doesn’t think there’s a shift in society at warrants change.
. . . I’m not convinced by the justifications of protecting women from taniwhas and bad atua for hui seating arrangements. My theory is that it’s a face-saving gesture to the old male kaumatua. Men go deaf more readily than women, and the old geezers sit in the front seats to better grasp what’s going on. The sharper eared wahine can hear just fine from further back. . .
That might not help women be treated as equals but it is a better explanation for the practice than any others I’ve come across.