The video from the live debate on New Plymouth council having a separate Maori ward goes for a couple of hours. As some people are time poor, I decided to make summary notes so you can understand the key points of the debate.
New Plymouth Maori Ward Debate – What did the Speakers Actually Say?
The following summarises the contributions from each of the six speakers in their presentations. A point by point list of their contributions is provided separately, and all six videotaped presentations are here. This summary concludes with my take on the presentations.
Marama Fox – Maori have suffered horrendously over the 175 years since 1840 economically, socially and culturally and the intergenerational impacts of that are substantial. Maori have – on any measure – sacrificed more than their fair share and going forward, it is essential Maori have a voice. The 5.7% of local councillors who are Maori does not adequately reflect that.
Hugh Johnson – Under the existing local body electoral system Maori are able to get more councillors if their constituency votes more smartly – by ticking only the Maori candidates and leaving all others without their vote. Maori numbers are sufficient to enable such tactical voting to deliver the outcome they seek, no need to change the system.
Metiria Turei – Important an electoral system is fair. MMP has greatly improved this and reduced the hegemony of the majority. Both FPP and MMP are democratic systems but MMP is much fairer. The 5.7% of Maori local body councillors means the local body system is not fair to Maori. The Treaty of Waitangi entitles tangata whenua to be equal partners, the one Maori Ward is another step toward that.
Susan Guthrie – change in electoral systems are constitutional changes, they are fundamental, last a very long time and therefore require a nation-wide conversation. The Treaty is hugely important, the founding document, but it has limits and is not suited to debate on constitutional change, the conversation must be much wider. First step is to prove a group is being permanently excluded from consideration by the institutions of governance. Surveys of voters in New Plymouth do not support the hypothesis that there is permanent exclusion of anyone’s interests by the council. International evidence tells us that creating unique political rights for a group risks deepening social division. Better to empower communities more through devolution so they can make decisions more aligned to their specific interests,
Willie Jackson – Maori can rightfully claim 50% of council seats under the Treaty and are only asking for one. Maori have been terribly treated and have settled for just 2% of what’s been taken from them. Nobody can lay the charge that Maori are being unreasonable and what the Maori Wards does is provide some protection for Maori that they wont be done over again in the future. Indigenous minorities must have their own mechanisms of self determination.
Winston Peters – The 1960’s US Black Civil Rights Movement did not target separate representation, what they did was campaign for equal rights under the existing constitution. They now have a black President. The campaign for separate representation is a distraction, a platform for separatist radicalism. Maori want better health, education, housing and decent wages – very similar to what poorer folk across the country want. This commonality will not be served by separatist campaigns which do nothing more than create elites and privilege within Maoridom. Just look at the lack of trickle down from the settlements – Maori is creating its own class system.
The essence of the discussion is whether, in order to protect Maori from further exploitation and ensure their voice is heard at the local level, Maori Wards should be created. Some advocates also argue Maori are entitled, under the Treaty to 50% of the seats. This however is not supported by the Courts that have ruled that the Treaty of Waitangi, while being a partnership, was not necessarily a 50/50 partnership, no proof that it is, exists. The opponents to the idea suggest that there are other ways to address Maori aspirations, that no one group is entitled to more political access than any other. The Treaty of course does (Article 2) entitle Maori to protection around natural assets and cultural treasures and there has been recent rulings saying those protections are woefully inadequate. The essence of the debate then is whether Maori Wards solve that, or whether there are in fact far more effective mechanisms available that need urgently to be invoked.