Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Act's Whyte calls for end to race based laws

Act Party Leader Jamie Whyte. Photo / Geoff Dale
Act Party Leader Jamie Whyte. Photo / Geoff Dale

Act Leader Jamie Whyte called for a taskforce to root out and repeal laws giving special treatment to Maori while NZ First Leader Winston Peters ruled out working with either the Maori or Mana Parties as race once again loomed as an election issue today.

Dr Whyte highlighted comments he made to Act's Waikato conference over the weekend that "the principle that the law should be impartial has never been fully embraced in New Zealand".

He was not opposed to reparations made to iwi under treaty settlements but there were many areas where New Zealand law was not properly blind to race and "Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France".

"The most obvious example is the persistence of the Maori electoral roll and Maori Seats, which guarantee parliamentary representation on the basis of race. This mistake is now being repeated in the Auckland Super City, where council decisions must be run past a Maori advisory board.

Dr Whyte also said that under the Resource Management Act, "how much weight your opinion carries depends on your race".

"If you are Maori, you have a say on these matters that others lack."

To tackle race based policies, Dr Whyte told the Herald: "There would be have to be taskforce or something to root through it all because it's buried all over the place."

Some laws didn't give Maori extra benefits but "extra burden".

"There's this whole Maori Wardens thing. I think it's largely defunct now but it's still in law and it's quite extraordinary. I don't think Maori Wardens are exercising a lot of power over Maori but if you look at that legislation they've got rights to round up Maori who are drunk."

Prime Minister John Key said Helen Clark's Government had already taken "a pretty close look" at race based laws. His Government's view was that it was important to lift Maori participation and success rates across the economy and in education and health.

Maori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said Dr Whyte's comments were "divisive and have no place in New Zealand politics".

"It's election time and it happens every time that someone's got to play the race card at every opportunity. That sort of stuff doesn't help the country moving forward."

However the Maori Party's other Co-leader Tariana Turia said the comments wouldn't prevent the Maori Party from working with National if it struck another deal with Act.

"We don't have to agree with everything they say, and we don't."

Meanwhile with Mr Key on Monday leaving the door open to a potential post election deal with NZ First, Mr Peters was today peppered with questions about what he might do after the election but deflected most of them.

However, he told reporters: "We are not going to be in any combination that is race based - that is with the Maori Party or the Mana Party."

"We've made it very clear we think that separatism is extraordinarily damaging for this country."

But Mr Peters would not directly answer questions as to whether that meant NZ First would not work with National or Labour if they struck deals with the Maori or Mana parties.

He said there were " many options available to a party like New Zealand First".

"They include, if we feel it's the best thing for the country, to go to the cross benches."

Mr Flavell said Mr Peters' comments about not working with race based parties "seem a little bit hypocritical".

A few years ago Winston Peters relied on the Maori vote to get him into to Government. For him to now turn his back on Maoridom like that is probably not unexpected but pretty typical of somebody who wants to get among some political power."

- NZ Herald

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