Voting system 'out of kilter'

By Claire Trevett, Yvonne Tahana

Matt McCarten. Photo / Martin Sykes
Matt McCarten. Photo / Martin Sykes

The first-past-the-post voting system has led to predictable under-representation of ethnic groups, political commentator Matt McCarten says.

Based on previously declared heritage, nearly a fifth of newly elected Super City councillors have Pacific or Maori heritage.

Jami-Lee Ross, elected for the Howick ward, claims Ngati Porou heritage, Des Morrison from Franklin is Ngapuhi, Alf Filipaina for the Manukau ward is Samoan/Maori and Arthur Anae, also from Manukau, has Samoan and Chinese ancestry.

People of Pacific, Maori and Asian descent make up about 10.7 per cent of the 149 Super City local board members.

Mr McCarten said looking at the breakdown of Auckland's demographics - Maori make up 11.1 per cent of the population, Pacific 18.9 per cent and Asian 14.4 per cent - it was clear representation was out of kilter.

Apply that to local board level and the two did not compute.

"It isn't a surprise to me. One of the great silences that none of us like to confront is that people in postal ballots tend to vote for names they have comfort around.

"It's not racism as such. It's just that the majority culture tends to support people they have comfort with. That's just a truism.

"It's obvious to anyone it's not representative of Auckland."

It was "inevitable" minorities would continue to be under-represented in the Super City under a first-past-the-post voting system as they had been until MMP was introduced.

A single transferable voting system would get a better result for ethnic communities, he said.

However, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said the diversity on the council was a "reasonable representation" of the ethnic diversity of Auckland.

"All those councillors will bring their personal backgrounds and experience to the table. Some may also have networks of contacts within their various communities that will be a real asset to the council. A lot will depend on how the council runs its affairs, and what weight the council as a whole gives to the views of the various communities of Auckland."

Meanwhile, on TVNZ's Q & A yesterday, Auckland Council Mayor-elect Len Brown said a referendum on Maori seats "may well" be possible in the next three years.

"It's certainly my option, but I want us to have a full debate across the community, and I want to find out the best way of including the whole community in that."

* The original version of this article incorrectly quoted Matt McCarten as saying Indians made up 14.4 per cent of Auckland's population. He in fact said Asians made up 14.4 per cent of the city's population.

- NZ Herald

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