Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

UPDATE: Trust seeks to abolish all race-based privilege (+video)


A new political lobby group that wants to drive "race-based" privilege and policies out of central and local government has caused a storm of controversy in Rotorua and around the country.

Mike McVicker, a Rotorua district councillor, is on the committee of the newly formed Hobson's Pledge Trust, a group headed by former National Party leader Don Brash, that wants to "arrest a decline into irreversible separatism" by abolishing all laws, regulations and policies that provide for any entitlement based on ancestry or ethnicity.

Mr McVicker says there's no evidence of white privilege in New Zealand and everyone in the country should be seen as equals in the eyes of the law.

But he has already come under fire from his Rotorua Lakes Council colleague Trevor Maxwell who has described the trust and its members as "pale, male and stale".

According to the trust's website its vision for New Zealand is a society in which "all citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of when they or their ancestors arrived in this land".

Mr McVicker said he had never supported the Rotorua Lakes Council's controversial Te Tatau o Te Arawa Board and in his view it never should have been set up.

"The Treaty of Waitangi has been manoeuvred and engineered in the last 20 years with the word 'partnership' introduced and there is no partnership mentioned in the treaty and iwi over the years have had special rights and privilege over the rest of New Zealand."

The trust states there is no longer any need for special Maori representation in government.

But, Mr Maxwell said in his opinion the trust was out of touch and needed to be dragged into the 21st century.

"They raise their ugly heads at times like this to do some scaremongering among voters and it's not very helpful for New Zealand moving into the future.

"I'm sure we as a country have grown up over the years and can see this for what it is.

"Most of the people in our community appreciate the generosity of the gifting of half the township, land for the hospital and parks and reserves, by Te Arawa and that our attitude was giving, giving, giving."


Mr McVicker said the only political party in New Zealand that seemed to support their stance was New Zealand First.

"I didn't think I'd end up voting for Winston [Peters], but because he is Maori he can say what he thinks and we think he makes comments along the lines of what we are saying."

New Zealand First list MP based in Rotorua, Fletcher Tabuteau, who is part Maori, said he personally was against race-based politics.

"I'm only speaking for myself as we haven't discussed this as a caucus," he said.

"Maori need to be part of the consultation process and need to be heard, but for those not democratically elected, and in some cases not accountable, they should not be given special rights over other people in New Zealand."

He said Maori needed to make the decision to remove Maori seats from Parliament.

Te Arawa kaumatua Sir Toby Curtis said his immediate reaction was this was "old time nonsense in a new age disguise and the same rhetoric they have been saying for the last 10 years".

"I think New Zealand has gone past that kind of cultural arrest where Maori are now emerging as a strong contender and a principal driver of the economy.

"We can't afford to indulge in such tomfoolery."

The Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group, formerly the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society, was originally set up to oppose the formation of the Te Tatau o Te Arawa Board. Chairwoman Glenys Searancke said her personal views were the trust mirrored what the group stood for.

"That we were against the appointment of people from any ethnic group to council committees and people who were not elected getting to vote.

"We have to have communication with Maori, but there are lots of ways this can be done, like the work we do with the new rural community board and the lakes board," she said.

"The sooner we get back to one New Zealand and one law for New Zealanders, the better."

Maori Party co-leader and Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said in his opinion Mr Brash had played a 'race card' and it was a timely reminder of how important it was to have better education about the treaty, nationhood and its place now and in the future.

"While it is admirable to believe in a cause, it is also reasonable to expect that policies proposed will be based on fact, which clearly isn't the case here - this group's main aim is to plunder the raw nerve that sits idly among some of our fellow citizens about a perceived bias in favour of Maori.

"I'd like to think most reasonable people see through the rhetoric, and have a real willingness to engage on the issues that really matter."

Dr Brash, who denies any political agenda and refutes claims the group is racist, said he was concerned at a recent increase in Maori seats in local body politics.

"I have no interest in getting back into politics at all, that's not on the agenda at all. This country is in serious danger if we go down this track," he said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Awanui Black, who represents Mauao Maori on the council, said in his opinion the group was "racist" and such seats were important to maintain a diversity in politics.

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said times had changed, and he did not see the new campaign as a threat.

"We see these sorts of groups every election and Don's views about this stuff have been known for more than a decade."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the campaign was ignorant of the first 100 years of New Zealand's history, when Maori faced land confiscations, unlawful detention, racism and discrimination.

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