Paul Goldsmith, Auckland historian and former Auckland City councillor, says introducing separate Maori seats on council is undemocratic.
Why in 2011 are the new mayor and his supporters on the Auckland Council so determined to elevate the importance of race in the city?
Auckland is a vibrant, cosmopolitan and multicultural city. And it has been for some time now. Everyone gets along fairly well.
We work and eat together; we intermarry. Everyone has an equal vote in this one of the world's oldest democracies.
So what is to be gained by breaking our democratic principles to give votes on council committees to unelected and unaccountable Maori appointees, and then to accede to a very substantial budget to a new Maori Statutory Board?
What is the model that we're emulating? Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs? An unelected group from one ethnic group, and possibly a network of families, making political decisions in the city.
I fail to see how this is a road-map for a modern, dynamic, outward looking, 21st century city.
The city needs strong leadership that is prepared to stare down and resist such unreasonable and undemocratic demands.
Len Brown talks about being the mayor for all Aucklanders, about unity and tolerance, but on any rational score he is peddling divisive politics. What can be more divisive long term than an approach that singles out one group in a city to give them a substantially more influential voice than everyone else?
The law doesn't require that the city goes as far as is being proposed. Mayor Brown, who actively supports having separate Maori seats on the council, appears to be pushing for the most radical approach possible on this topic.
He would do well to reconsider.
Let's first deal with the Maori appointees on the committees. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance first proposed two elected Maori seats on the council and a third appointed by 'mana whenua'. The notion of an appointed seat had very few supporters, and eventually the Government rejected introducing separate Maori seats to Auckland local government.
Then in the Auckland legislation the idea was introduced of a Maori board that appoints two members onto committees that deal with natural resources. The idea, sadly, wasn't well thought through.
The first Auckland Council has the opportunity to interpret that requirement narrowly or expansively. I assumed that the Maori appointees would be non-voting members and it would relate to two or three committees at most.
The present council, no doubt encouraged by overly cautious lawyers and advisers, appears to be interpreting it as extensively as possible - with voting rights on more than half the committees.
A lot of people say, 'oh, no big deal' the full council has the ultimate say. Not so. A huge amount of the council's decision-making takes place at the committee level alone. The full council delegates substantial power to the committees and most decisions never reach the full council.
So the 70,000-odd people living in my ward, for example, will have one vote around any particular council committee, if our local councillor happens to be on the committee, while the Maori appointees have two.
These appointees will make political decisions - spending decisions that require the forcible taking of money from people through their rates, and regulations which declare what individuals can and can't do on their land.
It beggars belief. The appointees should be non-voting members.
Now for the Maori Statutory Board. Advisory groups in the past have been largely voluntary. Now, it appears the members will gather around $50,000 each per year, and they'll soak up $3.4 million a year to continue operating. The Auckland Transition Authority estimated it would cost about $400,000.
The mayor is now back-pedalling on the $3.4 million figure. But even if he halves it, it's still too much. And you can be sure that the board will cost ratepayers a lot more than its operating costs.
For a start, what will the board members do? They'll have to justify their salaries somehow, and the simplest way to show activity is to demand new and expensive projects and programmes, even if most of it would merely duplicate existing central government activity.
As well as being a noisy advocate for more spending - and please note they're already using a public relations company to advance their case - they will face the temptation to show influence by adding to regulations.
They will be looking for taniwhas around every corner - adding yet more cost to progress and development in the city.
Surely, it makes more sense for the Maori Board to be modestly funded and its influence limited to issues that specifically affect Maori and that have been overlooked by those who are duly elected.
New Zealand needs to think very seriously about where it is going with its special treatment of Maori. More than 170 years after the treaty, as the population intermingles, we should gradually de-emphasise differences over race, proudly asserting the intrinsic worth of all New Zealanders, regardless of background.
Instead, we seem to be going the other way, towards ever more differentiation on the basis of Maori ancestry.
No good can come of it.