Dover Samuels has absolutely no doubt that the adoption of Māori wards by local councils would benefit all New Zealanders beyond measure. And he had devoted many years of his life, as a Labour politician, a Cabinet member and a Northland Regional councillor, working towards establishing the effective working relationship that Māori wards promised, not least in terms of environmental issues such as protecting water, on land, in rivers and the sea, within the broad government framework.
Thus, he said last week, he was encouraged by the new generation's contribution to the current debate, but deeply saddened by those who were older and established within the system, who were producing the "same old same old" arguments against specific Māori representation.
Describing the proposal as racist was most disconcerting.
"If that's the basis of their opposition they should enrol at kohanga reo and go back to the bicultural history of our nation," he said.
Samuels, architect of the Northland Regional Council's Te Tai Tokerau Māori and Council (TTMAC) working party, said he had been "through it all," including the political interpretation of racism.
He remembered the famous moment on February 6, 1973, when then Prime Minister Norman Kirk strode on to the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi holding the hand of a small Māori boy (who Kirk described as the future of this country), a sight that encouraged him to believe that New Zealand was developing a spirit of reconciliation.
"We see a very different landscape now," he said.
"We are now a multi-cultural society, with a huge majority of New Zealanders who don't know our history and the relationship that was cemented when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
"The history curriculum (which is to be taught in schools from next year) should be followed not just by children but by adults too, so they can understand our past. What we are seeing now is taking away from the spirit of Waitangi."
It was good enough for Parliament, he added, where, "even under the Westminster system," the Māori seats had enabled MPs from "the four winds of Māoridom, north, south, east and west," to make a significant and lasting contribution.
"How valuable would it be to have a Māori voice at the table? Despite what some would have us believe, I know it would be a huge benefit to everyone in this country," Samuels said.
"There is no need to be fearful of change; we should all embrace the opportunity we now have."
He did accept, however, that the government could have "sold" the Māori wards proposal more positively, and that some opposition could arise from the perception that change was being forced upon the country with the public denied the right to participate.