With the Auckland Council voting in favour of a Maori ward - and seeking a legislative change to bypass the inconvenience of having to get the agreement of Auckland citizens - nobody seems to be asking what such a ward would be intended to achieve.
Auckland is one of three councils currently considering a Maori ward, Napier and Palmerston North councils being the others. The report on the Auckland Councils intention to vote on whether to proceed with a Maori ward said the move was a way to help implement Treaty of Waitangi obligations. But the Treaty says absolutely nothing about Maori wards or about any other style of government.
Section 19 Z of the Local Electoral Act 2001 allows all councils the option of establishing Maori constituencies, or wards, by resolution of the council. Any such resolution can be challenged by a poll of all voters.
Because councils must conduct a representation review every six years, and because Maori wards have become part of the mix, there is constant legislative pressure to consider Maori wards. And this pressure wont go away until the issue of racially separate representation in New Zealand is resolved.
Why was the Maori Party kicked out of Parliament last week by Maori roll voters? Were they poisoned by association with the National Party, or did they just not achieve very much?
What did the Maori Party elected via the separate Maori roll achieve over nine years in government? They achieved:
1. Repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, the reason for the formation of the party, and passage of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.
2. New Zealands adherence to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
3. Additional welfare for Maori via Whanau Ora, when more welfare may well be the last thing which Maori need.
4. Pardons for Rua Kenana at Ruatoki and Mokomoko in the Bay of Plenty.
While these objectives may be cherished by the Maori sovereignty movement, they offer few benefits for the many who simply want a job, a home, good education for their kids, and good healthcare.
Labour MP Willie Jackson says separate Maori seats are needed because theyre a good insurance and ensure that advocacy for Maori is a priority. But what does this advocacy for Maori entail?
A $295 million wish-list of the Auckland Councils Independent Maori Statutory Board, published in the Herald on December 1, 2011, included $72.4m for guardianship of the sky, sea, and land, $11.8m for sacred sites, $31.8m for the life force of ancestral lands and waters, $116.1m for chiefly authority over resources and affairs, $7.78m for Treaty rights and obligations, $9.2m for the right to participate within the community, $42.8m for the mana of Tamaki Makaurau iwi and hapu co-governance arrangements and $3.23m for Maori knowledge.
A later initiative involved the now discontinued cultural impact assessments that involved iwi inspections of sites as part of the building consent process.
Again, few benefits for the many who simply want a job, a home, good education, and good healthcare.
Proponents of Maori wards often cite Section 14d of the Local Government Act 2002, which says that a local authority should provide opportunities for Maori to contribute to its decision-making processes. But there is absolutely no limitation on Maori contributing to decision-making processes. All New Zealanders aged 18 and over, irrespective of ancestry, are entitled to enrol to vote, to vote, and to stand for councils.
Proponents argue that Maori wards would increase Maori participation in the local democratic process. But the experience of one council that set up three such wards shows this is not necessarily the case. Voter turnout in the Bay of Plenty Regional Councils three Maori constituencies continues to lag. Turnout in 2010 was 27-41 per cent, and in 2013 was 20-32 per cent, when the general constituency turnout was 46 per cent.
Since 2007, six councils have held a poll on whether to establish Maori wards, with only one of these resulting in Maori wards being established. This was in Wairoa in 2016 (54 per cent voted for to 46 per cent against). Wairoa has a Maori population of 59 per cent. All the other polls showed opposition to the establishment of Maori wards of around 80 per cent of those who voted.
Maori are as able to win election in local government as they have proved at central government, where almost a quarter of all the MPs in the new Parliament are Maori, including the deputy leaders of both National and Labour and the leader and deputy leader of New Zealand First.
We dont need the distraction of setting up a Maori ward. Doing so would be a solution looking for a problem to solve.