Waikato Regional Council succumbs to the view that Maori need electoral mollycoddling

Oh, jolly good. The Waikato Regional Council has got into the spirit of things and is making special electoral arrangements for its special citizens.

The democratically elected council thus is doing something akin to what happened on Animal Farm, where the seven original laws made way for just one: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

And so the council will favour its Maori citizens (who already have the right to stand for office and to vote) by establishing two Maori seats (where strictly ethnic eligibility criteria will apply and Maori citizens may elect Maori candidates).

General constituency boundaries are being changed, too.

Actually, Alf does not much approve of this debasing of our democracy.

But trying to tell the council this will be a big waste of time.

According to their media release (cited earleir) the councillors happen to think the changes they are making

… will strengthen local democracy and provide better alignment with local councils and river catchments.

Strengthen it? By establishing special seats reserved for voters regarded as “special”, which by definition distinguishes them from citizens who are not special?

Yep. That’s how they see it (as other councils have done).

In line with the requirement to review its representation arrangements, the council yesterday decided on 12 general seats from six general constituencies and two Maori seats elected from two Maori constituencies. The current council is made up of 12 general seats across eight constituencies, with no Maori seats.

Chairman Peter Buckley is fair gurgling with delight at this accomplishment.

He said the proposed new constituencies continued to provide fair and effective representation and improved the alignment of general constituency boundaries with city and district council boundaries and also provided an integrated catchment management focus.

He also said the introduction of Maori seats was a significant milestone in local government in Waikato.

Despite a Maori population of 21 per cent at the last Census, there has never been elected Maori representation on the regional council.

No doubt he has done his research on that one.

But how many Maori candidates have stood for election and what sorts of voting turnouts have there been among Maori citizens?

More important, in terms of creating a special electoral arrangement for the 21 per cent of the population, Buckley went on to say councillors must be mindful of all people’s interests and perspectives…

So far, so good, because indeed that’s what councillors should do as the elected representatives of their people.

But wait.

Buckley also said

there was a case for considering Maori representation in a different light because of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the special status of tangata whenua in New Zealand.

“The view of most regional councillors is that Maori seats are about fair and effective representation. Everyone still has only one vote, but people on the Maori roll are able to vote for Maori representation,” he said.

Okay. Let’s go along with this pap.

But what’s the arrangement whereby Chinese – say – can vote for Chinese representation, or Hottentots for Hottentot representation, or we of English stock for English representation?

We should take this up with the Race Relations Commissioner.

Oh, wait.

He is all in favour of Maori being given special electoral privileges, too.

Not being from the same democratic mould as Alf, he shamelessly popped up on telly to call for the enforced provision of Maori seats on local councils nationwide.

His autocratic intention was to over-ride the votes of the good citizens of Nelson and Wairoa, who rejected proposals to set up Maori seats.

Joris de Bres told TV ONE’s Breakfast this morning that Maori seats have served Parliament well for 140 years, in terms of ensuring Maori have a voice, so this should be extended to a local level.

“I think we need a lot more discussion about why Maori seats at the local level are appropriate, as they are at the national level,” he said.

And a bit later –

“The Maori minority is out voted, probably, by the Pakeha majority. I think that isn’t good for race relations,” he said.

But if you create special seats for one minority race, then you must create them for others.

Unless – of course – just one minority race is “special”.

Buckley, for what it’s worth, made the same point about special Maori representation as de Bres.

Cr Buckley said Maori participation in democratic government was well-established at a national level through the Maori electoral roll and seats in Parliament.”

But when the MMP legislation was introduced back in the 1990s, it contained no provision for separate Maori representation because the Royal Commission on the Electoral System believed Maori and other ethnic groups would achieve fair representation through the party list system. It also reported there would be no need for special Maori representation and the compilation of the Maori roll following each census.

That well-considered advice was dumped because of some shameful politicking.

But Alf’s mates at the Business Roundtable examined the issue a few years ago.

Their report – among many things – noted that the Crown’s duty of active protection under Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi does not embrace political rights.

Moreover,

…to entrench the Maori seats would give further legal sanction to a separatist policy founded on ethnicity.

If you are going to do that, you should pay a price, and fair to say Waikato regional councillors will have their pay lopped.

Stuff reported the other day (here) that the addition of two Maori seats will not trigger an increase in the council’s salary pool which will stay broadly the same.

The salary pool is set at $808,858. This provides $666,758 for councillors after allowing for chairman Peter Buckley’s salary of $142,100.

Alf imagines Buckley will be volunteering to relinquish part of his salary, to reduce the pay cuts that others will incur and to ensure the two new Maori councillors get their fair share of the salary pie.

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