Ethnic people seeking more political clout will be finding they lack something important – a treaty

Ha! The ethnic communities that want a decision-making role within the Auckland Council look likely to learn fast that they are not “indigenous” and therefore they are not special.

Maori – on the other hand – are indigenous, they are special, and therefore they are accorded rights which are denied the rest of us.

They have special representation that allows unelected appointees to sit on Auckland Council committees, among other arrangements that debase our democratic arrangements.

Bugger all that election stuff. Too hard.

If you are special you can play the race card.

And so a board of up to nine members has been established to represent mana whenua and mataawaka of Tamaki Makaurau.

The members of the board, who will be appointed on or before 1 November, will promote and provide advice to Auckland Council on issues of significance for mana whenua and mataawaka of Tamaki Makaurau. It will also help the council act in accordance with statutory provisions referring to the Treaty of Waitangi.

It will be independent of the council and will appoint a maximum of two people as members to sit on Auckland Council committees that deal with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources. The council can also invite the board to appoint a person or persons to other committees.

The board will meet with the Auckland Council at least four times a year, to discuss the board’s performance of its functions.

They get their own funding, especially for Maori, which is additional to the funding that is poured into public services generally, which happen to benefit Maori as well as they benefit the rest of us.

Double dipping with a vengeance.

There are other outfits with not the same clout as the Maori one.

There’s a Pacific People’s Advisory Panel and an Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel.

These arrangements were foreshadowed before the council’s establishment.

By 31 March 2011 the Mayor of Auckland Council must establish and appoint members to a Pacific People’s Advisory Panel and Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel, both of which will exist until 1 November 2013.

The role of the panels is to identify and communicate to the council the interests and preferences of their respective people regarding the council’s strategies, policies, plans and bylaws, and on any other matters the panels consider to be of interest to their respective people. The panels will also advise the council on the most appropriate ways to engage with Pacific and ethnic people.

There’s no mention there of appointees sitting on council committees.

But the ethnic advisory panel would like a slice of the action enjoyed by its Maori counterpart.

It has asked Mayor Len Brown for a “decision-making” role on council committees in its quarterly report, because of the growing ethnic population in Auckland.

If the population is growing, the vote for ethnic candidates should be increasing.

But these buggers want an easy ride.

According to Stuff, the issue of them getting a decision-making role was not raised today at the council’s governing body meeting, which focused on whether the panel will continue at all.

Legislation forced the council to set up the panel for the first term of the super-city. It is up to the council whether the panel is retained.

Panel chairwoman Camille Nakhid asked councillors whether they thought the issues faced by ethnic communities would be fixed before the October elections.

“Have you got it sorted? Have you come to a place where you no longer need an ethnic panel?”

She said there were more than 400,000 people in Auckland who hailed from an ethnic minority, excluding Maori and Pacific Islanders.

Councillors generally supported retaining the panel next year but wanted to see a report outlining the performance of the panel before voting on the issue.

“We value what you’ve been doing for the last three years and would like to see it continue,” Cr Cathy Casey said.

“We need to harness that energy into the future.”

The panel deals with a wide range of issues, from funding for ethnic support groups to racism in the workplace.

But it doesn’t have a treaty to brandish and give it the clout (without electoral accountability) enjoyed by the city’s special people.

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