About two months ago, the Mayor of New Plymouth was getting kudos from the Maori Party – and no doubt from lots of other Maori leaders – for acknowledging that our indigenous persons are special and should be given special treatment.
His council had just voted for a Maori ward by seven votes to six.
But he was getting plenty of stick, too, from folks who had the temerity to be miffed at the Mayor’s tinkering with their democratic structure (and doing it on the strength of a very close vote)..
One councillor – a true democrat – had the balls to oppose the move and resigned in protest.
The mayor, Andrew Judd, showed troubling signs of being confused about what he was up to.
He said New Zealand has become a bicultural nation and Maori have an equal right to be represented.
Actually, New Zealand increasingly is a multicultural nation, he would find if he took a hard look.
And the electoral system does not bar Maori from enrolling, standing for office or voting.
This strongly suggests to Alf they therefore had an equal right to be represented before Judd and his supporters changed the rules.
Mayor Judd may well have been reading Animal Farm or something and appreciated that while all animals are equal, some are more equal than others.
But at that time – we now learn – he was just warming up.
His latest idea in electoral reform is to allocate half his council’s seats to represent the “Maori” treaty partners and the other half to represent the rest.
Not satisfied with inflicting this on New Plymouth, he wants all councils to be forced by law to adopt this model.
The logical extension of his logic is to require Parliament to have one half of its seats reserved for Maori and the other half held by the rest of us.
The consequences indeed would make our indigenous persons politically special.
Electoral Commission figure show one half of our Parliament would represent 2,900,476 voters on the general roll and the other half would represent 239,941 indigenous persons on the Maori roll.
It doesn’t take much genius to spot an imbalance. But only if you happen to believe democracy is a good thing. If partnership is your aim – then, Andy’s pandering is the way to go, even though the arrangement looks akin to the sort of thing that anti-apartheid campaigning was all about.
The idea that some of we citizens might be less equal than others is apt to stick in the craws of some Kiwis who aren’t as willing to he is to give special status to anybody, it’s fair to surmise.
But Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell has praised the mayor for his push to create representation for tangata whenua on the district council.
Te Ururoa Flavell says Mr Judd has set the benchmark for other local councils, and together the local body and mayor have taken the bull by the horns and adopted an enlightened approach.
Mr Flavell said New Zealand should embrace their decision rather than allowing it to cause division, which has occurred in some places.
He believed Aotearoa should be able to move forward in this day and age and accept one seat on the council.
No doubt he meant we should accept one “special” seat, to be sat in by someone meeting strictly racial criteria.
But Mayor Judd is already keen to surrender many more seats for special occupation.
Stuff reports on his bizarre idea today;
New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has taken his fight for Maori representation a step further, calling for a law change so up to half of all councillors in New Zealand are Maori.
Judd, already fighting critics over his council’s plans to create a Maori ward, believes there should be more Maori representation across the country to better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi.
“The reasonable interpretation of the Treaty is that you would have fifty-fifty representation around the table,” Judd said.
“We should be incorporating the Maori perspective around council tables, and ultimately that would mean up to half the representation each.”
Mayor Judd presumably is remarkably thick-skinned.
In September the New Plymouth District Council narrowly voted for the creation of a Maori ward seat, but the move has not been without conflict.
Councillor John McLeod resigned in protest and former Grey Power New Plymouth president Hugh Johnson has vowed to fight it with a petition he hopes will force a binding poll.
MP Winston Peters slammed the idea as separatist and Judd said he has been sworn at in the supermarket by people unhappy with the decision, and said he believed his championing the cause would cost him a second term as mayor.
But Mayor Judd is a stroppy bugger, it would seem, and has challenged New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and Labour leader Andrew Little to take the issue to Parliament.
“They must have a view on this, and what is that? They are our representatives and they need to talk about it,” Judd said.
District councils debated Maori wards every six years and because of this Maori had no permanent representation, Judd said.
However, if the representation was written into law Maori could have a constant presence around council tables.
The splendid system of one citizen, one vote, does not sit comfortably with Mayor Judd.
He is complaining that even if a council voted in favour of a Maori ward, a petition with signatures from five per cent of voters in the district could force a binding poll on the matter.
Oh my God.
Not a binding poll which gives expression to the wishes of the majority?
Judd has written to minister of local government, Paula Bennett, asking for the law that allows a binding poll to be changed.
“This is a national issue,” he said.
“Central Government has set the rules for councils to engage with Maori in a meaningful way, and yet there are things that mean the engagement can be opposed.
“Well that’s not good enough for me, let alone how it must feel for Maori.”
And so his answer – for now – is that all councils adopt the 50:50 governance arrangement which our Chris Finlayson has insidiously been spreading around the country.
Stuff says Judd has taken his fight for Maori representation a step further by calling for a law change so up to half of all councillors in New Zealand are Maori.
We await the day he leaps up to tell us all seats should be held by Maori.