By-election isn’t the only issue for Far North voters – but they seem indifferent to a Maori ward idea

Dunno what to make of news that less than a third of Far North residents have so far voted on whether to create Maori council wards for the district.

Perhaps it means there is a profound indifference to the idea of indigenous persons being given a privileged position on their council.

Whatever the reason, the council has put the proposition to a binding poll which closes next Tuesday.

As Radio New Zealand has reported

Dedicated Maori seats have become a hot topic for councils, most recently splitting New Plymouth district and being rejected by the public in Nelson.

Yet after two weeks of the Far North District Council referendum, only 30 percent of eligible voters have sent in their ballots.

But it is not altogether clear we should get too excited about this because:

The voter returns are similar to those recorded at the same point in the last full council election in 2013, which ended with a return rate of just less than half.

Just why a special Maori ward should be created in the Far North is a bloody great mystery.

The district has a population of 55,731. Its Maori population is 22,110 – a substantial 40 per cent.

If the indigenous component felt strongly about local politics they would use that strength, surely, to get representation on the council without having to stack the deck.

And if they felt strongly about the Maori ward – or lots of wards, maybe – well, you would think they would be pouring to the polls in big numbers.

The council has not taken a position on the ward proposal. But it has said if the poll got a majority, it would review the wards to see how many Maori seats should be created.

It should pop down to New Plymouth for a chat with the highly anti-democratic mayor there.

He reckons Maori are entitled to half the seats on his council.

The citizens in most parts of the country so far have been more sensible – or not been gazumped. They have held the line against the encroachment of the belief that some votes should be given much more weight than others. Or even worse, the belief that indigenous persons should be appointed to governance positions on council advisory boards.

And this is the democracy our forefathers fought and died for???

Maori wards exist in only two places nationwide, at the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils.

But New Plymouth’s mayor has been bewitched by the Treaty or something and is crusading for the treaty partnership to amount to a 50:50 split.

There are lots of unhappy citizens in his patch (and rightly so).

How many of them are willing to let him create a Maori ward – let alone set up a 50:50 co-governance arrangement – will be ascertained when a citizens-initiated referendum is held in May.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: