Low muster for referendum in the Far North tells us iwi leaders didn’t drive many Maori to the polls

Alf was bemused by a Radio NZ report that the Far North District Council was accused of bypassing iwi in a vote on creating Māori wards

He supposes the iwi are smarting because two thirds of those who voted rejected the proposal for dedicated seats.

This means, of course, they voted in favour of maintaining a democratically elected council rather than debase the idea that all votes should carry equal weight.

Now some outfit called Te Runanga Nui o Te Aupōuri has popped up to complain there was poor promotion of the poll and few Maori knew about the ballot.

Whether the portion of Maori who didn’t know about the ballot is any different from the portion of non-Maori who didn’t know about it is unclear.

The council – rather than indifferent voters – is being blamed.

According to Radio NZ, the secretary of the aforementioned runanga is a bloke called Peter-Lucas Jones (something hinting that maybe he is not 100 per cent indigenous).

He is wailing that the council failed to take advantage of the tribal networks to spread the word about the poll.

“They’ve kind of bypassed iwi with this process that gives initiated and completed,” said Mr Jones.

Actually, Alf can’t make sense of this utterance.

But it looks like a complaint.

Jones went on:

“In hindsight, I believe that this could’ve been communicated more clearly through working with iwi around opportunity to tribes and how to raise awareness of voting”.

There’s not a hint in the Radio NZ report that Jones or anyone else in the runanga got off their bums to do this job themselves.

Alf had thought he would have goaded them into action when he recently reported less than a third of Far North residents had (at that time) 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.

Alf was particularly fascinated that the Far North District has a population of 55,731. Its Maori population is 22,110 – a substantial 40 per cent.

If the Maori population had been mobilised – or persuaded to get off their bums and vote for the proposed change – the result would have been very different.

But even more remarkable is that Far North Mayor John Carter is reported to have accepted the criticism.

The quotes didn’t quite support this:

“Well, see, that’s the sort of thing that we need to have better liaison and discussion”, said Mr Carter.

“It really opens up the opportunity for us to make sure that if there are gaps that we close them.

“And so that’s a classic example whereby that is an area that we need to do more work on.”

Alf knows John well, of course.

He would be surprised if the criticism was being accepted.

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