Iwi bounce back from defeat at the ballot box to demand council voting rights without being elected

You’ve got to give Peter Moeahu full marks for gall.

His undemocratic cause was lost when the good citizens of New Plymouth went to the polls to decide if it was a good idea for their district council to have a separatist ward reserved for indigenous persons.

An overwhelming majority of those who bothered getting off their chuffs to vote made plain it was a bad idea.

But this Peter Moeahu feller sees this as a chance to push an even more provocative idea.

He is calling for New Plymouth’s council to reconsider appointing iwi representatives to influential standing committees.

This means they would get to influence council decisions without having to go through the bother of getting elected, even in a separatist ward.

This is the tribal way of trying to get good governance, Alf imagines, although it is seriously contradictory to his own strongly held ideas of how democratic government should operate.

Here’s what’s happening according to Stuff (although what is happening behind the scenes would be even more fascinating).

In the wake of an overwhelming referendum result against a Maori ward seat, Te Atiawa iwi representative Peter Moeahu asked the council to revisit a proposal it voted down in April last year.

However, Mayor Andrew Judd has said there are no immediate plans to revisit the idea and the council needs to process the results of the referendum first.

Last year’s proposal, which if passed would have seen two iwi members appointed to each of the monitoring, policy and regulatory committees, was voted down seven votes to five.

This week Moeahu told councillors he wanted to congratulate them for having the courage to propose a Maori ward, even though it failed.

“Now I’m back again to ask that this council consider the appointment of iwi representatives on council standing committees, not on the council itself.”

Moeahu seems thoroughly disdainful of the thrust of the recent vote.

He also said his proposal could not be classed as “special treatment”, because it was just part of doing business in Taranaki.

Really?

Oh, and he raises some teasing ideas about constitutional matters.

He said under the Treaty of Waitangi iwi had developed their own runanga, or governing system.

Alf has peered at the document and failed to recognise the bit that gives rise to this governing system, although he accepts it may well be in the Maori-language bit.

In short, he wonders if the good people of New Plymouth are being tossed a load of treaty horseshit but he is always willing to stand to be corrected.

Here’s what Moeahu said to make Alf curious:

“Councils of course get their authority from the Crown, by way of legislation, and we get our authority from the Treaty. Like council, we also have electoral constituents, so we have democracy in place. We elect our representatives, just like council does.

“We’ve been evolving over the years and we now make appointments to various bodies. It is not unusual and it is not special.”

He said iwi representatives regularly engaged with government ministers.

Agreed, this is not special. Anybody can engage with government ministers, if they can get past the gatekeepers.

But then he said iwi representatives were appointed, with voting rights, to the Taranaki District Health Board.

This seems to suggest they can influence health board decisions without being elected. The rest of us can’t – not to sit at the board table, anyway.

So far as Alf can see, this is a race-based privilege, and this means the arrangement is “special”.

It is one of several precedents set by craven non-Maori decision-makers to avoid being accused of racism.

There are more to come, thanks to the highly undemocratic decisions being made by mandarins in Wellington.

And so Moeahu can rightly say:

“And you’ll be aware that the regional council have agreed to add iwi representation appointments to its standing committees as well.

“Our desire is to share that with this council. I would ask that council considers putting this matter back on its agenda again. I think it deserves to be revisited.”

When questioned about whether iwi expected voting rights on council standing committees, Morehu pointed out the privilege that indigenous persons in Taranaki already have been given – they have voting rights on the Taranaki District Health Board.

“But our main purpose is to provide our perspective to council’s deliberations,” he said.

Would this be the sort of perspective that has resulted in Auckland people having to consult umpteen iwi representatives and cough up big sums of money to ensure cultural offence is not given or treasures endangered when they dig their gardens and so on?

Moeahu’s expectations are further explained:

“Our iwi would be appointing the best people that we have to assist council. To provide the best people we have and for them to not have a vote, it would be disappointing.”

Political parties put up their best people too at elections.

But it’s what the voters want and their idea of the best person that matters. Or should.

This is the obstacle Moeahu would rather circumvent by playing the treaty card – which looks suspiciously like a race card, by the way.

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