Last week, under the headline “Hobson’s choice to silence Maori voice”, Lizzie Marvelly began her article with a question: What is it that’s so threatening about a Maori voice?
And her article was a strongly worded attack on those who had voted down the creation of separate Maori wards in five different districts in May. She particularly criticized Hobson’s Pledge, an organisation for which I am one of two spokespeople, claiming that we had “poured resources into campaigns to encourage voters to vote against seats for Maori representatives.”
Well yes, we did provide some resources to oppose the creation of Maori wards, regarding such wards as a seriously backward move for New Zealand in the 21st century. But in all of the five districts the primary opposition to Maori wards was by leaders in the local community.
And the results were hardly surprising. Most voters were strongly opposed to creating racially-based political structures – as they were in New Plymouth several years before Hobson’s Pledge was thought of, when the then-mayor tried to foist them on that community.
Ms Marvelly, like Green Co-Leader Marama Davidson, argues that it is totally unfair for ratepayers to be able to vote on whether there should be Maori wards when they don’t have a right to vote on whether there should be rural wards.
But the comparison is a total nonsense. There is all the difference in the world between ward boundaries drawn on a geographical basis and wards drawn on a racial basis. If it is acceptable to have wards drawn on a racial basis, why not have wards for those with an Asian background? Most New Zealanders would be horrified at the suggestion.
She implies that without Maori wards we don’t get to hear “the Maori voice”. What, one may reasonably ask, is “the Maori voice” when it comes to roads, drainage, parks and gardens? There is no such thing. Maori New Zealanders, like other New Zealanders, will have a wide range of views on such matters. Moreover, the laws under which local authorities operate already quite specifically require consultation with Maori before most major decisions are taken.
And it is simply patronizing in the extreme to imply that Maori New Zealanders can’t get elected in general wards, as they do in general Parliamentary electorates. What about the three Maori who were elected to the Auckland Council when that was first established in 2010, a number of Maori councilors which, by chance, corresponded reasonably closely with the proportion of Maori Aucklanders. What about successive mayors of Carterton, Ron Mark and Georgina Beyer? There are Maori New Zealanders elected to local government all over the country.
In Parliament, nearly a quarter of all MPs are now Maori and could, if they chose, be on the Maori Parliamentary roll – including the Deputy Leader of Labour (who is in fact on the Maori roll), the Leader and Deputy Leader of National, the Leader and Deputy Leader of New Zealand First, the Co-leader of the Greens, and even the Leader of ACT. Nobody thought it odd or worthy of comment when the Herald carried a photo of the newly selected National candidate for the by-election in Northcote, flanked by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Party – all three of them Maori.
She suggests that “many Pakeha [are] scared of hearing what Maori have to say”. That is also nonsense. But we do want all New Zealanders, irrespective of when they or their ancestors came to New Zealand, to have the same constitutional rights. That is surely what Article III of the Treaty intended.
Copyright © 2020 Don Brash.