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Understanding implications

The tied vote regarding a Māori Ward generated anger and vitriol toward the councillors who voted against … and at me for abstaining.

The social media outrage was remarkable – mainly non-Māori, who believe the decision disregards the right of Māori to have a dedicated seat at our council table; commentary inflamed by posts from disappointed councillors and council staff “liking” adverse statements. It highlighted a clear difference between those who understood the implications of the proposition and those who did not.

As the great, great, grandson of Ngatuere Tawhirimatea Tawhao, the paramount chief of Ngati Kahungunu, I believe the policy is not in the best interests of Māori residing in our district.

How endearing that so many of these social media warriors care for me and my democratic wellbeing. I’m sure they are not part of the burgeoning army of wokes who seek to satisfy their pakeha burden and guilt over what happened to my ancestors – the appalling years of theft, robbery and coercion that occurred through the 1820s and on.

As lead negotiator for our treaty settlement [one of New Zealand’s biggest], it is heartwarming to know that so many fear for my right to be fairly and democratically represented in local government.

The outcome does not mean that Māori are not represented at our council table. Carterton had two hapu seats at the table – Hurunuiorangi and Kahukura awhitia. That is unchanged. Carterton has Māori representatives on working groups and committees representing both Kahungunu and Rangitane. That is unchanged.

Hurunuiorangi was seeking not one seat at the council table, but three. One from a Māori Ward and the retention of both Hapu representatives. That has not happened.

I firmly believe that all Carterton councillors wish to see the level and quality of Māori representation bettered. Some, like me, just do not believe this is the way to do it.

Firstly, FPP is not the best way of improving the level of diversity at the table. That will only come through the acceptance of the STV, a voting system adopted by the Greater Wellington Regional Council in part for that very reason. But our council by majority decided on advice, not to address that question.

There was conflicting advice on the number of votes Māori on the Māori roll would get. Currently, all Māori, regardless of which roll they are on, get nine votes. Under the proposal put, Māori on the general roll get eight – one for the Mayor and seven for the general ward candidates. Māori roll voters would get only two – one for the Mayor and one for the Māori ward candidate. I do not see 2 as being equal to 7.

Then there is the question of wards in general, eg rural and urban. Carterton has an imbalance with the majority of councillors thought to be urban-focused, which has given rise to a call for the re-establishment of rural wards. If we are going to set up a Māori ward to improve representation, why would we not look at the whole?

Some councillors believe the entire community deserves to be consulted rather than just those on the Māori roll. Given that such a proposal will remove a councillor at large, I believe those councillors are right. Elected representatives should welcome the views of our community, not fear them.

Finally, the pending considerations of the merger of all three councils can and should include Māori representation – seems logical and cost-efficient to me to do it then.
The question of how Māori could be better represented and give meaning to the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi is not resolved by giving Māori a seat on a separate ward that a non-Māori could stand in and win.

Chasing trophy policies just to look good is simply beads and blankets.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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