Local decisions need mana whenua, say Greens after Māori seats abolished

June 1, 2018

Local decisions need mana whenua, say Greens after Māori seats abolished

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. Photo: supplied

Five binding referenda last week resulted in the rejection of Māori wards in local government across the country.

In the Manawatu, Western Bay of Plenty, Palmerston North, Kaikōura, and Whakatane districts, dedicated seats for Māori on councils have been abolished.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says the disappointing result has exposed inequity in New Zealand’s democratic system, in which the majority votes on decisions for a minority.

“The older male, non-Māori leadership of Hobson’s Pledge displayed an incredible amount of ignorance, unfounded fear, and was out-of-step with the reality of modern Aotearoa.

“Local government understands that having mana whenua represented at the table is the right thing to do under Treaty obligations.

“But they also see that this leads to better decisions for everybody,” says Ms Davidson.

Hobson’s Pledge, a group led by former National Party leader Don Brash that opposes guaranteed seats for Māori, petitioned the Government against Māori wards, which they deemed separatist, and sparked the referendum.

Mr Brash has since called for the results of the referenda to be respected.

AUT pro-vice chancellor Pare Keiha says the rejection is hugely disappointing and there is much to be lost in the silencing of the Māori voice in New Zealand’s collective future.

“The tyranny of the majority over all minorities is not always in the best interests of a cohesive, just and civil society.

“Aotearoa is like a waka on which we are all aboard. The stronger and more cohesive we are, the more positive our collective future will be.”

Twenty-year-old AUT student Brianna Smith says she feels the rejection of Māori wards has been a slap in the face for all young Māori working towards an equitable future.

“The fact that mainstream media still allows the likes of Mike Hosking to smear the hard-fought contributions of Māori with derogatory insults is indicative of how far our country still has to go.”

Ms Davidson says while Māori wards are important to have, they are not the only way to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and mana motuhake, or to truly share power.

“The result this week shows the need for my member's bill, which will essentially leave the decision with the elected members of the council.

“This is needed in our system where you can establish any other ward without having this extra discriminatory step [referendum],” says Ms Davidson.

Currently one way the Māori voice can still be heard is through the Independent Māori Statutory Board, which provides direction and guidance to the Auckland Council on issues affecting Māori.