Sunday, April 19, 2009

It IS about race

Merata Kawharu’s column in the NZ Herald this morning is an attempt to justify separate Maori political representation on the Auckland mega stadt rat.

She claims “Maori deserve their own voice”, well who doesn't? Nobody is seeking to stop it - the issue is whether Maori voting themselves is generating a voice, or whether it should be guaranteed, but others get no guaranteed voice. Moreover it implies that Maori have one voice - as if all the individuals of a race have one opinion. A rather nonsensical and sinister notion.

Quite how New Zealand got through local body restructuring in 1989, the Local Government Act 2002 without “honouring existing agreements” is beyond me – I didn’t notice Hikois then, so this “agreement” must be recent.

She then lies about what has happened “The abolition of Maori seats on the governing Auckland body must rank among the greatest challenges. It is, in short, premature and flawed.” There has been no abolition, as there are no such seats. The idea is new. You can’t abolish something that doesn’t exist.

She repeats Metiria’s call for mana whenua which she says includes “offering protection where relevant to those who may visit or live within the tribe's traditional domain.”. Hold on, protection where? On the tribe’s land, it need not have anything to do with local government. Elsewhere, it is the role of the state to offer protect from the initiation of force – the tribe is not excluded from that as all of its members have equal participation rights.

So she talks of a long history of Ngati Whatua wanting participation in governance of Auckland, but largely ignoring that for around three generations it didn’t have any special role.

However, how does she respond to the point that mana whenua IS about race? After all, Ngati Whatua is a tribe of people of one race. Maori representation is about Maori voters, Maori candidates and Maori representation. It is not about other races.

She doesn’t. She said it isn’t about race – but then talks about it being exactly about – not race, but a subgroup of a race.

Saying it isn’t about race, doesn’t change the fact that it is. It doesn’t change the fact that Maori have as much right to representation in local government as anyone else – nobody blocks it or restricts it. I am not represented just because someone of my race is elected (whatever that truly means), and I can be represented by people of other races.

Oh, and if you think belonging to a tribe should give you special privileges in government over others, then you haven’t learnt that nepotism is a dirty word in government in the civilised world. Setting aside any political representation on a basis that excludes people because of who their parents are is simply wrong.

If Maori seats are not about race, they would be seats open to anyone to get representation by whoever wishes to stand - which of course, they are not.

1 comment:

KG said...

A damn fine post, LS.
Why the NZ Herald gave that dishonest idiot a platform to spout her bilge is a mystery.
Separatism in all its shades and manifestations needs to be stamped out. Privilege for any group based on their race is..racism and the fact that the privileged group is brown (or balck or yellow with pink polka dots) is irrelevant.
It's still racism.