The New Zealand Herald says:
"Maori are 20 per cent of the population of the Waikato region, and since the council was set up in 1989 there have been no Maori representatives elected.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has three Maori seats and Mr Buckley said he had received positive feedback on the system."
One or Two Laws?
I attended a debate at the University of Auckland law school a few weeks ago, where the moot was "This house supports one law for all" with David Seymour (ACT-5, Auckland Central) and two students on the affirming, and Dr Pita Sharples (Māori-1, Tāmaki Makaurau), Shane Jones (Labour-16, Tāmaki Makaurau), and a law teacher on the negating. Believe it or not, the affirming team won, since the adjudicator - retired Supreme Court Justice Sir Ted Thomas - jokingly gave Dr Sharples a negative score for going into a coalition with National. The affirming team won, largely because I noticed that the negating team, who claimed to support Māori rights, spent the whole debate describing the bleak moments of New Zealand history, and failed to recognize that we haven't properly tried a true 'one law for all' system.
If Māori representation is low, that's probably because Māori have not stood candidates, and if 20% of the population is Māori, that can easily make the difference between a winner and loser candidate. Or, Māori themselves have been apathetic to the democratic process, and not bothered to vote. Either way, the push for special Māori seats undermines the democratic process in itself, it is trying to bypass a process everyone else has to go though. Trying to bypass democracy with a racial motive also looks bad in itself, why would the council consider this?
Then again, we do have Māori seats in parliament, a Māori advisory board on the new Auckland Council, the Bay of Plenty does it - and they said it works great. On the other hand, this bit sounded really good:
"Te Arawa River Iwi Trust co-chairman Roger Pikia hoped that introducing Maori seats would encourage Maori to vote and would enhance rather than replace consultation with tangata whenua."
Get Māori involved in the democratic process? Remove the need to consult with tangata-whenua? This sounds fantastic, it brings Māori to participate in the democratic process and removes the costly and hindering consultation with Māori that developers and planners loathe. But the cost would be the skewed democratic process and the racial segregation that it implies.
Special Seats For Everyone?
Anyway, it got me thinking - why don't we have special seats for white people! It'd be like South Africa without the bizarre accent! Or add some Malaysian influence and have separate politics for Chinese and Indian people here, apart from Melissa Lee (Nat-34, Mt Albert) and Raymond Huo (Labour-21) there aren't really many Asians represented. How about separate seats for rich people? Since they have so much sway over the economy and are good with money, only fair they get a seat at the table, right? What about reserved seats for the ACT party, the VRWC and VRWNLLC would love to see ACT get some permanent seats.
All of this undermines the purpose of representative democracy, which is that all of these people will get seats if they win the hearts and minds of the people. Doesn't need to be said really, if Māori want representation at the table, they gotta stand a candidate and get votes like everyone else. 20% is a large group of people and could easily mean a seat or two.