Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saving Special Seats

ACT has stood for abolishing reserved seats in Parliament for a while now. I personally think it's a bit dopey for Dr Brash to make this a core election policy, when we have an economy to fix! As much as I would like to see them gone too, it's a pretty controversial topic, and a mere formality we can get rid of once the economy is fixed! The reason I bring up this topic now, is because the Waikato Māori want to see Māori seats on the Waikato Regional Council. 

"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.


  1. I must say I disagree with you. I know I don't have any experience or knowledge of New Zealand parliament and political agenda.

    Even though I reckon that a democrasy should present all kind of people within society. As you've written earlier on, 20 % of the population are Maoris, which is a huge group not being presented. It is well known that they have a diffenrent culture than pakeha and different ways og dealing with stuff. And maybe, if they get activated, they would participate more in the democratic process.

    Like you, I believe in equality, and it seems unfair that someone should get easier in parliament (or whatever you are talking about - don't get nz politics!). But it will hurt the democrasy if you don't have all parts presented.

    p.s. Hope foreigners are allowed to fuck up the grammar, haha

    - Nina, Denmark

  2. Thanks for your comment Nina!

    A large proportion of New Zealanders are Māori, and they have the same rights and opportunities to get involved with democracy as everyone else. If they do not choose to use those opportunities to have their say, it is only them that loses out on getting involved in decision making. They have the freedom to have their say and also the freedom not too.

    I would like to see Māori become more involved in democracy too, but giving Māori extra privilege undermines democracy, as it says that Māori should have more say than others do. The challenge is to get them involved in democracy, without taking democracy away from others.


Thanks for commenting and joining the discussion! Remember to keep the language classy, and I'm a stickler for grammar :P