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Chris Ford: Maori Seats Imbroligo Brings Out Act's Racist Side

Chris Ford
Chris Ford

The recent spat over proposals to create Maori seats on the new Auckland 'super city' council between National's support partners, Act and the Maori Party, shows the real racist side of Act.

The Act Party, after last month enduring the embarrassment of Sir Roger Douglas's taxpayer funded holidays revelation is needing to regain traction in the polls to avoid it becoming a truly marginalised party. And what better way to do so than Act Leader and Local Government Minister Rodney Hide coming out and saying that he would resign all his ministerial portfolios if National and the Maori Party insisted on the inclusion of Maori seats on the new Auckland council.

This shows the real racist side of Act in that is prepared to deny Maori, who comprise a significant percentage of Auckland's urban population, guaranteed electoral representation on a city council that has had fewer than eight councillors of Maori descent in its nearly 140 history.

Maori are poorly represented within local government and their voice is often lost when making important decisions, particularly when they come to the use of lands and other resources where Maori may well have a stakeholder interest. Besides, there is a tendency to dismiss the idea of Maori representation as potentially unworkable on the basis that fewer Maori vote on average than their Pakeha counterparts do at general elections in Maori seats. What is often missing from this debate though is the fact that Maori turnout in their own electoral seats is far higher (at around 60%) than it is at local government elections and if Maori did have guaranteed representation at the council table in Auckland, then it may encourage more Maori participation in the electoral process than has hitherto been the case.

What this debate has also exposed is the anti-democratic nature of the Auckland super city proposal in that it is being virtually bulldozed through by Rodney Hide at the behest of regional and national business interests. This is causing general public consternation at the rate of change due to the fact that a larger city may dilute the voices of ordinary citizens. While I concede that a super city does have its merits (as I have discussed in an earlier blog on this topic), I will also now concede that smaller local government units, formed around identified and established communities of interest, have the ability to ensure that more ordinary people can take part in the process of local governance.

Therefore, Maori and other Auckland citizens have an interest in seeking to enhance whatever representation they will get in the new super city as it is in the interests of everyone that this is the case in our biggest city.

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