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Hide Accuses Race Relations Comm Of Separatism

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Rodney Hide
Rodney Hide

Wellington, March 11 NZPA - ACT leader Rodney Hide says Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres is advocating separatism by pushing for separate Maori seats on the new Auckland Council.

In a statement releasing the Human Rights Commission annual review of race relations Mr de Bres raised concerns about a lack of ethnic representation in the new combined council.

The Government has turned down a proposal for dedicated Maori seats on the council, but that decision is still being fought by various groups who fear ethnic minorities will be overlooked and disadvantaged by the council's structure.

An advisory board will instead assist the new council on policy matters while it becomes established.

This morning Mr de Bres said it was disappointing that Maori seats had been ruled out.

Mr de Bres said when the final bill on the super city goes back to the Parliamentary select committee, members needed to consider making ethnic advisory boards permanent.

"The rejection of designated seats for Maori and the proposed two-year sunset clause on Pacific and other ethnic advisory boards has not been a good start, given that Auckland is by far New Zealand's most multicultural city. Decisions need to have regard for that diversity," Mr de Bres said.

"The likely outcome is that the Auckland council will be less diverse than its predecessors, and community boards will have little or no decision-making power. This will lead to continued disaffection by rather than inclusion of Auckland's growing diverse communities."

Mr de Bres was also concerned that the new council would not ensure current Treaty of Waitangi relationships, or continue cultural diversity and settlement support programmes.

"The hard work done by previous councils to engage with tangata whenua and diverse communities and celebrate Auckland's unique diversity is not just feel-good activity - it is vital to the social fabric and cultural identity of Auckland's population."

Mr de Bres said suggestions that capable ethnic individuals needed to put their hand up for a seat on the new council needed to be considered realistically.

He said the new council involved few individuals representing a large population and area.

"It's actually even more difficult to get on to the council than it would have been previously."

Mr Hide said the remarks were disappointing.

"Speaking as the leader of the ACT Party I am very disappointed that we had a Human Rights Commission that is spending taxpayers' money advocating separatism and is saying that Maori can't get elected to councils unless they are tribal seats," he told NZPA.

"I have got a lot more faith in Maori and other ethnic groups and the people of Auckland than the Human Rights Commission. And I believe the human rights commission should be about advocating equal rights for every New Zealander, not special rights."

He did not think there were special representation requirements arising out of the Treaty of Waitangi.

"The treaty makes it plain that New Zealanders are to be treated equally before the law and makes that explicit in art one, my position is entirely consistent with the Treaty, it's poor Joris de Bres that's got to explain his principles."

Mr Hide said the Government and Parliament had considered the issue before ruling against Maori seats.

As Local Government Minister he said such decisions were up to the people of Auckland.

"But I don't think the people of Auckland are going to take too kindly to being told who to stick on their council by Joris de Bres."

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