… successive governments have failed to act and have enabled this racist law that oppresses us as tangata whenua and our right to have a say in decisions that affect us.” –Maori MP Debbie Ngarewa-Packer 

Time to end special provisions for Maori

By Roger Childs

Democracy is under threat when people are denied the right to petition the authorities. The announcement on Monday that in proposed legislation citizens will not be able to challenge the racist provision of special wards for Maori on local bodies is disgraceful. Some supporters are quoting the Treaty of Waitangi, but that much misunderstood document gave Maori equal rights with all New Zealanders, not special rights. 

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer claims that people having the right to sign a petition on special Maori wards is racist, whereas in reality it is a fundamental democratic right for all New Zealanders regardless of their background. 

Like the people of any ethnic group, Maori have the democratic right to stand for election to Councils around the nation and many have succeeded in gaining office,  Maori Mike Tana was Mayor of Porirua from 2016 to 2019. 

People of other ethnicities do not get special representation, so how can separate wards for Maori be justified? In areas where they have been proposed in the past local referenda have usually overwhelmingly rejected the provision. Most citizens accept that people should vote for candidates on their merits regardless of their ethnicity, and not give one group special rights.

It’s time the Prime Minister reigned in her “Maori caucus” and showed the good sense that her mentor Helen Clark demonstrated in rejecting Maori claims to the ownership of the foreshore and seabed.