A Maori Ward for Kapiti? An Emphatic NO!

By Roger Childs

It’s important that we hear from mana whenua and the wider community ahead of making a decision on whether to make this change to our representation arrangements. –Kapiti Coast District Council Mayor, Janet Holborow

A foregone conclusion by the Mayor

The Mayor says that the feedback would not be binding but would “inform” the Kapiti Coast District Council’s (KCDC) decision. That says to me: ‘it’s going to happen, so no-one needs to give their feedback to KCDC because a separate Maori ward is a fait accompli.’

At present there are three Maori “representatives” who each pick up $45,000 annually whether they get along to the Council meetings or not. Moving to having one ward representative would be better than the current system, but when the public in the past has had a say around the country through referenda on the issue, the vast majority voted against Maori wards.

If asked, most people would say that Councils should be made up of people voted in during a local body election, regardless of their claimed ethnicity. There is no legal obligation or requirement to have separate Maori representation, and the so-often misquoted 1840 Treaty of Waitangi gave the natives (later called Maori) equal rights, not special rights. 

The positions on Council should be taken by the best people available, voted into office through a fair, democratic election.

We are all New Zealanders

Anyone born in this country or who has gained citizenship, is a New Zealander, or in the common parlance, a Kiwi. Grouping people on so-called ethnicity grounds is ridiculous, and smacks of the South Africa apartheid era Population Registration Act. The South African government was soon aware of the futility of population classification. Their definition of a WHITE started with Who in appearance obviously is, or who is generally accepted as a white person. A COLOURED was a person Who is not a white person or a native.

In 1959 they decided on seven categories of Coloureds – Cape Coloured, Chines, Indian, Cape Malay etc… A Maori family living in Capetown at the time would have been classified as Coloured.

In our census when we are asked to state our ethnicity, and I always put “New Zealander”. 

How would you qualify to vote?

If Kapiti did have a separate Maori ward, how would you qualify to vote for the candidates? Would one sixteenth Maori blood, like Steve (Tipene) O’Regan, be enough? If you needed to be more than 50% Maori, hardly anyone in the country would qualify. People today who claim to be Maori are largely the descendants of colonists. In reality they are part-Maori.

New Zealanders have various backgrounds and interests and may identify with particular cultures and take pride in those traditions. They may wish to be known as Somali New Zealanders, Tongan New Zealanders, Irish New Zealanders, Maori New Zealanders, whatever.  But their first culture is that of New Zealand where they live and have citizenship: a tradition of equality and egalitarianism, love of the outdoors, a rich arts heritage, pride in sporting achievements, enjoyment of the “café culture”, taking part in local groups, participating in exercise and so on. 

Are Maori needs and interests different?

People who call themselves “Maori” use the schools, medical amenities, roads, buses, trains, shops, libraries, sports facilities, cinemas and other public services like all other New Zealanders. Do they have any needs which the Council could provide that are unique to the “group”?

The mayor want to hear firstly from mana whenua and then the wider community. Apparently mana whenua means “the indigenous people (Māori) who have historic and territorial rights over the land”. But are Maori indigenous?  They came from Hawaiki further north in Polynesia and were themselves migrants and colonists. 

The date of their arrival is considered to be about the mid-13th century, long after the civilization of Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and the Norman Conquest. There is much evidence, some from tribal oral history, which shows that there were people living here when the early Polynesians arrived. So Maori today are not indigenous.

As regards the history of the Maori in Kapiti, the three main tribes – Raukawa, Ngatiawa and Ngati Toa – arrived in the early 19th century from the Bay of Plenty and Waikato.  In the twenty or so years before the Treaty of Waitangi brought peace, Maori fought over the land of the area in unrelenting tribal warfare characterized by slaughtering prisoners, cannibalism and slavery. Not a history to be proud of.

Let’s have a Council based on equality

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” So says the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which New Zealand signed up to in 1948. 

No other ethnic group in New Zealand has special representation, and having a separate Maori ward in the Kapiti District would breach the country’s obligations under the UN Declaration.