INDEPENDENT NEWS

Maori Seats On Council Fiasco

Published: Thu 20 Dec 2001 11:52 AM
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council Empowering Bill allowing for separate Maori seats is now redundant as it has been overtaken by a Government bill providing for separate Maori seats on all Councils, says ACT Deputy Leader, Ken Shirley.
"Earlier this year the Parliament spent many months discussing Mita Ririnui's private members bill for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and I predicted then that this Government would move to implement separate Maori seats on all Councils.
"Separate representation based on ethnicity is wrong in principle. It has divided societies wherever it has been implemented be it South Africa or Bosnia.
"Separate electoral systems for minorities encourage the adoption of narrowly focussed positions wherein radical agendas of extremists are given undue weight. The tyranny of the minority can be just as corrosive to an open democracy as the tyranny of the majority.
"Inevitably local councillors elected as representatives by one racial group will only be accountable to that group and fail to represent the interests of the community as whole. This can only result in a more polarised and divisive society that will add to racial tensions rather than lessen them.
"In an open democracy all citizens should be encouraged on an equal basis to participate whether as voters or candidates for election. The stated intention of the Bill is to "enhance opportunities for the participation of Maori in local government". This is patronising in the extreme and implies that Maori are unable to compete on equal terms either as voters or candidates. "Even if this were the case, the creation of separate race based constituencies would not be the best means of overcoming any barriers. It is widely accepted that a proportional representation model, particularly the single transferable vote system, better provides for the interests of minorities.
"The creation of a dual voting system based on race with separate rolls is a retrograde and divisive step. It will be expensive to operate and inevitably leads to polarisation and resentment within society," concluded Ken Shirley.
Ends

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