Embracing Māori Representation Enriches Democracy, Not Divides It

Published: Sat 20 Apr 2024 06:41 AM
In discussions about democracy and representation in New Zealand, the creation of Māori wards often stirs robust debate. Critics label such measures as divisive, claiming they segregate governance based on race. However, this perspective fundamentally misunderstands the essence and intent behind Māori representation in local councils.
Firstly, it's crucial to clarify that Māori wards are not exclusively about race but about acknowledging and integrating a unique worldview into our governance structures. Māori representation brings a perspective that encompasses not only the interests of Māori communities but also a broader, holistic approach to environmental stewardship and community well-being, principles deeply embedded in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world).
Democracy, as ideally practiced, is about representation and making decisions through a lens that includes all facets of a society. As I previously noted, "When you’re talking to multiple groups of people and collating data to make a decision, that is democracy in action." Māori wards exemplify this principle by ensuring that Māori voices are not just heard but are influential in decision-making processes that affect their lives and the regions they inhabit.
The argument against Māori wards often stems from a misconception that they are solely race-based and thus inherently divisive. This is a misrepresentation. These wards are a recognition that the solutions to issues often require diverse perspectives; they acknowledge that the lens through which indigenous issues are viewed and resolved should be shaped by those it directly impacts. Anyone elected by Māori - irrespective of their ethnic background - can represent a Māori ward, highlighting that the focus is on perspective and worldview, not race.
Moreover, singling out Māori wards as the only entities requiring a referendum to establish is discriminatory and undermines the spirit of equitable representation. This policy implies a double standard where Māori electoral mechanisms are subjected to higher scrutiny compared to other forms of electoral amendments, such as adjustments in non-Māori ward structures or changes in at-large voting systems at local government level. Such discrepancies suggest that the opposition to Māori wards is less about electoral fairness and more about preserving a status quo that marginalizes indigenous perspectives. David Seymour is on the record stating “if you focus on race, you are a racist”. What does this say about the government that he currently represents?
Labelling Māori wards as divisive is not just an inaccurate portrayal; it is an ironic twist where the call for inclusivity in representation is misconstrued as exclusivity. These wards are about enhancing our democracy by integrating an indigenous worldview that has been historically sidelined in decision-making processes. They offer a mechanism to address long-standing issues of underrepresentation and ensure that Māori interests are safeguarded and actively considered.
By challenging the necessity of referendums for Māori wards while no similar requirements are imposed on other electoral changes at local government, New Zealand can move towards a more genuine and inclusive democracy. Rather than dividing us, Māori wards enrich our collective decision-making with diverse insights and lead to more robust and comprehensive governance.

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