Maori Ward - Ian Baker
Maori ward unacceptable
Nelson Mail - 4 May 2012
OPINION: During my time with the Nelson City Council I have worked with five different councillors elected in their own right who identified as Maori. Jason Wawatai for one would be well remembered, but each has contributed to the benefit of Nelson.
I will generally support any candidate no matter what race or cultural background they may have if they share my belief that we serve for the benefit of all Nelson citizens regardless of their race or religion.
This principle was behind my moves as president of the Ethnic Council to ensure that it was known as the multi-ethnic council not the bi-ethnic council.
I am really disappointed to see comment that even if all Maori voters voted at the next local government election, the likelihood of a Maori councillor winning would be almost zero.
The reality is that if the candidate displays a policy that appeals to a majority of voters he or she will inevitably be successful regardless of his or her race, religion, colour or sex.
Nelson has a wide ethnic diversity and generally the main community of interest of new and existing citizens is simply to get on with improving their outcomes and enjoying the freedom and the equality of opportunity that exists for every citizen.
Suggestions that Maori have a unique but disconnected community of interest are really an argument for an unacceptable separation based on race.
In my view, the establishment of a race-based Maori ward in Nelson would be at odds with Article 2 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which requires equality, without any distinction based on race, colour, sex, language, religion or political opinion.
The principle of equality of representation, including one vote per person in New Zealand, is being constantly eroded.
It seems this ward proposal would give Maori voters two votes and consequently a greater than equal say on the spending of ratepayers' dollars. Perhaps Nelson could provide the starting point for New Zealand to abolish all the divisive racial-based systems and acknowledge, like the following preamble from the South African Constitution, that we are one people:
"We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of the past; honour those who suffered for justice and freedom; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."
When I was a child, I believed like most New Zealanders that the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed full equal rights for all of us. This view was proudly proclaimed to the rest of the world. Sadly, today the Treaty seems to be used to bring about the opposite.
A Maori ward will, despite claims otherwise, be expensive and involve more bureaucracy.
Nelson ratepayers already fund well over $100,000 a year for a Maori staff position.
The city has been very generous in the past in providing land for the marae and significant grants for developments on the marae, and a race-based ward would inevitably entail many more extra costs.
The council has for at least the last 10 years had regular dialogue with iwi and there is now a formal regular meeting where Maori have the opportunity to advise council on cultural matters, and on matters of concern, and every opportunity is being provided for iwi input into all council planning.
No other minorities receive such advantage.
I believe my position on this matter is, in itself, an example of our democracy where there is freedom of speech for all.
Obviously, I'll be voting against the Maori ward, and democracy justifies a strong overall vote against it.
The principle of one vote per person must be championed and strenuously defended whether it is here in Nelson, or throughout the whole of New Zealand or even Fiji, for that matter.
It is important that if you're uncomfortable with the proposed Maori ward that you send in your vote as the decision is only affected by votes actually cast. Please do vote.
@native #46, my marae just holds people that try to make me feel bad and sad. I'm happy to leave them to it, but not to demand to be heard as my voice of Maori with any more rights than I have as an individual
Absolutely fantastic! Well said Ian. Spoken from the heart, a simple & fair view of equality that is shared by many New Zealanders I would say. Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks to The Nelson Mail for publishing this opinion piece. I'm going to frame it and also send a copy to John Key.