Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Maori Voting

When dealing with the Maori people, New Zealand has a long history of doing something really good, and then blowing it by allowing the good to be whittled away with mischievous behaviour.

Treaty of Waitangi was a marvellous attempt to join to people in one nation without conquest. Unfortunately, this good start allowed a range of dubious legal practices that robbed Maori of their land. These wrongs are only being put right now, a hundred years later.

New Zealand was one of the first nations to enfranchise indigenous people in 1867. Unfortunately, this good start was spoilt by Maori voters being limited to four seats in the Parliament, as most Maori were prevented from voting because their land was communally owned. This was done to prevent them outvoting the smaller European population.
By 1887 Maori should have had 14 seats on the basis of their population, but they were still limited to four seats. This unjust situation lasted until 1996, when the number was increased to five. Although early to get the vote, Maori were under-represented in Parliament for an entire century.

Now Don the Banker wants to abolish the Maori seats. He says that they are no longer needed, as Maori are well represented in Parliament. That might be true, but given that the Maori seats were set up to disenfranchise Maori, the decision about abolishing them should be left with Maori. They can express that choice by transferring from the Maori to the general roll. When the last Maori have transferred across, the separate representation for Maori will disappear. Don does not have to do a thing.

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