Keeping Maori seats
Imagine if Maori Party MP Hone Harawira stood for the general seat in Whangarei. What chance do you think he’d have?
Most Maori would probably think he’d win given his national profile and because he’s one of the stars of the Maori Party.
His opposition would come from National Party MP Phil Heatley, who despite being in Parliament for nine years, has made little impression on the national scene and has the charisma of a brick!
So would Hone win? Not on your life! The reality is that Heatley would win hands down. But not because he’s the better MP. Heatley would win because most voters are Pakeha and they are less inclined to vote for someone they perceive to be a stroppy Maori.
That doesn’t mean that Pakeha people wouldn’t vote for a Maori. They would if you put the right type of Maori in, ie, someone who would denounce the treaty, call the Maori seats racist and sell us out.
Those strategies however would never be adopted by Hone Harawira or the Maori Party candidates. So the seats provide the security and opportunity for them to be totally pro Maori. Therefore it should be no surprise that the Maori Party is so insistent on retaining them.
The arguments for getting rid of the Maori seats might read well on paper, eg, ‘it’s time for an egalitarian society’ and ‘all the votes – approximately 220,000 on the Maori roll –would make a huge impact if transferred to the general roll’.
But personally I couldn’t give a damn. Maori historically have been betrayed by Parliament and through the years government has passed some disgraceful laws to rid Maori of their rights; an example being the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
However Maori may finally have a chance to redress the balance courtesy of the Maori seats and the Maori Party. The Maori Party is poised to be the Kingmaker for the next government and could offer Maori their best chance ever of exercising real power. If that happens, the abolition of the Maori seats policy will disappear from all parties’ agendas and New Zealanders will have to get their heads around having stroppy Maori decide on their next government.