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Nats Oppose BoP Maori Council Seats Bill

National believes that establishing separate Maori seats on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council will not promote cohesion between peoples. Surely we should be more concerned to find ways that bring people together rather than dividing them, National's Justice spokesperson Wayne Mapp said today.

The select committee's report on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) 2000 Bill was presented to Parliament today. The minority parties (National and ACT) presented their own report opposing the principles of the Bill.

"This Bill overrides the principle of equality of citizenship. It allows a legal distinction in ethnicity in local elections where none has existed before.

"It is ironic that the Government is supporting this Bill on the grounds of better Maori representation when they are also promoting the STV system for local authorities through the Local Electoral Bill. The proponents of STV argue that all groups can be properly represented under STV. The Government is pushing two diametrically different systems to get the same outcome.

"National predicts that creating two additional Maori seats on the Council will lead to an overall reduction in Maori representation. In the current Council two of the 12 members are Maori. Maori have typically been represented on the Council over many years.

"In future elections, voters will consider that Maori representation has been achieved through the Maori seats and may not give Maori candidates their vote for general seats. Voters on the general roll will not consider that Maori issues are relevant to them. The effect is that representatives elected to either the general or Maori seats are likely to only consider the interests that elected them. This will not promote unity.

"If such a change is to occur, the issue should be considered across the nation. This potentially divisive issue should be the subject of the widest possible debate.

"The rushed and ad hoc introduction of this Bill for the 2001 local body elections will discredit the whole process of electoral reform. The Bill should not proceed," Dr Mapp said.

Ends


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