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Maori Seats On Local Council - Prebble Speech

Friday 18th May 2001 Richard Prebble Speech -- Other

Richard Prebble’s Speech To Parliament On The Bay Of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Bill, Wednesday 16 May 2001

HON RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader ACT NZ): I rise to speak on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Maori Constituency Empowering) Bill.

The bill is not about every local body in New Zealand; it is about the regional council just in the Bay of Plenty. The bill proposes to create a Maori constituency for two extra members on the regional council. At present there are 12 members and this measure will add two more to make a total of 14 members. The question the House has to consider is whether we should agree to it.

Firstly, in listening to the debate carefully, as I have today, I have not heard any member say that Maori representation is not important. Indeed, the member who introduced the bill quoted a statement that I think is correct. I will quote him exactly:

"The evidence of significant Maori non-engagement in local government is powerful and irrefutable."

That statement cannot be argued with. If we look around New Zealand, there are relatively few Maori local body members, although I notice that in the Bay of Plenty two Maori members are already on the council.

So the question then turns round and, firstly, let us look at the mechanics of the bill and whether it will do what the honourable member who is promoting the bill and the local council wants it to do. I listened very carefully to the local member, the Rt Hon. Winston Peters with whom I do not agree unless he is right, who made a number of interesting points. [Interruption] I did not interrupt that member's speech. Winston Peters, as the local member, has made a number of statements. The first statement is that Maori in the Tauranga area, because of the way in which the constituencies will be created, will not be represented.

I have not heard anyone deny that. So, apparently, we are putting together a bill that will mean Maori from Rotorua will be dominant in this new constituency. That seems to me to be a reasonable point. The next issue he raised - and he is looking at the history of having separate Maori representation in this House - was to ask the question of whether that resulted in first past the post in better Maori representation. The evidence is really irrefutable that it worked the other way - of course it did. I can say as a former member of the Labour Party that when we used to debate this matter in our caucus, it was well understood that having four Maori seats, as it was then, it meant that the Labour Party, which Maori overwhelmingly supported, got four seats when it should have had seven. In some years - we could work it out mathematically - they should have had 12 seats. What happened is that in areas like Whangarei where there was a significant Maori population, once a separate Maori seat was created - we took out not all of the Maori, but a significant number - it meant that people. like John Banks used to get re-elected.

No Im not going to make adverse statements about John Banks, I am just making a statement of fact. Let us talk about the technicalities first. If we look at this bill on its technicalities, will the chances of being re-elected for the two Maori members who are presently on the council be better or worse? I do not know those two gentlemen - or maybe they are women; I do not know - but if we look at it historically, I suspect that most of the voters in the Bay of Plenty would say: "Well, Parliament has already provided for Maori in separate Maori seats. Why should they double-dip?"

I suspect that is what they will say, and Winston Peters, who is the local member, has said that he believes that. I say to those members, and I am not doubting their sincerity, that if they look at the argument being put forward - that method that is being adopted on voting - it seems to me to be one that we have tried, that we have tested, and we found that it did not represent Maori correctly, because what have we done in this House?

We established a royal commission, and the royal commission looked at it and said that if we really wanted to represent significant minorities in the New Zealand House of Representatives we would have to switch to mixed-member proportional.

The royal commission also stated - because we all know - that one of the other advantages of that is it will enable us to abolish having separate ethnic seats.

The royal commission, which looked at the evidence very carefully, stated that it did not think that separate ethnic seats had served Maori well. I think the evidence for that, again, is overwhelming. As the member who is trying to interrupt me Part of the reason, and it is a complicated one, probably reflects on the fact that separate Maori representation certainly has not delivered for Maori.

Hon. Tariana Turia: Neither has mainstay representation.

Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE: The member can contradict me and she can make a speech, but I say to that member that I suspect, looking at the historic evidence, that what the Government says this bill will do, it will not do. I also suspect that it will also mean that those members who represent those other constituencies will say - this is the big argument against separate Maori representation –“Fewer Maori, and you have a problem. You go to those two councillors because I am here representing everyone else." I think that has been a problem in this House.

I believe that one reason we want to have a constituency that is not racially based is so that those MPs who represent those areas feel morally obliged to carry out their duty to represent everyone's interests, regardless of race. If we look around the world, I say to the House that there are no examples that I know of where people have believed that this particular voting system being put up here will result in a better form of Government.

The member might say that is not so. I just notice a good example, one of the most difficult areas -I hope we never get to the Bosnia's of this world --but when the United Nations came to draw the new seats after it was brought in, it first drew it up on an ethnic basis. Then it looked at the results of the election and found that people who were most extreme in their views got elected.

So it has abolished that method and gone back again and said: " No, let's create constituencies where it is not possible for someone to say'' as I heard the member call out "that the advantage of this system is that a Maori says `No, I just represent Maori."'

I say to the House that the advantage of being a general member is that one represents all members.

[Interruption] OK, I misreported in the Rich case. I misunderstood the point that she was making. I understand that there are a variety of views, and I understand how strongly Maori feel, because Donna Awatere Huata who was a member of our caucus is going to vote for this bill. I will vote against it, as will most of the rest of my colleagues. I make this point also to members opposite. If they say that Maori deserve special representation, then what about Pacific Islanders?

An Hon. Member: What about the tangata whenua?

Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE: What about them? I am not stopping the member. The member says "What about them?''. I am asking the member, if he supports Maori representation, does he, therefore, also support Mangere, a special constituency for Pacific Islanders?

An Hon. Member: Absolutely not.

HON RICHARD REBBLE: Absolutely not, he tells me, but I had missed the point completely. That seems to me, if we once say we are going to have racial representation it appears to me that the logic of it proceeds right across New Zealand: *S* The only other argument we can have is to say that there are two types of citizenship in this country. That is the point that the Hon. Ken Shirley was making in his submission. One of the wonderful things about the treaty - and there are many; it protects property rights, and as a party in favour of property rights we are in favour of that - is that it grants all citizens in New Zealand the same British citizenship.

That is the great principle of the treaty. I suspect that this bill is based on the notion that there are two types of citizenship, and the ACT party says: " No, there is one.

There is one law for all, and yes, there are problems with local body representation, but this bill is not the answer.

Ends


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