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Council fuels race divisions

Gerry Brownlee MP National Party Local Government Spokesman

01 October 2003

Council fuels race divisions

The National Party is disappointed that Environment Bay of Plenty is not showing more faith in the democratic system, after its decision to reserve two seats at the Council table exclusively for Maori.

"The local authority is buying into the politics of division rather than unity," says National Party Local Government spokesman Gerry Brownlee

"In my view the Council is turning its back on statistical evidence that shows New Zealand is becoming an increasingly diverse society, where the argument for representation based on race grounds is becoming increasingly thin.

"The two Maori seats represent 17% of the votes at the council table.

"But according to the 1996 Census, more than 28% of the Bay of Plenty Population is described as Maori, with that number expected to rise to 33.2% by 2021.

"Surely in a democratic system where one third of the population is describing itself as Maori, the need for special Maori seats is at best questionable.

"If one third of the population is identifying itself as Maori, wouldn't the council make-up naturally reflect that demographic change?

"Parliament has diversified, to the point where many now agree the time to debate separate Maori representation is fast approaching.

"Even the 1986 Royal Commission on electoral reform expressed a view that the Maori seats were expected to become less relevant.

"Given that statistical background it's hard to understand why Environment Bay of Plenty is giving Maori rights, that the rest of the community will not have," says Mr Brownlee.

Ends


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