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Open Letter To Waitakere Council Re: Maori Seats

For immediate release:

Open Letter To Waitakere City Council Re Maori Seats

Dear Waitakere City Councillors,

I am very disappointed to hear that the Council is split on the issue of supporting Maori seats on the new super city council. Thanks to those of you who have already emailed to clarify your position and are supporting the seats.

To those of you opposed, or who have not yet decided, I'd just like to make a few points that I hope you will consider before your debate next week when finalising WCC's submission to the select committee. I'm sure a number of us will attend the Council meeting to hear the debate.

• Maori have been marginalised and excluded from decision making in their own country ever since my ancestors arrived here & arrogantly began the process of colonisation - a process that the British rolled out around the world wherever they landed.

• Despite the fact that Maori negotiated a Treaty with the British - the only indigenous people in the world to do so, the principles of partnership stated in that Treaty continue to be ignored to a great extent by the majority white Government.

• Treaty claims are still being decided in court - this process again is unique in the world - that past wrongs are being acknowledged and starting to be dealt with by the Crown via legal redress.

• As a relatively recent English immigrant I see the formal processes that NZ is undertaking in dealing with these issues as optimistic and forward thinking. Long may it continue and grow in its scope. I can only hope other countries will follow suit in dealing with indigenous rights elsewhere in the world. New Zealanders should be proud of the example they are setting.

• HOWEVER, all this optimism is undermined by parochial and small minded racism on a local and personal level, something that I'm sorry to say I witness on a daily basis. Certainly spending time speaking to people on the issue over the last week on the GAG stall has been a eye-opener for us all.

• In my view the issue of guaranteed seats for Maori on the Auckland Council is a no brainer. If the Treaty partner is not given a seat (or 3) at the table then what hope is there for representation of other ethnic or minority views? What of the old or disabled or our children, the poor or otherwise marginalised? How will they have any hope of getting their views heard if Maori cannot?

• The Treaty states that Maori should be partners in governance. What better way to achieve that than by guaranteed seats around the table? Its not like 3 Maori are going to out vote the other 17 councilors...

• So why should that give you any fear? What is it exactly that you are opposed to here? Why do you not want to hear the voices of anyone other than the white majority at a regional governance level for a city with 180 different ethnic groups? Do you think they have nothing to offer us? Why should the voices of one immigrant group drown out those from all the others?

• If Rodney Hide's shameful proposal is taking us back to the bad old days of the 1980s then I think that excluding Maori from decision making takes us back to the even worse old days of the 1780s.

• We should be ashamed of ourselves that Waitakere City - our so-called Eco City, based on the principles of sustainability that we like to congratulate ourselves is a world-leader - cannot recognise that the indigenous people of this country deserve a seat at the table on our regional council.

• I have heard all of you decry the undemocratic way in which the Government is taking away our voices on the formation and structure of the super city - well surely that gives you a huge insight (perhaps for the first time) of the way Maori have had their voices taken away for the last 200 years.

• Please don't give me the excuse that Maori can take their chances in getting elected the same as everyone else - we all know that minorities do not get elected in a majority white population. We can all do the maths on that one.

• Nor ask why should Maori get special treatment when none of the other ethnic groups do - Maori are the indigenous people of this land. It is their place. All the rest of us - every single one of us - are here as immigrants, or descendents of immigrants, and imposing our values on the people of this land and continuing to shut them out of the debate is not an acceptable way to behave in a civilised society. The other ethnic groups are supportive of Maori seats because they recognise that if Maori cannot get representation then they have no chance of doing so.

• I am proud to live in Waitakere City and I want us to leave a legacy of how things SHOULD be done in local government. If the only thing you can do to achieve that is to make a submission to support the Maori seats on the Auckland council then I urge you do so. I want to proud of the submission Waitakere City makes to the select committee, not ashamed of it - and right now that's how I feel.

• They might not listen to us, but we can damned well have our say and make it count. History will judge us as will our peers. Stand up for your people and what you believe in and make us proud of you.

• Leave your prejudice behind, represent the people that elected you - they include a very wide range of ethnic groups - and vote for the Maori seats. All of the people of Auckland and this country need you to do that if we are to grow our society and become a civilised nation that is again a world leader in indigenous rights. Lets look forward not backwards & try to make this super city one we can all live in together and have a say in together.

Thank you for listening. Please support the Maori seats.

Dr Mels Barton


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