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Naked in Nuhaka: The Pakeha Electoral Option

Naked in Nuhaka

The Pakeha Electoral Option

By Leo Koziol

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND, MAY 22, 2005: The arrangements for the Pakeha Electoral Option have now been decided. After the 2006 census, the process of redrawing electorate boundaries will begin with a four-month Pakeha Electoral Option.

During this period, electors on the General roll who indicated on their enrolment forms that they are of Pakeha descent will be sent a letter asking them to choose which type of roll they want to be registered on. These electors can choose to be on either the Pakeha electoral roll or the General electoral roll.

Once they have made their choice, the person cannot change the type of roll they are registered on until the next Pakeha Electoral Option is held in five years time. If Pakeha who are already registered as electors do not make a choice during the Pakeha Electoral Option period, they remain on the type of roll they were already on. No correspondence will be entered into.

The results of the Pakeha Electoral Option form the basis for calculating the Pakeha electoral population and the General electoral population. The results also affect the number of Pakeha seats there will be for the next two general elections.

The number of Pakeha electorate seats can rise or fall depending on the number of Pakeha who choose to be registered on the Pakeha electoral roll. A change in the number of Pakeha seats can affect the number of General seats in the South Island and the number of list seats.

The Pakeha Electoral Option also affects the boundaries of all seats -- General and Pakeha. As a result, the process of re-drawing electorate boundaries cannot begin until the Pakeha Electoral Option has been held.

The next Pakeha Electoral Option will be held from April until August 2006.

* * * *

Is Bill English, leader of the opposition National Party, correct in what he said this month that the existing Maori electorates in NZ are a form of affirmative action? Does he even know what affirmative action is? Or are the Greens and the Labour Party correct in that these seats must be retained for Maori to achieve better political representation?

Isn't there something that's maybe a little bit insidious that vested interests in Maori society coupled with white NZ's liberal attitudes towards Maori leads to the retention of what is basically a racially-based system of elections? And aren't racially based systems of elections the kind of thing that all Marxist, leftist, feminist and anarchist pluralists battle staunchly against?

Can anyone name another country that today -- in the 21st Century -- still retains an apartheid form of democratic elections?

* * * *

About a year ago I attended a life-altering event: the Ngati Kahungunu Incorporated Economic Development Summit. I got to hob-nob it with the hoi polloi of Maoridom. This one was special: it was to be in Wairoa. Aunty Tumanako, now in her 90s, lovingly gave me day two of her conference pass. When I picked it up, she was stripping paint. I smiled, and I drove on out to the event on a shivering midwinter's morn.

Everybody who was everybody was there. Mana Wairoa was out in force. I made my way in past two dozen Aunty hugs plus one Uncle asking me why I wasn't married and settled down with a nice wahine and ten kids yet. All the national figures were there, too. I watched newly slim Donna Awatere, MP (1) flitter by. She chattered and was flattered by other wahine who were impressed both with her new look and the fashion show extravaganza she'd put together the night before. I sat outside in the sunshine eavesdropping on Sir Tipene O'Regan and his latest Kai Tahu multi-million dollar dealings. He looked so erudite with his vaporous pipe. I chatted over tea with one of Winston Peters brothers about all the scandalous elements of being a NZ First MP, and he assured me its all "Lies, Lies, Lies!" (or, on second recollections, didn't he say its all "True, True, True!"?).

The crowd was pretty much 99.99% Maori. Lunch was a hangi. The hongi snob meter was on high. As the day wore on, I noticed a tone start to emerge from both the audience and the speakers that began to bother me. Pakeha bashing. White people are the problem. They are the cause of all our ills. Their handouts hold us back. They are killing us with kindness. We must embrace western business models of success. Develop our resources. Sell ourselves to tourists. Lots of talk like that.

The anti-Pakeha sentiment was rather subtle and insidious to start with, but it came to a rather intoxicating crescendo with the much heralded arrival of Hon. Winston Peters, MP, leader of the New Zealand First Party, and public speaker extraordinaire. Hon. Peters had been running late, but his chartered flight to Wairoa airport arrived just in time for the audience to give him their full attention. No one seemed to mind his tardiness, though to me the late arrival did seem a wee bit choreographed.

Winston did his usual rant against Treaty settlements. That Maori in Australia just get on with it, so why can't Maori here do the same (2)? That Maori are lazy dole bludgers and just need the opportunity to move past all the past grievances for the glorious future that lies ahead. And who did he blame for all of this? Not Maori. Not past Crown illegalities against Maori. Not any past racist colonialist imperial crown governments. No, there was one target, and one target only to blame: Sickly White Liberals (3).

He ranted on about Sickly White Liberals keeping Maori down on the dole. Sickly White Liberals with all their Nanny-state programmes that hold Maori back. As any former resident of San Francisco (undoubtedly, the Sickly White Liberal Capital Of The World!) would be expected to do, I hissed at him. Loudly. Hsssssssssssssss. I was singular in my voice. I looked around me, and I saw a Maori audience entranced by what he was saying. It was pretty much 90% charisma, 10% ideas, but the message was clear: White people are to blame for Maoridom's (4) troubles. They're far, far too generous. And it must be stopped!

I was glad when he got off the stage, glad that it was over and done with. He gave pat answers to a number of quite penetrating questions, a slick Winnie with all the patina of a lawyer and a politician. I thought all this ickiness was all over, but then what happened? An employee of Industry NZ (a division of the Ministry of Economic Development) got up and started to rant on at how Winston was so right, using the "Sickly White Liberal" term in an all too liberal fashion. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement. I was ready to walk out.

* * * *

Looking back at the Kahungunu conference, the lesson I learned is that one is foolish to generalise or make sweeping statements about Maori society. Speakers at the event ran the gamut from an overly intellectual Maori academic who went right over everyone's head to engaging ex-sportsmen who had demonstrated solid application of their sporting dedication to economic development in the private sector.

That a Maori lawyer who advocates abolition of the Treaty and anti-immigration rhetoric could achieve such a rousing reception says something. What exactly that "something" is, is something I'm still trying to work out. There's more there, I think, than just "Winston" charisma and magic.

Meanwhile, our mainstream NZ media continues to muddle through. This from Tapu Misa in the NZ Herald, arguing against some of those advocating for the abolition of Maori seats:

"The justification seems to be that there are now 18 MPs who identify as Maori. But given that six are with New Zealand First, a party which hasn't gone out of its way to advocate Maori causes, it hardly counts as overwhelming Maori representation. (5)"

I've got a great deal of respect for Ms. Misa, particularly as a minority Pacific Islands writer making a place for herself in the mainstream press. But the above statement totally missed the point. The fact is, is that the six NZ First MPs *are* Maori. Just because they don't support Maori causes -- and can "Maori causes" be generalised into one sweep, anyway? -- does not mean that these Maori MPs lose their Maori-ness. They are ethnically Maori. They are descendants of the original indigenous inhabitants of Aotearoa NZ. And whether or not they support generalised mainstream "Maori causes" or not cannot change that. They remain Maori.

* * * *

aporia \A*po"ri*a\, n.; (Rhet.) A figure in which the speaker professes to be at a loss what course to pursue, where to begin to end, what to say, etc. Source:

* * * *

NUHAKA, AOTEAROA NZ, MAY 22, 2003: I began this week's article with another reality slip courtesy of Naked in Nuhaka. By suggesting that all European people should be ethnically categorised and given the "opportunity" for representation in Pakeha Electorates I've attempted to point out the patronising nature of an electoral option that I -- as a person of Maori descent -- would prefer not to have (6).

The history of the Maori seats is not a proud one. Until the early 1990s, there was always only the option of four Maori seats - no matter how disproportionate the number of Maori voters in each seat was compared to general electorates.

Even when that issue was resolved and the number of seats was increased, it was still the Pakeha bureaucrats who wrote the rules. You can only change from the General Roll to the Maori Roll once every five years, following each Census. Why the link to the Census? People who fill in the Census form are not filling in an enrolment form, are they? Why aren't people given the right to change between rolls whenever they feel like it? If they were given this right, might they perhaps flit back and forth as they felt like it? And, perhaps, might this point out the hypocrisy and extreme insince rity of a racially-based, self-defined electoral system?

Why does nobody point out the fact that all the Members of Parliament who have general electorate seats effectively only represent non-Maori constituents? They do not represent Maori resident in their electorates. Local MP, Janet Mackey, represents the East Coast electorate where close to a third of the residents are Maori. She speaks often of the good work she does for Maori in her electorate. But, the fact remains, they are not her constituents.

Danny Keenan (7), also in the NZ Herald, wrote about the lengthy travesties of injustice in the history of Maori seats. He wrote of how in the 1860s, for fear that "Maori voters [would] interrupt the process of land dispossession" creation of four special (as opposed to electoral) Maori seats took place:

"The result was a fiddle. [a private member's bill was introduced] granting limited franchise to Maori... On a population basis the same as Pakeha representation, Maori should have had 15 seats; they were lucky to get four. And these seats were meant to be only temporary. They were to last for five years; but they are still with us today. The Maori seats, therefore, were not about special rights for Maori, they were set up as an act of denial - Maori were to be denied their rights of full customary franchise as British citizens. Instead, they were to be granted four temporary seats."

Though he expresses mixed feelings given the history of the Maori seats, Mr. Keenan concludes that they should remain: "The Maori seats provide a guarantee, albeit a meagre one, that Maori access to Parliament will continue."

I, speaking as a person of Maori descent, wish to state that its only dogs who eat scraps. And that is exactly what the Maori seats offer Maori. Those on the left and who purport to be supportive of "Maori causes" (and I place these two words in quotes quite deliberately) suffer from a form of aporia. The right wing of the Englishes and the Peters' of the world say "Abolish Maori seats! Abolish Maori seats!" Therefore, the only response from the progressive left can be "Retain Maori seats! Retain Maori seats!" The response is automatic, because no alternative is offered which does not seem to sell Maori short, that does not lose what little scraps Maori have been given to date.

In this week's column of Naked in Nuhaka, I have offered an alternative. A truly progressive alternative.

The Pakeha Electoral Option.


The Maori Electoral Option


(1) Donna Awatere Huata, for those who do not know, is a Maori member of the uber right-wing Act Party. She was also a Maori activist of some fame in the 1970s. Recently, she's faced scandalous allegations of accountancy fiddling, as well as little white lies over the means of her recent weight loss (No, it wasn't a wonder diet: it was a stomach stapling). In the midst of all the melee, I thought briefly of forming a new lobbying group to support Donna -- Maori Act-members to Affirm Donna, or MAAD for short. I even filled in my application form for the Act Party. But then I thought: "Wait a minute. If I joined, wouldn't there be only two members?"

(2) Later, I thought: why didn't I ask Mr. Peters why, then, doesn't Australia just ban and deport Maori immigrants so they can all just come back here and do good for our economy? Perhaps we could assist by setting up halfway camps on the Auckland Islands?

(3) The "sickly white liberals" is an exact quote (not a paraphrase).

(4) "Maoridom" is an incorrect usage of the Maori language, and is used as a word in the context of its delivery as verbiage at the conference I attended.

(5) See: Tapu Misa, Maori seats needed as much today as ever they were, NZ Herald, 07.05.2003. Weblink:

(6) For the record, I've always been on the General Electoral Roll. I've also been resident in some of the most marginal seats in the country; Manawatu in the 1980s, Auckland Central in the early 1990s. Does this make me not a "real" Maori? Am I just faux iwi? Perhaps.

(7) See: Danny Keenan "Talk of abolishing Maori seats rather sinister", NZ Herald, 07.05.2003. Weblink:

ABOUT NAKED IN NUHAKA Leo Koziol ( writes on identity, culture, place, and politics in Aotearoa NZ in the 21st Century. Nuhaka is located on the East Coast of the North Island of NZ.

All content (c) Leo Koziol & Rautaki Group Consultants 2003.

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