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Sharples - Notice of Motion: Representation Comm'n

Notice of Motion: Representation Commission

Dr Pita R Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Tuesday 21 November 2006

The Notice of Motion, nominating Whetumarama Wereta and John McEnteer to represent Government and Opposition on the Representation Commission, is a topic of much debate amongst tangata whenua.

Tangata whenua have long held a view about the unique status of tangata whenua representation within the New Zealand democracy.

The status is underpinned by three essential values:

- First our status as tangata whenua peoples; indigenous to Aotearoa;

- Second – tribal leaders of Maori nations who entered into an agreement with the Crown in 1840, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which marked the beginning of constitutional arrangements in this land.

- Third, the recognition of the special constitutional status accorded to Maori by virtue of the four parliamentary seats since 1867.

But constitutional status needs to have life breathed into it by the quality of the representation delivered. The notice of motion today, is one means of achieving that quality.

Members of this House will recall the report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System, Towards a Better Democracy, which took place twenty years ago.

In that report, the committee noted the over-whelming support of Maori submitters to retain separate Maori representation as a measure of self-determination, mana motuhake; and the demand for formal recognition of Te Titiri o Waitangi and all its protection and rights that it guarantees.

The report suggests that these claims were not as an end in themselves, but rather, the most effective means to ensure their cultural survival.

The questions we consider today, therefore, are of the utmost importance to the ongoing protection of the rights and interests of tangata whenua.

But we have to put the question, Mr Speaker, is it fair that these rights and interests are put forward by two people to represent the Government, and two people to represent the Opposition, as members of the Representation Commission?

In the case of the Maori electoral seats in particular, is it not strange that the party which holds the majority of the Maori electoral seats, did not have a particular influence in the appointment process for the Commission?

We know that part of the difficulty for this Parliament is that our very existence in this Parliament is not one that falls into line with either black or white; left or right; Government or Opposition thinking.

We have always been proud of our position as the independent Maori voice in Parliament; the party accords particular priority to our relationships with tangata whenua, and in this fashion, to enable the expression of rangatiratanga along with the kawanatanga partner.

We support the position put forward by New Zealand First, that representation must mean something, by moving forward, and recognising we are no longer in the days of First-Past-the-Post.

This is particularly so when we look at the impact that Maori political representation has had in both of the largest parties.

National, who has four Maori Members included in a caucus of 48, has consistently denied the value of the Maori electoral seats.

Labour’s Maori MPs have recently voted against the Principles of Te Tiriti; and even more recently introduced a fresh new concept of confiscation, the Crown Stratum.

In 1993, Maori voted for MMP by a much higher margin than others. The MMP (mixed member proportional) voting system provided an opportunity to make progress in the path towards tino rangatiratanga, self-determination, through the means of indigenous political representation.

The quest for the political emancipation of Maori has been one which Maori have looked to the advent of MMP and the mechanism of the Maori electoral option to hold as a restorative right to be heard.

And yet, as recently as last year, we know that the path to political equality has been fraught with obstacles.

One only needs to turn to the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur to recognise that honour and justice has not yet been accorded the Maori voice.

The United Nations report recorded compelling evidence that ‘historical and social processes that systematically disadvantage Maori” such as colonisation, discrimination and racism were deep-seated within the nature of New Zealand society.

It was as a result of his observations on the ongoing political marginalisation of Maori, that Professor Stavenhagen recommended, and I quote:

the Treaty of Waitangi should be entrenched constitutionally in a form that respects the pluralism of New Zealand society, and which creates positive recognition and meaningful provision for Maori as a distinct people.

We have heard that around town, in various faculties and law firms, rumbling moves towards constitutional debate are being held behind closed doors.

The Maori Party is here today, to say that debate is a vital one in our evolving maturity as a state; and that the state must respect the rights of iwi nations to be fully involved in those discussions.

I want to return to the issues raised by New Zealand First, who challenged the notice of motion, on the grounds that it does not represent the full range of political parties, the diversity of representation that had always been envisaged – and indeed was established – through the introduction of MMP.

And I want to make it quite clear today, that while we support the challenge raised by that party, the Maori Party absolutely endorse the two Maori members who have been nominated to represent the Government and Opposition on the Commission.

Whetu Marama Te Rangiita Wereta has a legendary reputation in presenting a voice for effective Maori political participation. She was instrumental in the work behind the Picot report in 1988, providing vitally needed critique about the status of Maori in the reformed education environment.

In 1994, she was part of Te Aka Matua O Te Ture, a standing Maori committee alongside Bishop Manuhuia Bennett, Judge Michael Brown, Professor Mason Durie in advising the Law Commission on the "development of a bicultural framework for the law of New Zealand".

She has also had her fair turn in the bureaucracy, manager of Maori language services whether it be Te Puni Kokiri, or General Manager – Māori, for Statistics New Zealand.

Meanwhile John McEnteer has made a huge contribution across every sector of Maori development including - fisheries, Maori land, the Federation of Maori authorities, Mighty River power, Capital and Coast DHB, Department of Social Welfare, - and alongside Whetu possesses unique and specialist skills in his background on the Representation Commission.

It was John McInteer also, who described the Special Rapporteur’s Report, as an ‘insightful and intelligent report’, a report which is wide-ranging and displays good understanding of the situation.

He understands only too well – as indeed does Whetu, the hard work ahead that is required to achieve true political representation.

Mr Speaker, between Monday 3 April and Wednesday 2 August 2006, tangata whenua were given the opportunity to choose to be on the Māori Electoral Roll or the General Electoral Roll when they vote in the next two General Elections.

Dr Rawiri Taonui has described the Maori electoral option as a success for Maori political aspirations. Dr Taonui described the additional 14,900 voters on the Maori roll as showing “a clear trend towards a greater sense of self-determining political empowerment by Maori”.

This is a level of Maori political momentum which every day provides us, the Maori Party, with the burning desire to do the best that we can to defend Maori rights and advance Maori aspirations in the best interests of the nation.

It is not, however, reflected in the tight two-party parliament of yesteryear and we join with all smaller parties, in challenging the notion of a Representation Commission that does not Represent MMP. We will be voting against the second notion of motion, as we believe it represents the constraints of a First Past the Past mentality, reserving two seats at the decision-making table for a former Labour and a former National MP - a table supposedly to represent all.

We will however, support Notice of Motion 3, in the interests of an independent Maori voice is in the House– and in our desire to shape a destiny in which Maori political representation will truly honour justice.


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