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Call for Referendum on Maori Seats “Ignorant" says lecturer

MEDIA RELEASE Wednesday 13th April 2011 For immediate release

'Equal Treatment' Call for Referendum on Maori Seats “Ignorant”

A call based on ‘equal treatment’ for a referendum on the Māori parliamentary seats by National MP Jami-Lee Ross ignores decades of policy development, claims Veronica Tawhai, a policy and politics lecturer at Te Pūtahi a Toi, School of Māori Studies at Massey University.

“For quite some time policies in New Zealand have focused on achieving ‘equal outcomes’, which puts in place protective measures for vulnerable or alienated groups, like Māori” states Ms Tawhai. “The Māori seats are an example of this, protecting the political voice of our indigenous people, often under-represented in mainstream political processes”.

“‘Equal treatment’ on the other hand is an outdated, uncritical approach, and the cause of past exclusion. Mr Ross should know we moved beyond that approach some time ago”.

The Royal Commission on the Electoral System suggested the abolishment of the Māori seats in 1986, but on the basis the then four seats were unsatisfactory in providing for Māori representation. The Commission recognised the Māori seats formed for Māori ‘a base for a continuing search for more appropriate constitutional and political forms through which Māori rights (mana Māori in particular) might be given effect’.

“Until we have constitutional transformation, the Māori seats provide the only guaranteed platform for Māori interests in Parliament. And through the Māori Electoral Option, Māori have the choice as to whether they stay or go. ‘No’ to a referendum”.

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Currently there are seven Māori seats, which can increase or decrease according to the number of electors on the Māori Electoral Roll. Ms Tawhai urges Māori and others to participate in the upcoming General Election, and to encourage others to vote also.

“Obviously those like Ross have a lot to learn. Informed New Zealanders need to get out and vote this election to ensure a better calibre debate than what we are currently getting – a focus on equal outcomes and justice that we can all build our future on” concluded Ms Tawhai.


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