Māori representation in local government and Pākehā liberals.

Submissions on the mixed-model Canterbury Regional Council Bill were heard yesterday, and there was a lot of pākehā liberal surprise that Ngāi Tahu back a mixed-model council, even beyond the next term. In many ways this follows on from earlier liberal surprise that the Māori Party would be backing the Bill, which lead to the surprise that Ngāi Tahu supported the Bill. (Ngāi Tahu’s views being particularly important in the context that the Māori Party will be the swing votes for this legislation, and the party’s kaupapa suggests that Ngāi Tahu’s views, as the iwi most directly affected, will play a substantial role in their voting behaviour.)

In all honesty, it’s not really a big surprise that Ngāi Tahu weren’t huge fans of the elected Regional Council, and nor is it a big surprise that they would advocate a model which places them on an equal footing with central government.

There is, however, some interesting friction here in that traditional liberal thought flinches at any allocation of voting rights on anything other than a one-person one-vote basis, while liberal pākehā are also (ostensibly) committed to the Treaty relationship and iwi governance partnership. While the Māori/General Roll system for House elections is an unusual system, within each Roll voters remain allocated to geographically defined constituencies of equal size using the same voting system as each other. Similarly, the Māori ward system preserves those features at a council level, where it is used (Bay of Plenty Regional and Waikato Regional Councils). Māori wards are also a very difficult structure to implement: only one Council, Waikato Regional, has used the Local Electoral Act provisions to introduce them.

As Ngāi Tahu’s lobbyist James Caygill points out, Māori wards are not iwi representation. Iwi representation will generally have the characteristics that it is non-geographic (i.e iwi membership is not determined by the physical location of voters) and non-proportional (i.e it is unlikely iwi representation will directly reflect the number of iwi members as a proportion of the population of the authority.)

In the Te Arawa Partnership model, Te Arawa elects an independent Board which then nominate members to council committees, including voting members for the Strategy & Finance and Operations & Monitoring committees. The Te Arawa Partnership is therefore non-geographic and non-proportional. The nominees are appointed by the elected members, and the Council is not bound by committee recommendations.

There are precedents for non-geographic constituencies. They were a feature of the British Commons until 1950, in the form of the University constituencies. There is also a great deal of precedent for disproportionate representation of communities of interest at the local government level in New Zealand. The Banks Peninsula ward of the Christchurch City Council is half the size of the other wards in order to better represent isolated rural communities, as is the Stewart Island – Rakiura ward of the Southland District Council. From a liberal perspective these appear anomalous, and personally I have my doubts about them, especially given the tendency to over-represent whiter, richer rural areas — a sort of country quota for our local government. Nonetheless, they are a feature of our local democracy and do ensure that certain kinds of community are represented when they otherwise would not.

Ngāi Tahu argue that as they hold mana whenua in the Canterbury region, the Treaty relationship indicates they should have a direct voice at the Council table. But, as Ngāi Tahu also observe, iwi representation is not Māori representation. Does the Treaty partnership call for non mana whenua Māori to be represented at the local government level? How can this be accomplished alongside mana whenua representation? In Auckland, the Independent Māori Statutory Board represents mana whenua and other Māori (mātāwaka) with specific positions tied to mana whenua and mātāwaka, while in the future Te Arawa will look to build mātāwaka representation into their structures for the purposes of the Partnership. The IMSB has had difficulties implementing urban Māori representation, and Willie Jackson is challenging certain decisions in the courts, while Te Arawa have not yet revealed how they will achieve this.

These are hard questions, particularly when put alongside dominant pākehā traditions that value geographic constituencies of equal size. Liberal pākehā need to be more aware of the complexity of these issues: “Māori wards” are not the answer to every question of representation, and may in fact be actively unwanted by iwi. At the same time, iwi representation does raise difficult legal and political questions. Canterbury Regional Council will only have full members appointed on an iwi basis as a result of an ad hoc Act, and it is unlikely that other councils would be able to act in a similar manner. There are also real questions about how the legitimacy and authority of members appointed on such a basis will be managed within the context of a political system that presumes legitimacy derives primarily from direct election by the residents of a district.

As Māori seek to take on an active partnership role in more aspects of government, these questions will keep coming up in relation to major urban authorities, with significant political responsibilities. In order for representation and governance models to be sustainable, they will need to enjoy broad based support. Resolving these questions proactively and effectively will be an important part of successfully transforming rhetorics of Treaty partnership into governance realities at the local authority level.

The author is the chair of the People’s Choice in Christchurch, but the views expressed are entirely personal.

The Māori seats

One of the pecularities of MMP is that because of the proportional representation provided by the party vote, there is virtually no electoral benefit to winning electorate seats (there are other political benefits, which I’ve touched on previously). So even though it looks like a few seats like Napier and Christchurch Central might come down to the wire, the outcome isn’t going to change who forms government.

The one exception to that is of course parties that use the “coat-tailing” rule – that is, they get less than 5% of the party vote but still get an electorate MP and possibly some list MPs due to winning an electorate seat.

Given the survival of the Māori and Internet Mana parties both rely on winning a Māori electorate seat (as they are both polling consistently below 5%), these seven seats can actually have a very important impact on the makeup of Parliament.

One of the other unique things about the Maori seats is that they are the only electorate seats that regularly get polled. Māori TV have commissioned a series of polls from Reid Research (and TVNZ’s Marae used to also poll). I’ve compiled this years poll results, plus the results from the 2011 election and the 2011 poll results (where I can find them – if anyone has any of the missing numbers please send them through!).

It’s worth taking these results with a grain of salt – the sample sizes are very small (normally 400) and that, combined with poor turnout in the Māori seats make for lots of inaccuracies.

That said, today’s Te Tai Tokerau poll is the tightest yet – with Hone Harawira polling only one point ahead of Labour’s Kelvin Davis. If Kelvin manages to win the seat (and a good turnout operation could certainly help close that gap), then the Hone Harawira/Kim Dotcom farce is over.

Interesting times indeed.

Note: All numbers are candidate, not party vote.

Electorate Candidate 2011 poll 2011 result 2014 poll
Te Tai Tokerau Labour 35 35 37
Māori Party 20 16 9
Mana 42 41 38
Greens
Tāmaki Makaurau Labour 23 35 27
Māori Party 58 40 28
Mana 14 16 14
Greens 3 8 7
Waiariki Labour 22 25 17
Māori Party 56 43 50
Mana 22 32 21
Greens 2
Hauraki-Waikato Labour ? 54 57
Māori Party ? 16 14
Mana ? 21 10.4
Greens
Ikaroa Rāwhiti Labour ? 41 37
Māori Party ? 20 18
Mana ? 26 21
Greens ? 11 6
Te Tai Hauāuru Labour ? 30 29
Māori Party ? 48 32
Mana ? 9 10
Greens ? 11 11
Te Tai Tonga Labour 35 41 48
Māori Party 46 32 17
Mana 9 8 9
Greens 10 15 9

Te Tai Tonga

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The announcement that Laila Harré had jumped ship from the Greens to lead the Internet Party ruffled a lot of feathers in the Green Party, and today’s announcement that former Labour MP Georgina Beyer is standing for the Mana Party in Te Tai Tonga is likely to have draw a similar opinion.

The big question is if she can win it. In the absence of any polling in the electorate, the best starting point is the 2011 result. Labour’s Rino Tirikatene won with a 1,475 vote majority over the sitting MP, Rāhui Kātene of the Māori Party. Despite a competitive race in which the seat changed hands, only 57% of voters bothered to turn up.

During the 2011 campaign, Mana candidate Clinton Dearlove surprised many. He performed very well during debates and in the media, but suffered simply because he didn’t have an adequate campaign machine to get his message out around this huge electorate. He only gained 1,360 votes in the end.

So what can we expect in 2014? Even if the Mana Party haven’t improved their campaign machine ( though with the support of Kim Dotcom’s millions, I wouldn’t count on it), Beyer is likely to be the beneficiary of her higher profile, and the media interest that will attract. If she can double the Mana vote, which is a huge task, then that might make some impact.

That said, Rino Tirikatene now has the advantage of incumbency (which is a huge benefit in an electorate this size). As well as that, he no longer has to face Kātene – who did run a decent campaign.

The demise of the Māori Party will certainly change the dynamic in Te Tai Tonga, but it is hard to see Georgina Beyer giving Tirikatene much of a run for his money given the size of his existing vote.

Why the Maori Party won’t walk out

The Maori Party hoped to be a part of any government, regardless of its leanings. Then [Pita Sharples] confessed: “Actually, I got so used to the increase in salary I told the Prime Minister you’d better be good because if the other guys get in, I’ll go sell myself over there to keep my ministerial salary. I just got a new house, man – I can’t afford it on a backbencher salary so I’m up for grabs.” Whoops.

NZ Herald, 8 Feb, 2010