We are getting a new council. Or are we?
by Ngarimu Blair
It’s going to be bigger and supposedly easier to get region-wide projects moving, particularly in the areas of transport and infrastructure, I can see that. But is it really fundamentally different? I see the same old faces appearing on the same old billboards. Therefore, can we expect new ideas and new vision?
I see the same two parties, Citizens and Ratepayers and City Vision, continuing with the pretence of not being National and Labour.
I want to be very positive. I want a shift in thinking to happen and for Auckland to start functioning the way I believe it is capable of. I want it to be easier to move around the city, I want better focus on sustainable transport, on renewable energy and a higher standard of urban design. I want Auckland to be instantly internationally recognisable for its progressiveness and innovation.
And alongside that I want a council of leaders to look more like the people it serves, the people who live here. I want a council with greater diversity, because I believe with that will come new ideas.
But as I drive around I am forced back to those same old names and faces on those billboards. I haven’t seen any that look like me.
With only four percent of all councillors in New Zealand having Maori whakapapa, it might be time for a debate about whether that is a good thing. Is it time for representative democracy and an MMP style electoral system for local government?
When we campaigned for Maori seats on the new ‘Super City’ council one poll told us around 46 percent of people in Auckland supported our aspiration. I don’t think too many people are worried about the sky falling in anymore.
But maybe we could get unemployment rates falling instead. I want to see Auckland’s new council put some heat on the issue of the high rate of Maori and Pacific Island youth unemployment which is around 33 percent. Quite apart from the sad waste of latent talent, any society where there is one group so badly represented in unemployment figures has a ticking time bomb in its midst. But who is going to represent them? Who is listening to their aspirations?
I am not sure that is where a council of old white guys will be focused. I am not sure they will get out of bed in the morning and say, “I couldn’t sleep last night worrying about Maori and Pacific unemployment.”
The current system of First Past the Post continues to fail Maori. The Electoral Act of 2001, which has provision for establishing Maori wards has not been used other than in the Bay of Plenty – where the sky also hasn’t fallen in.
Sure, people will say Maori and Pacific Island peoples should put their hands up and run for election – but to run in this city means joining one of the two main parties. Maori then would be beholden to the policy lines of the party and not able to express an authentic Maori viewpoint or successfully promote Maori issues within their own party.
Rodney Hide and Mayor Banks are disingenuous when they say Maori Wards can happen under existing legislation and that Aucklanders can decide if they want to establish them. The problem is that in establishing two Maori wards there would then be two fewer general wards diluting further the voice of other Aucklanders. So we would be asking Aucklander’s to vote in a public poll to establish Maori seats and in doing so reduce their own representation. Not a winnable option for anyone.
Throughout early New Zealand history there are many examples of giving Maori what appeared to be a chance for advancement that turned out to be a trick of light and shadows. In the 21st century I am sure we can do better than that.
IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence) was set up to organise Maori opposition to the proposal to establish a Super City without reserved Maori seats as proposed by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Auckland Governance.
The aim of IHI is primarily to reverse the Crown’s decision ensuring there are at least 3 Maori seats.
IHI also aims to network with other community groups to promote a greater understanding of the consequences of the proposed Super City. IHI simply means power. It is the power of the people that can reverse the Crown’s decision.
IHI organised the Hikoi on 25 May 2009, organised submission writing in good faith that the Select Committee process would mean something – in light of Cabinet’s decision to deny Maori seats on the proposed Council we are now considering the next step.
We want the Crown to honour its exisiting agreements with Tangata Whenua.
- To create better and more diverse representation in local government
- To protect mana whenua rights
- To protect the land, sea and people
What can you do?
Watch this space – a range of strategies are currently being planned to address the Cabinet decision on 24/08/09 to deny Maori the three Council seats recommended by the Royal Commission for the proposed Auckland SuperCity.
Use your IHI (power) to influence all people around you to make Tamaki Makaurau – Auckland the diverse, inclusive, soulful and energetic city it can be.
- Order a Hikoi T-Shirt ($10 each).
- Telephone, visit or write to your MP and the Prime Minister: c/- Parliament Buildings, Wellington. (freepost) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Consider other options for affecting the positive change required and share them with us below.
Contact your IHI Area Coordinator/s to get involved:
- East & Central Auckland: Monique Pihema – email@example.com; (09) 521-4291
- South Auckland: Mane Tahere – 0211581132 / Kowhai Olsen – firstname.lastname@example.org; 027 7238357
- West Auckland: Helen Te Hira – email@example.com; 021 0554969
- North Auckland:–Rangimarie Aperahama firstname.lastname@example.org; 021 974224