Constituional review could subvert democracy

Not only is David Round concerned but so too is Dr Elizabeth Rata who is an associate professor in the Education Faculty at Auckland University and a member of the Independent Constitution Review Panel. She writes:

Biculturalists have morphed from the inclusive biculturalism of the early 1980s with its idealistic commitment to difference in unity to a separatist iwi politics. The first stage of iwi politics began in the late 1980s with the reinterpretation of the Treaty as a so-called “partnership”.

This saw the insertion of partnership principles into almost all New Zealand legislation. We are currently in the second stage – one that is hotting up with proposals before the Hauraki Gulf Forum for “co-governance” of the Gulf. This will cement in the so-called Treaty partnership and justify a place for the Treaty within a New Zealand Constitution.

Those who object to this, and I am one of these, do so for two strong reasons. Co-governance establishes a political system where the power and authority of one party, iwi, is unchallengeable. 

That party is not appointed by the people and is not therefore accountable to the people. The undemocratic nature of co-governance is made worse by the criteria for belonging to the Treaty partner. Membership of iwi is fixed in genetic ancestry. Unlike democracy which allows for all comers, a group whose membership is fixed in the past has no room for newcomers.

The Treaty partnership model of co-governance will subvert the fundamental principles of democracy. Democracy is a political system of equality no matter what your heritage, and a system of accountability no matter what your race or religion. As equal citizens each of us can call our political leaders to account. If iwi as Treaty partner was co-governor we could not do so.

This makes the matter of the Treaty’s status of great importance to us all. To simply assert that the Treaty is our founding document, as Deborah Coddington has done, is not good enough.

Not only are there other contenders for the status of founding document (if we want one); the 1852 Constitutional Act springs to mind, but the strategic use of the Treaty in iwi politics to undermine democracy at all levels of our political system means that the Treaty is tainted as a symbol of national unity.



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  • rouppe


    Good word….

  • nasska

    The thin end of the wedge is showing. Statistics NZ estimate the numbers identifying as Maori in 2012 to be 680000. If we presume that the elite are 5% of the total then about 35000 people have a huge influence on the use of assets previously considered as under Crown ownership.

    The wishes of one Maori of a self chosen iwi clique equals 130 people of European, “other” Maori & all other people who identify as New Zealanders. Worse than this the rort has only started.

    Things are going to get ugly.

    • Pete George

      It needn’t get ugly. We just have to get organised to advocate strongly for what is fair and reasonable.

      • nasska

        It’s probably too late for that Pete. For the past twenty odd years the spineless appeasers we elect to govern us have been working hand in hand with the greedies to allow this to happen. Retention of the Privy Council may have given us hope but the left leaning Supreme Court will merely rubber stamp anything the Maori elite put their hands on & say they want.

        We’re stuffed.

        • Pete George

          If we accept it’s too late then it will be. If we give in we will be stuffed.

          But I don’t buy that. This has to be contested by all of us, not just by some Maori trying to manouvre the Government.

          I’m stuffed if I’ll stand aside and just let it happen.

    • Barry

      Nasska, if things DO get ugly, which side do you think all those part-maoris in our police force and our quaintly named defence force will be on?

      • nasska

        I’d like to think that their loyalty would be to the Queen & therefore the government regardless of how they personally felt. Maoridom is incredibly tribal & if things got rough I pick that it would be between a particular tribe & the locals. In that case the lines would probably hold.

        What I think will actually happen will be Auntie Tariana’s “gangs are all whanau” new mates who will back the elites. An alliance between the Maori gangs & the Maori elite would be a meeting of like minds.

  • Pete George

    This could be a big battle, but one we should fight very strongly over.

    We should be aiming for a better balanced democracy, and this means opposing any attempt to give preferential (and especially unchallengable) treatment to any one group.

    The constitutional review should receive the biggest focus, but there are smaller battles. For example currently claims to a part of the radio spectrum under the Treaty of Waitangi are being addressed.

    Valid tribal claims under the Treaty need to be completed. But overreaching must be vigourously contested.

    We have allowed this to become Government versus Maori interests – and the rest of us have done far too little (or nothing) to claim our balance of rights.

  • tarkwin

    Was it Winston who suggested if we all decided to call ourselves Maoris the problem would go away?

  • spollyike

    Don Brash was right, John Ansell is right! All the calls from the PC lefty, feminist, rainbow, apologizers is just an attempt to smokescreen the issue and keep the majority in their place and scared to step out into the open and stand up for what we think is right. In NZ the squeaky wheel always gets what they want, the noisy minorities, the womens health advocates, the bike helmet lady, we have a long history of not telling these groups to shut the fuck up and harden the fuck up. It’s time we took back New Zealand and made this treaty bullshit an election issue, even a referendum, get rid of maori seats – they’re racist, get rid of maori electorates – racist also, get rid of political parties that represent an ethnic group and advocate apartheid policies – racists, get rid of iwi corporations that don’t pay tax, get rid of the tribunal and council, get rid of special schools just for maori that the tax payer funds – apartheid again, get rid of easier entry requirements for maori into professional training i.e. lawyers and doctors – apartheid again. Holy crap, the list goes on and on doesn’t it?! What the fuck have we let this country become, we should be ashamed of our apathy!!!

    • Pete George

      Some Maori overstepping in their quest for disproportionate power does provide an opportunity and possibly will be the catalyst that gets everyone else off their chuffs and stand up for equal democratic rights.

      Unless the peeps just moan and do nothing. Again.

    • Hazards001

      Sorry sport but your insert would have had more power if ACT hadn’t been the instigator of the Super City and the creation of an unelected Maori council with voting rights on it!

      MMP sucks arse! (so does the super city…cheers Rodders)

  • Simo

    A couple a hundred thousand angry NZ Europeans banging on the marae doors should do it!

  • thor42

    WO and everyone –

    John Ansell’s blog says that there is a debate about the Treaty at Te Papa next Thursday (24th Jan), 6.30pm.

    Quote – “And now they’re inviting us to a debate — about ”Finding a Place for the Treaty”.

    Inexplicably, they don’t say why we should necessarily find a place for the Treaty at all.

    But, as it happens, I have one in mind — certainly for the piece of paper that Dame Claudia refers to as the “official” Treaty.

    So. If you have a place you’d like to put the Treaty, come and join me at “Our Place” next Thursday evening, January 24th at 6.30pm.

    I’ll be the one handing out Treatygate information sheets, and possibly waving a placard or two.

    If you enjoy next Thursday’s ’Debate’, you may want to come along to this next one a week later on January 31st.

    As you know, the Constitutional Advisory Panel is very keen to hear your views on the place of the Treaty.

    Let’s make sure they do.”