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Barry Brill

Rotorua Gerrymander is a Blatant Power-Grab

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The Labour Government has surrendered to a terrible temptation. The glittering prize of perpetual power has swept away their traditional respect for constitutional conventions, their political ethics, and even their commonsense.

They are legislating for those electors who can claim some Maori ancestry to have no less than three times the voting power of all other Kiwis. They know that people on Maori Rolls will almost always vote for the Labour Party. 

Voters on Maori Rolls vote overwhelmingly for the Labour Party. Or for Parties to the left of Labour. They do not – ever – reflect the same voting patterns as voters on New Zealand’s General Rolls.

The Maori Vote

The New Zealand electorate as a whole is fairly evenly split between right and left. Since World War II, there have been 25 Parliamentary elections which have resulted in 15 National-led Governments and 10 Labour-led Governments. Polls indicate that voters on the General (ie non-Maori) Rolls consitently favour right-leaning parties over left-leaning parties in a ratio of about 55:45.

During that period, the Maori seats have been almost wall-to-wall Labour[1]. The National Party has never even looked like winning a Maori seat. It is many years since National has even been a runner-up. In the last election, the Party Vote went:

                                            Total Vote             National      ACT         Total             Centre-Right %

Hauraki-Waikato                   25,062                    915         322         1237                     4.93

Ikaroa-Rawhiti                       25,884                    593         223           816                     3.32

Tamaki Makaurau                  26,786                    832         284         1116                     4.16

Te Tai Hauauru                       26,253                    786         316         1102                     4.19

Te Tai Tokerau                        27,792                   1002        363         1365                     4.91

Te Tai Tonga                           29,882                   1685        822         2507                     8.38

Waiariki                                  27,699                     651        257          908                      3.28

                                             189,358                                               9,051                   4.77%  

To the extraordinary extent of 95%+, the Maori vote is a vote for a left-leaning outcome. This is the case always and everywhere. To endow Maori with super-voting rights is to endow Labour with more political power.

Maori 3 : Kiwis 1

Last week, Labour list MP Tamati Coffey introduced to Parliament, the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, which aims to legislate two Wards for future elections of the Lakes District Council, being a Maori Ward and a General Ward. In addition, there are ‘at large’ votes for Council and Mayor.

The current population of the Maori Ward is 22,000 compared with 56,000 in the General Ward – ie the constituency is made up of 28% Maori and 72% General. The Bill provides that each Ward will elect three Councillors. This would endow each Maori vote with three times the elective power of each General vote.

This special Act of Parliament over-rides the general law for Maori Wards – legislative provisions were inserted into the Local Electoral Act by this same Government only one year ago. That law requires Wards to be roughly the same population, so that a vote in one Ward is worth as much as a vote in any other Ward.  Clearly, Labour’s ambition has grown hugely in the past year.

In recent years, many aspects of Local Government have been radicalised. While our Councillors once concerned themselves with services to residents – water, roading, sewerage, rubbish collection, parks & reserves, stormwater, libraries, etc – now they take positions on national and international fashions like race relations, climate change, gender issues and welfare. These extensions are usually controversial, with conservative voices wanting to “stick to the knitting” while the radical voices want to save the world.

Once the precedent of the Rotorua Bill is disseminated, the left-wing voice on nearly every Council will become dominant. In the contest of ideas, a heavy left thumb will be placed on the scales.

The Equality Convention

As far as I am aware this Bill is the first ever attempted rejection of the electoral principle of ‘one person one vote’, since plural voting was abolished in New Zealand in 1893.

Te Ara (Encyclopedia of New Zealand) records that ‘manhood suffrage’ was adopted in New Zealand in 1879, after nearly 40 years of debate. It goes on to say:

Another key reform followed in 1889, when plural voting by freeholders was abolished, establishing the principle of ‘one man, one vote’. In 1893 New Zealand would achieve worldwide fame by embracing a far more radical political principle: ‘one person, one vote’.

For at least a century, this principle has remained the cornerstone of democratic systems of voting worldwide, including, in particular, those countries whose constitutions are built upon the Westminster system of Parliamentary sovereignty.

So important is the principle of equal voting power that Parliament has recognised it in one of our few constitutional statutes, the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990. Section 12 provides that:

Every New Zealand citizen who is of or over the age of 18 years has the right to vote in genuine periodic elections of members of the House of Representatives, which elections shall be by equal suffrage and by secret ballot…              [emphasis added]

The Labour Attorney-General has not brought to the attention of the House that provisions in the Bill appear to be inconsistent with the rights and freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights, as is required by s 7 of the NZBORA.

One might assume that Hon David Parker is relying on the technicality that the Bill of Rights does not expressly mention  Local Government elections. But that is sophistry. Civil rights are based on principles and the principle of one person one vote is fundamental to democracy at all levels. The Treaty of Waitangi itself upheld the principle of “one law for all”.

Canary in the coal-mine

The Rotorua Bill is a spearhead. It tests the waters for plans such as He Puapua and Matike Mai Aotearoa which seek to transform this country into a Tribe-dominated ethnocracy.  

Nobody sees the Rotorua Bill as a one-off. As Kiwiblog puts it:

Make no mistake, if this law passes for Rotorua, it will eventually become the standard everywhere – for all Councils, and eventually for Parliament. Anyone who denies this is deluded. The Māori Party openly advocate for this.

We have recently heard multiple Maori voices undermining the concept of democracy, and demanding an ethnocracy in its place. The Maori Party says that “majority rule does not work for Maori”.  He Puapua, which is being pushed strongly by Minister Willie Jackson, relies upon majority rule being set aside.

John Bishop recently warned in “The agenda for transforming our constitution”, that Labour’s Maori Caucus “seeks not constitutional change but “constitutional transformation”.  He quotes a report, supported by Maori politicians that says: “the Westminster constitutional system as it has been implemented since 1840 does not, indeed cannot, adequately give effect to the terms of Te Tiriti

In introducing the Rotorua Bill, Tamati Coffey, spokesman for the Labour Party, says this:

Democracy, at its very fundamental is Greek. The parliamentary process that we partake in right here, that we’ve cut and pasted for our Chamber, right here, is actually English; this is from a Westminster system. There is nothing to preclude us being able to tweak democracy to make it work for us here in Aotearoa.

This is partnership. This is what we want. This is what Māori have always wanted. “It’s part of a larger conversation, because there are councils all around the country right now that are talking about the idea of co-governance. It’s a very important kaupapa.”

So, is this type of ‘partnership’ the future?  Will the voting public rebel? Will Maori people (not Tribes) object to wearing the blame for this gross unfairness?  This Bill is the canary in the coal-mine.

The Death of Democracy?

The Rotorua Bill introduces a principle of basic inequality which is foreign to the thinking of New Zealanders. It repudiates our proud tradition as one of the world’s oldest liberal democracies. And it elevates political identity above all the traditions, standards and belief systems that are the essence of being a New Zealander.

The principle of this Bill renounces once-and-for-all the vision of New Zealand as a modern multi-cultural society, where all citizens have equal civil rights – ie all are equal before the law.

The Labour Party is well aware of the enormity of the step they are taking in the Rotorua Bill.  There is an all-or-nothing quality about it. It crosses the Rubicon … burns the boats. The secrecy, deceit and deniability that surrounded the party’s anti-democratic agenda is now gone forever.

The stakes are very high. If Maori votes can be trebled, then the Labour Party and its left-wing allies could could remain in power indefinitely.  On the other hand, this power-grab could create a huge push-back which could put paid to their election chances for a very long time.

After this Bill becomes law, New Zealand will be a fundamentally different place. Different from the country we grew up in. Different from Australia, UK, Canada and USA (the Five Eyes partners).  And different from France, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and all the other liberal democracies around the world. Only Fiji has gone down this path before…. and then reversed itself when it became an international pariah.

This will also mark the first occasion New Zealand will intentionally drive a bulldozer through a UN Treaty that it formally ratified some 60 years ago, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights 1966, in which Article 26 provides:

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

National Co-Governance

In the view of He Puapua, there should be two Parliaments. Prime Minister Ardern has rejected that – but she has acknowledged that Maori have long been over-represented in Parliament and she supports the Maori claim for even greater political power.

If the “principles of partnership” justify trebling Maori votes in Local and Regional elections, then how could the Labour Party differentiate in NZ-wide elections?

Here is that glittering prize of perpetual power for the left.

In the 2020 election, the Maori Roll provided 189,358 votes, about 6.5% of the total Party vote. On the General Rolls, 2,705,128 voted, (The non-vote was about 20% on General Rolls and 30% on the Maori Roll).

Using those figures for a future election that reverts to the mean, Labour would collect 179,890 (95%) from the Maori Roll and 1,217,308 (45%) from the General Roll. National would receive 9,467 from the Maori Roll and 1,487,820 from the General Roll. National would win the Party Vote by 100,089 or 3.5% of the total vote.

BUT if the value of Maori Roll votes were to be trebled (as in the Rotorua Bill) then the Labour majority in the MR vote increases by 340,846 and Labour wins the election by 249,757 or 8.6% of the total  people voting.

What will be the likely effects of such a bare-faced gerrymander? More than half of the country would be frustrated, feeling that the election had been “stolen” by Maori radicals. There would be endless litigation. The “Protests at Parliament” of 2022 will pale in comparison to the “gilets jaune” type protests that would be seen throughout the country. Yes, there will be violence. The fabric of our society will be shredded. Race relations will be set back a hundred years. 

If the remnants of our democracy survived the backlash, the Labour/Greens would remain in power throughout the foreseeable future. What a prize this Rotorua Bill must seem to them!

[1] The exceptions being the Maori Party and NZ First (one election)