In his opinion piece on co-governance, published in the mainstream media on June 26, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, suggests it is a way to “lift up Maori, empower Tangata Whenua at the decision-making table.”
Significantly my local newspaper declined to publish this counter argument, an indicator that our mainstream media are no longer as professionally objective as have we a right to expect.
Firstly all people born in New Zealand are rightly Tangata Whenua (natives of the land) without distinction and regardless of ethnicity. The law actually prohibits race-based divisions. Secondly there is nothing to prevent Maori from participating in local or central government now and never has been.
There has never been any impediment to any ethnic group in New Zealand from getting involved in politics at any level. The Race Relation Commissioner himself rightly points out that we have a very diverse Parliament but that is a result of MMP not the creation of a duality of citizenship. He also gives example of successful co-governance of rivers and lakes between Maori and local authorities but that is very different to 50% co-governance by Maori or any other group of something as essential as drinking water or guaranteed seats on local bodies unless the community at large approves of them. To imposed them invites the anti-Maori rhetoric, which he rightly says is inappropriate. That response is a direct and predictable result of Government policies which perpetuate the myth that Maori have some form of citizenship rights non-Maori don’t have.
He is wrong however to dismiss the genuine concerns of many people to these developments as “ugly allegations of separatism, Maori elitism or a Maori takeover.”
It is very easy, and bordering on the dishonest, to play the race card in these debates. To do so suggest there is no other argument and the only way to shut down the discussion.
If we persist with the establishment of two classes of citizenship in New Zealand based on ethnicity there will be an unavoidable contest for supremacy between them.