As we are away on a fishing trip, this report has been pre-prepared to keep any bored TRM inmates entertained during our absence. We have found the more contentious issues are best posted when we are away…
Every couple of weeks TRM enjoy inviting angler inmates to a “happy hour” to discuss fishing over a strong cup of tea (?).
After they have all told the usual fishy stories – aka lies about where, when, how big, how many, etc. – once the strong tea fires them up the topic often develops to other matters. Then the fun starts.
Locally we live in a region dominated by Maori politics – a good example is the Trout Centre Committee now comprises three Maori members, two from DOC (in their role as Taupo Fishery Managers) and two from the Trout Society. OK? Some anglers get quite bewildered about such representation and the history of licence fees payments to local Maoris.
Then it gets tricky as fishos love a good argument. So for those confused fishos TRM promised to dig out a brief history, which will only confuse them more – you be the judge of whether there is any real need for special Maori representation in Parliament?
What do Maori think of the Maori roll?
With the census done and dusted, (except for TRM where the census forms are still waiting to be collected?) citizens of Maori descent may now choose whether to vote on either the Maori or general roll.
Heavy promotion by the Maori Party in 2013, the last time Maori Electoral Option was open, resulted in 55 percent of the Maori voting age population opting for the Maori roll, with the remainder on the general roll.
The separate Maori seats have had a fraught history since they were set up in 1867, when extending the franchise to all Maori males aged 21 and over was a radical departure from the norm of linking political rights with property ownership.
From 1893 until 1975, those with more than half Maori descent were not allowed to vote in a European electorate, and those of less than half Maori descent did not qualify to vote in a Maori electorate and had to vote in a European electorate.
Subsequently, the proportion of all Maori on the Maori roll increased from 40 percent to 58 percent between 1991 (the last option before the Mixed Member Proportional Representation voting system took effect) and 2006.
The general election in 2017 resulted in 29 of the 120 seats in Parliament being occupied by MPs of Maori descent. With just seven Maori seats, 22 of these Maori-descent MPs are on the general roll.
Most TRM inmates have suggested that political rights should be based on citizenship, not ethnicity, and want a binding referendum on scrapping separate Maori electorates.
Maori seats outdated?
TRM inmates suggest it is clear that there is no longer any need for a separate Maori electoral roll or separate Maori seats in Parliament.
In New Zealand’s first election in 1853, to qualify as a voter one needed to be male, to be a British subject, to be at least 21 years old, to own land to the value of £25, and to not be serving a criminal sentence.
A number of Maori men qualified, although disputed ownership of customary Maori land that had no title meant many Maori who wanted to vote could not provide the proof to meet the electoral requirement.
The Maori Representation Act of 1867 aimed to address this problem and provided for the election of four Maori MPs by Maori males (including those 50 percent Maori) aged 21 and over.
This act established four Maori electorates as an interim measure for five years during which time the Maori Land Court, established in 1865, was expected to resolve title issues for Maori.6, this time indefinitely. Separate representation took on a life of its own as political parties courted Maori support.
In 1975, voters with Maori ancestry were given the option to choose whether to vote on the general or Maori rolls. This time to choose occurs every five years after a census. Those wishing to register on the Maori roll must answer a Maori-descent question.
The 2013 Maori electoral option resulted in 228,718 (55 percent) of Maori voters opting for the Maori roll and 184,630 (45 percent) opting for the general roll. A total of 8261 moved from the Maori roll to the general roll and 8859 went the other way.
During the 1980s, the Maori seats became linked with the Maori separatist movement.
The Royal Commission into the Electoral System in 1986 noted that separate representation had disadvantaged Maori and said a change to mix-member proportional representation (MMP) would bring more Maori MPs to Parliament.
The predicted increase in Maori representation came to pass. In 2014, 22 percent of MPs identified as Maori, compared to 13 percent in 1996.
Labour took six of the seven Maori seats, and the Maori Party took one seat and brought in one further list MP to reflect 1.3 percent party support.
The 2014 election brought to Parliament 25 MPs with Maori ancestry, 18 of whom came in on the general roll.
So is this evidence that there is no longer any need for special Maori representation in Parliament?.