Saturday, 24 March 2018

Wheelers Corner 12 25th March 2018

Wheeler’s Corner
“Connecting Citizens Who Care“. Every Monday at 4 pm on Access Manawatu 999AM” Join Peter’s blog  

 12 25th March 2018

2018’s Festival of Cultures was greeted by an overcast morning but regardless the numbers turned out to test the taste buds with exotic tasting food, or simply to chat with friends not seen for some time.Both applied in my case.

I moved amongst the hundreds if not thousands listening to or chatting with as they moved slowly around the circuit of tents. Each tent was named for a country, Malaysia, Burma, China and almost any country you can think off. 

The music was wonderful to my ears and the crowd showed their pleasure with heaps of applause.

This annual event really does prove that Palmerston is an international city its efforts in making new cultures settle in and find peace is a model other cities could copy should they feel inclined.

We don’t need Obama on our golf course paid for by Air Zealand as it continues to cut our air services, Funny that, this only came about after ex PM John Key became an director on Air New Zealand.

Palmerston North is in many respects ahead of other locations. We are forward thinkers, we learn from our errors. We also have Councillor’s who are far more socially advanced, after all the great majority of them, along with the Mayor voted for Maori Wards. Naturally we have a few who live in the long distant past opposed to the concept, we even have one that says one thing but does the opposite. Even the new National Party local party chairperson supports Maori Wards and that is a huge step forward for the party once led by Don Brash.

Based on my brief chats with dozens of individuals at the Festival of Cultures it would seem that many people don’t know the facts about Maori Wards. I found no one opposed but I did note that many had questions and I might add those questions were worthy of honest answers. I was reminded of a quote:

“Silence is the real crime against humanity”. Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope against hope.

Below are some honest and constructive answers to the many questions that arise when discussing the subject of local government and Maori Wards. I found that once the persons question were answered they seemed much more relaxed about the issue. 

I had to laugh when one or two elderly persons said that they were against Maori having their own wards at the hospital...once I assured them that the issue had nothing to do with hospital actually said that if the young Indian women who asked her to sign the petition had told her that bit of info she would not have signed. It was nice to meet someone so honest, oh and by the way she now supports Maori Wards and she assured me that she would let her friends know. That really made my day worth while.

2. Councils and Māori wards: your questions answered
What is a Māori ward?
Māori wards establish areas where those on the Māori electoral roll vote for their representatives on Council. They sit alongside the general wards.

Why do we need them?
Councils have legal and other obligations to ensure Māori are involved in local government decision-making.
For example, under the Local Government Act (2002) councils must:
·        Establish, maintain and improve opportunities for Māori to contribute to local government decision-making processes.
·        Ensure processes are in place for consulting with Māori.
·        Consider ways to foster Māori contribution to local government decision-making processes.
Māori wards are a way of achieving this by ensuring that Māori are represented in council decision-making.

Why can’t Māori just stand in general seats?
They can, however if they are elected they represent general not Māori interests, this means that councils’ obligations are not fulfilled.

Doesn’t democracy mean one person, one vote?
Māori voters still only get one vote, just like everyone else — they either vote in the Māori ward or general ward depending on where they are enrolled. The establishment of Māori wards doesn’t impair anyone else’s right to participate.
Democracy means government by the people or their elected representatives. Maori currently have a disproportionately low representation in local government. Māori wards allow for better democracy as people who are currently poorly represented can become more fairly represented.

Shouldn’t it be about merit?
Yes, it is. People who stand for Māori wards get elected on merit just like any other councillor.  

Why do Māori get separate wards and not any other group?
Including Māori in council decision-making is about sticking to agreements that have been made for the good of all New Zealanders.
Māori have a unique position as the first inhabitants of New Zealand, a position the New Zealand government recognised by supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The agreement that allowed for all subsequent people to come and settle peacefully here (the Treaty of Waitangi also outlines requirements for power-sharing]. The issues that are dealt with by local government are issues of deep importance and concern to Māori, like water, urban planning, and cultural heritage.

What are the benefits?
Māori wards mean that the people who need to be involved in council decision making are at the table from the start. The experience of councils with Māori wards show they support more effective decision-making.
Māori bring significant networks and knowledge to the table — their involvement in local decision-making benefits the whole community. This will bring a more meaningful and diverse viewpoint to decisions that relate to our community, environment and our future.

What will it cost?
Māori Wards will not mean additional cost to ratepayers. The number of Councillors will remain the same but one or two of those elected members would come from the Māori Ward.

I support Māori wards what should I do?
Vote Yes, in the upcoming postal referendum and encourage others to! Remind people that Māori wards allow for more effective council decision-making. Māori wards benefit the whole community — they are good for all New Zealanders.

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Peter J Wheeler

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