Waatea News Column: Why banning anti-Maori petitions is true democracy


The decision by the Government to step in and stop the anti-Māori petition law from derailing Māori representation at Local Council is true democracy at its best.

The Don Brash mob alongside the Taxpayers Union and ACT have been shrill in their claims that this represents the ‘hijacking of local democracy’ which aside from being the type of irrational and over the top rhetoric that has made American politics so toxic, it is also a woeful definition of democracy.

For ACT, Don Brash and the Taxpayers Union, their definition of democracy is naked majoritarianism where the majority ensures the repression of minority views.

When that minority are the indigenous people of a land, this definition is insulting as well as offensive.

By removing the 5% petition trigger to allow white reactionaries to block Māori representation on Local Councils, this Government are standing up for a true definition of democracy, one that considers representation as more important than the simple tyranny of the majority.

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Letting anti-Māori petitions stand in the way of political representation laws that were enacted so Māri could gain a voice on the local council is egregious to the egalitarian project that is Aotearoa.

No one is losing any rights here, no one is gaining any special rights, all Labour are doing is closing a legislative loophole that is deforming our local representation.

There is nothing to fear by including Māori in local decision making, that was the promise of the Treaty Partnership and the only thing we should feel is embarrassed that it’s taken 181 years to get here.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. It is important to note, Martyn, that the petitions merely call for a referendum on whether or not the proposed Maori ward/s should proceed.

    Similar provisions exist for testing the mood of the public over proposed local authority amalgamations.

    I suspect you would find a significantly greater level of support for the proposition that the will of the majority should prevail over the will of the minority, than you would for the proposition that the will of the minority should over-rule the preferences of the majority.

    Indeed, it is difficult to see democracy working on the basis of any other principle.

    • This depends on whether on considers democracy to only exist where there is one person, one vote. When a democratic system acts in a way that denies a fair say for one sector of society, is that really a true democracy.
      It is quite possible for democracies to exist that aren’t based on one person, one vote. For instance, the Chinese believe their one party system is a democratic system because it represents the will of the people.

      Are Maori sets democratic? Not really. But by existing, they have allowed Maori to have a say despite being in the minority. Having Maori wards on councils works on the same principle.
      Sure, not truly democratic on the basis of one person, one vote, but democratic because it will allow Maori voices to be heard on councils.

      Incidentally, interesting historical fact – Masterton didn’t have its first Maori councillor till the 1980s despite one person, one vote. It could be argued in that case that the one person, one vote system was being used to deny Maori a say and so was an obstacle to true democracy.

  2. It’s a democratic move, because in a democracy we want more people to vote not less. As it currently stands, a significant proportion of Māori just do not vote in local body elections. With many, if not all, believing it is an utter waste of time. With Māori wards it puts the burden of Māori representation back on Māori to vote. Otherwise it will be captured by Māori elites who are no different than Pākaha elites. Oh the irony of that one can’t be lost on the likes of act and tpu.

  3. Will those of one iwi accept what is done by another iwi member even if they have been elected.
    It is agreed by most that the RMA needs changing to get houses built but I see so many disputes around the country where house building is being stopped by local maori. Ihumatao has given others hope that they can do the same..I predict there will be a lot of hui not much doe

    • Outside of the iwi, the elites speak for the iwi. inside the iwi, they do not. Macro and micro are radically different things. The narrative has changed, the use cases have changed and so will we. It’s impossible not to change because there are no mechanisms that treat humans as property. They cant be sold so these are sources of inertia.

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