Oct 2, 2013

Is it past time to abolish the Maori Council?

The Maori Community Development Act 1962 is up for review. Although Mana points out that the timing is suspicious, the Act remains more or less the same – 51 years later. The review is seeking feedback on the future of the Maori Council and options for improving the Maori Wardens and Community Officers.

Sir Graham Latimer (second from the left) after the
Maori Council's historic win in the Lands case. H/T Te Ara
I’m stuck on it. Maori society is becoming increasingly iwi-centric. Power is shifting from pan-Maori organisations to iwi. Movements and organisations like the Kingitanga, the Maori Women’s Welfare League and the Maori Council can’t compete culturally, economically or politically. Iwi are pushing the Maori Council out. 

But here’s the qualification: urban Maori. They’re the forgotten tribe. Iwi aren’t a catch-all. Pan-Maori organisations –think of service providers like the Waipereira Trust, the Church and the Welfare League – catch urban Maori. The Maori Council does too. If the Council is abolished urban Maori are deprived of one the few advocates that they have. 

That's a reason to keep the Maori Council. But it must be reformed. It’s a labyrinth: there are Maori Committees, Maori Executive Committees, District Maori Councils and the New Zealand Maori Council. The structure needs to be simplified. Abolishing the regional bodies and maintaining the national body could be an option. The regional bodies are cumbersome. The national body could draw its membership from regional groups - like iwi runanga and urban authorities like the Manukau Urban Maori Authority - rather than regional council's and committees. There's a perception (and maybe a reality) that the Council isn't accountable. Layers of bureaucracy contributes to that perception.

It's 2013 too. The Act's focus on social and economic wellbeing is underinclusive. The Council's focus should be expanded to include the environment and conservation. People, markets and the environment is preferable to people and markets only.

The Mahanui Maori Council in 1902. These regional groups were a precursor
to the 1962 Act. Eagle eyed readers will spot Apirana Ngata in the centre.
H/T Te Ara

In their own words:

The New Zealand Maori Council has achieved a number of gains for Maori including the adoption of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986, the reform of Maori land resulting in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, the 1989 Maori Fisheries Act and the 1992 Sealord’s Act. The review of the Maori Community Development Act 1962 should be seen as another opportunity for Maori.

Reasonable people can and will disagree with that. The Maori Council didn't work in isolation. But we might be a decade behind but for the Maori Council's work. Still, that's no reason to oppose reform. The Maori Council needs it and now. It's 2013. If they stay the same, they'll be left behind.  

1 comment:

  1. This is certainly not the time to be discussing abolishment, it should be about upholding and uplifting the mana of the NZMC for without them, government will walk all over Maoridom as their last obstacle is removed so they can open the doors for multinational corporations to march on in, ruin our lands and water by fracking for gas, destroy our beaches as we've seen elsewhere, take our gold and minerals, and for who??? Give NZ a pittance and take the lions share. So no, the Council needs to stay to challenge the Crown and government, hold them accountable. Government should also resource them more and the Wardens stay under Council or go under govt agency could risk being re-structured out of the system altogether. Wardens, dont let the dangling carrot mislead you, we either unify or kiss our self-determination goodbye. Lori Paul

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