Bruce Moon: Nelson Council supports race based wards against wishes of ratepayers

Nelson is generally considered to be one of the more congenial cities in New Zealand and perhaps in the world – the climate mild and the people relaxed.  As is to be expected, there are rather less residents of part-Maori descent than in most North Island towns.

They are well integrated into the community, at least as noted by this observer, and follow a variety of trades and other occupations.  Nelson also has a good record in welcoming refugees and settlers from other parts of the world, Bhutanese of Nepalese descent being just one example.  The children of both newly settled and old play together happily at kindergarten, all well on the way to becoming good citizens of their town and country.[1]

People being what they are, some years ago a move was initiated to confer more political power on those of part Maori descent, giving them a special Maori ward on the Nelson City Council.  In a ratepayer-initiated poll in May 2012, 79% of voters rejected this move.  The result was abundantly clear – Nelson did not want such racist privilege.

And so councillors elected in 2019 were surely well aware of the wishes of those they were to represent. But in New Zealand, racism never sleeps.  At its meeting on 22 September, the Nelson City Council “voted not to pursue a Maori ward”, citing “discriminatory laws” as a reason.[2]

Well now, just by what twisted line of reasoning does our worthy Council consider that legislation is “discriminatory” - in the reported words of Mayor Rachel Reese[3] - when it protects us against flagrant racism which would give more power to one section of the community?  Moreover, she is to write to the Local Government Minister, asking for a change to the 2001 Local Electoral Act to remove this protection of what she calls, inexplicably a “discriminatory piece of legislation” which is there to thwart racist discrimination!

To all this, Ngati Rarua spokesman Shane Graham comments “All we want is a voice at the table, ... to partner with our partners”.  Well, what other special interest group would not likewise want “a voice at the table”?  Nice work if you can get it.  And of course he trots out the fake “partnership”, now a basic article of faith to Governor-General Patsy Reddy[4] and through all ranks of government.

Labour Party member Brian McGurk is quoted as saying ”the racists and bigots will be in full cry” if another poll were to be conducted.  Racists and bigots, Brian?  Surely not those people who oppose the special privilege of racist representation?  Perhaps you could look in the mirror to see what a real racist looks like!

And to teenage councillor Rohan O’Neill-Stevens, the recommendation did not go far enough to condemn the “disgraceful and racist law regarding Maori wards”.  Well no, Rohan, the present law is there precisely to protect us against any disgraceful and racist provision for special Maori wards.

Chiming in to support him, councillor Pete Rainey calls the absence of an elected Maori voice a “dark scar on local government”.

Well, no, worthy councillors.  You appear to have forgotten the people you are there to represent and 79% of them do not want any section of the community to have any council members chosen by a racist process.

In concluding Mayor Rachel Reese claims that “the legislation is poor” and that “to say nothing ... is not representative of the partnership we have with iwi”.  Such a “partnership” may be her delusion.  It is not shared by 79% of those Nelson people who expressed their views.   As she received less than 30% of the valid votes for mayor cast at the 2019 Council election, she may care to reflect on how limited is her support amongst the people of the city of Nelson and to temper her actions accordingly.

Bruce Moon, 25 September 2020

[1]     For several months I was a volunteer storyteller at Nelson South kindergarten and so speak from personal experience.

[2]     Tim Newman: 'Stuff', 22nd September 2020

[3]     Ibid, as are further quotations.

[4]     Mayor Rachel Reese, in her acceptance speech