In a letter on Treaty Settlements Office Ministerial letterhead dated 9 September 2019, Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little, in regards to a pamphlet arguing that everyone ought to be treated equally before the law, stated: “The pamphlet….. curiously ignores the fact that Maori were not treated equally before the law between 1840 and about 1922 when Maori women were finally granted the franchise”.
The fact is that Maori women, who received full rights of British subjects under Article 3 of the Treaty, received the vote in 1893 alongside their European women equals. Such misinformation is insidious in that it creates a grievance mentality in the minds of supposed victims and can be used to justify legal privileges awarded to those with Maori ancestors. And in this case the misinformation promoted by the Office of Treaty Negotiations could clearly have the ability to affect the judgment of Minister Little in the execution of his duties as Minister for Treaty Negotiations (four yearly budget of $1.4 billion) as well as his conduct of Marine and Coastal Area Act negotiations.
Unfortunately, this misinformation appears to be in general circulation. For example, recent correspondence received by the author from a young Maori City Councillor included the following statement “Are you aware that less than 100 years ago today, Māori still did not have the right to vote, nor seats, nor representation? And Swedish commentator Johan Norberg: “New Zealand was in some ways a democratic pioneer, but the indigenous population did not have the right to vote”[i]
The facts are:
The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852
- granted all men (including Maori) meeting the property qualification (owning land to the value of £25) the vote
The Maori Representation Act 1867
- granted all Maori men the vote on the newly established Maori roll. Maori men who met the property qualification could also vote on the (then called) European roll, to distinguish it from the Maori roll
Electoral Act 1879 [ii]
- abolished the property qualification for European men
It is little remarked upon, but the establishment of the Maori roll meant that Maori men achieved the universal franchise twelve years ahead of European men when the property qualification for European men was finally abolished.
Electoral Act 1893
- granted all women (including Maori) the vote (refer Clause 7 below)
Maori women were automatically placed on the Maori roll under Part V of the Act, while European women were placed on the European roll under Part II. A half-cast Maori woman who met the property qualification could apply to transfer to the European roll (but not vice-versa).
Despite having being originally established as a temporary measure to ensure Maori representation, and for many years neglected by successive governments, the Maori electorates have remained and indeed today are fiercely defended by many Maori.
While it is not clear that the Office of Treaty Settlements is deliberately spreading misinformation, it is a serious issue that Mr Little and others in positions of authority could be the victims of misinformation propagated by the Office. It does not bode well for our future.
22 January 2020
[i] Progress, Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, Norberg, Johan p150.
[ii] Qualification of Electors Act 1879 (43 Victoriae 1879 No 40): http://www.nzlii.org/nz/legis/hist_act/qoea187943v1879n40373/
See also: The Truth About the Maori Seats: Jeremy Sparrow: https://www.otago.ac.nz/law/research/journals/otago036316.pdf