Under Jacinda Ardern’s progressive Government, the momentum for change is intensifying.

A new radicalised narrative now claims that Maori have been oppressed since colonial times and their over-representation in disadvantage is the fault of the descendants of the colonisers.

Meng Foon, Labour’s new Race Relations Commissioner is promoting this propaganda: “I will use my statutory function to… address the ongoing and destructive effects of colonisation and structural racism.”

The former Mayor of Gisborne appears willing to attack anyone who undermines his agenda – as Andrew Hollis, newly elected to the Tauranga District Council, recently found out.

Andrew’s crime was to speak his mind and say that people have had enough of Treaty claims, that the Waitangi Tribunal ‘is past its use by date and is just a joke’, and that it’s time to “end the gravy train”. That this was posted on Facebook long before he’d decided to stand for election, seems to have been overlooked by Meng Foon in his haste to criticise.

In calling for the resignation of this democratically elected Tauranga councillor and implying the 7000 people who voted him into office got it wrong, the Race Relations Commissioner has revealed his contempt for free speech – and democracy.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator Bob Edlin, a veteran journalist and editor of the Point of Order blog, explains that it was not only the Race Relations Commissioner, but the Maori elite who were also keen to sideline the new councillor:

“As criticism of his opinions mounted Hollis said he had plenty of support. He also said he looked forward to working with iwi. He may not get the chance to demonstrate how willing he is to do this.

“Buddy Mikaere, a former director of the Waitangi Tribunal and another voice in favour of Hollis stepping aside from the council, said he would take every opportunity to ensure Hollis played no part in any discussions involving iwi matters because he had a conflict of interest.

“Important constitutional questions are being raised here. The muzzling of democratically elected councillors, for example.”

Bob is right. Our freedom of expression is protected in law – if the Race Relations Commissioner continues to attack this crucial freedom, he should be replaced.

Buddy Mikaere should also be careful what he’s calling for. When he says, “So this guy has got a conflict of interest which seems to me would disqualify him from any participation in any council business that has to do with Maori interests”, it goes both ways. Iwi representatives on councils are hopelessly conflicted and under his reasoning should have no say in matters affecting iwi.

While the Tauranga Council has appointed iwi onto committees, any move to give them voting rights should be opposed, since such a change would alter the democratic vote and – as a matter of principle – any proposal that affects voting outcomes should be decided by a public referendum of voters.

All around the country iwi are deliberately ignoring this by aggressively demanding that councils appoint them onto committees with voting rights – insinuating opposition is racism.

The new Palmerston North City Council recently voted 13 to 2 to appoint iwi representatives onto several key committees with full voting rights, in spite of two-thirds of locals opposing separate Maori representation in a referendum held last year.

In Otago, iwi representatives with voting rights will remain on the Regional Council, despite a bid by four councillors to oppose them. They pointed out that consulting with iwi did not need to involve voting rights, but their defence of democracy fell on deaf ears.

It was the same story in the Waikato, where the District Council approved Maori representation with voting rights on three council committees, with only one councillor in opposition. 

In New Plymouth – another council that had strongly opposed Maori wards in a referendum – a Maori representative with voting rights was appointed onto a new committee, with the only councillor in opposition, Murray Chong, unable to even get a seconder to his motion that the voting rights be removed.

To be continued…