27 Sep 2017

Māori seats decision 'should be for Māori to say'

10:48 pm on 27 September 2017

A decision on the future of the Māori seats in Parliament isn't one for the Pākehā majority to make, the Māori Women's Welfare League president says.

Māori Women's Welfare League president Prue Kapua.

Māori Women's Welfare League president Prue Kapua. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Prue Kapua criticised the institutional racism of successive New Zealand governments in her speech to the League's conference in New Plymouth today and said a referendum on the Māori seats would yet another example of it.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has said he wants a referendum on the future of the Māori seats and it is likely to feature in coalition negotiations.

Labour, which swept the Māori seats, has ruled it out.

It was not an idea Ms Kapua supported either, saying it should be for Māori to decide whether the seats were abolished or not.

"As I talked about today, those whole issues of institutional racism and decisions being made by the majority don't sit well.

"A decision on whether we have Māori seats is not a decision for the Pākehā majority to make."

Ms Kapua said the League stood outside politics, but may have to extend its advocacy role following the demise of the Māori Party.

"The issues that we are absolutely fundamentally concerned with are much bigger than politics.

"It's about our tamariki, it's about our whānau, it's about education, it's about justice and the variances that occur in politics we just have to deal with them who ever's there."

While the League had the history and the network to work with whichever political parties took control, Ms Kapua said, some delegates did have clearer preferences.

The Māori Women's Welfare League conference in New Plymouth today.

The Māori Women's Welfare League conference in New Plymouth today. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Tainui delegate Jamie Toko was hoping Labour could woo Winston Peters.

"For our people, Labour, Greens, New Zealand First coalition, because we have all seven Māori seats and will have a significant voice in a government that's led by Labour."

Robina Wicham of Patea reckoned it would be Mr Peter's call.

"He is the kingmaker and this stage, I'm hoping he'll go with Labour but I don't think that's going to happen.

"He may go with National because it's a bigger opportunity for him.

"To be honest he'll go with the one that will make him that kingmaker."

Many delegates were worried about the Māori Party's exit from Parliament but Kuia Makere Mere Pike of Waitara said that also presented the party with an opportunity.

"It happened for a reason. It's like a tree. When a tree has had enough it needs to die and then needs to come back to life, because the seed will grow again.

"So when the tree has gone and another seed is planted it will become truer to itself."

On the question of a referendum on the Māori seats, Ms Wicham expressed a fear common among delegates.

"I worry about what would happen for Māori.

"You know, if you go to other countries the indigenous people actually they don't have a say, so I would worry for our Māori in that sense."

The conference continues until Saturday and feature speakers including Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

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