NZCPR Weekly:

By Dr Muriel Newman

Maori privilege is on the rise and at an accelerating pace.

Reports are now emerging from around the country of iwi representatives turning up at confidential local authority meetings and demanding a seat at council tables.

They claim their authority comes from the Mana Whakahono a Rohe agreements in the Resource Legislation Amendment Act that was passed by the National Government in 2017.

At the time we warned these iwi consultation provisions would have serious consequences for local democracy by enabling un-elected and unaccountable tribal representatives – pursuing their own self-interested agendas – to sit alongside elected councillors and officials in a co-governance role.

The Minister responsible for this misguided law change was Nelson MP Nick Smith. He not only designed these agreements with Iwi leaders behind closed doors, but he then manipulated Parliament’s rules so they could be imposed onto the country without notice and in such a way as to avoid the submission process and any form of public consultation whatsoever.

At the time the NZCPR asked the new Prime Minister Bill English to remove the provisions from the Bill. We published newspaper advertisements urging the public to contact the PM and call for common sense.

In the ads we explained the new iwi powers included plan-making, consenting, appointment of committees, monitoring and enforcement, bylaws, regulations and other council statutory responsibilities – including over fresh water.

We warned that once these agreements were in place they would be there forever – unless there was a law change to repeal them.

The fact that Councillors and communities cannot prevent these agreements from being introduced shows the fundamental protections of democracy and the rule of law have now been completely undermined.

As constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks explained at the time, “The Bill entrenches permanent race privilege and corruption… The provisions are a major constitutional change. They subordinate powers entrusted to elected local governments, in deliberately obscure words, to racially inherited power, beyond the reach of electoral recall.”

Another example of Maori privilege that has been extremely detrimental to the national interest is the changes to the Charities Act that were introduced by Helen Clark’s Labour Government to allow some of the biggest businesses in the country to register as charities and avoid paying tax.

Until that time, any group wanting to register as a charity not only needed a legitimate charitable purpose – such as the relief of poverty or the advancement of education – but they also had to meet a public benefit test to ensure that tax-free profits flow into the wider community, and not into the pockets of private individuals and their relatives.

Since Maori tribal organisations are kin-based, they failed the public benefit test and could not gain charitable status. To sidestep this hurdle, Labour introduced an exemption from the blood tie disqualification for anyone involved in the administration and management of a marae.

As a result, mega rich corporations like Ngai Tahu have been able to register as tax free charities.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator researcher Dr Michael Gousmett, outlines the consequences of Labour’s ill-advised law change:

“It is interesting to read Ngai Tahu’s defence on their website of their charitable status and the income tax exemption that applies to its commercial empire: ‘The commercial success of Ngai Tahu needs no introduction.  A $170 million settlement in 1998 has, in the space of 20 years, been turned into $1.3 billion (give or take a dollar or two).’

“The phenomenal rate of growth of their empire has been achieved through the significant acquisition of many previously income-tax paying for-profit entities which overnight, because of the income tax exempt status of Ngai Tahu Charitable Trust as the sole shareholder, also claims that fiscal privilege – yet those activities are unrelated to the charitable purposes of the trustee.

“Over the past 20 years, there have been, at one time or another, 70 limited liability companies, 18 joint ventures and 3 associate companies under Ngai Tahu control.  Currently Ngai Tahu has 39 trading entities that are registered as tax charities. Today Ngai Tahu operate a substantial commercial operation that the taxpayers of New Zealand subsidise.”

With the Maori economy now topping $50 billion, Maori business corporations should not be subsidised by taxpayers. Their tax exempt status should be removed. It’s time they contributed their ‘fair share’ of tax to help build the country’s infrastructure and fund social services – just like everyone else.

In fact, when the Tax Working Group announced they intended looking into the tax treatment of charities, there was hope that Sir Michael Cullen would recommend what he proposed as Minister of Finance, namely, “Make trading operations owned by charities subject to income tax in the same way as other businesses, but with an unlimited deduction for distributions made for the relevant charitable purposes”.

However, recent comments by Dr Cullen that charities taking an “intergenerational” approach should be protected, may signal that more race based financial privilege lies ahead, not less – although it’s difficult to imagine what could be more generous than a zero tax rate!

Underpinning the growth in Maori privilege over the years has been the on-going battle for the Maori seats. These have become the political power base of the Maori sovereignty movement.

At present, sovereignty supporters are attempting to protect their power base through a Bill to entrench the Maori seats, so they can only be removed by a 75 percent majority of Parliament.

Labour MP Rino Tirikatene’s Private Member’s Bill, the Electoral (Entrenchment of Maori Seats) Amendment Bill is currently in front of a Select Committee, and he and his colleagues are busy travelling the country collecting submissions in favour of entrenchment.

To counter their contrived support, we urge anyone concerned about the growth of Maori privilege in New Zealand to send in a submission opposing entrenchment before the closing date of December 14th.

To assist readers, we have outlined a summary of the NZCPR submission to show the sorts of issues that can be raised.

But don’t forget, submissions to a Select Committee do not have to be complex – one that simply states support or opposition to a Bill for a single reason is quite sufficient.

Furthermore, since politics is a numbers game, the number of submissions received on a Bill is important. But don’t forget that submissions should not be reproduced word for word otherwise they may not be counted separately by a Select Committee.

The following format can be used – the NZCPR’s full submission can be seen HERE.

5 December 2018

Committee Secretariat
Maori Affairs Select Committee

Submission: Electoral (Entrenchment of Maori Seats) Amendment Bill

Dear Sir,

Thank you for providing the opportunity to make a submission on the Electoral (Entrenchment of Maori Seats) Amendment Bill.

This submission on behalf of ……… opposes the Bill on the following grounds:

1. The reason for the existence of the Maori seats has long disappeared

The Maori seats were introduced as a temporary measure in 1867 to give those Maori men who didn’t meet the property qualification, the right to vote. The seats were meant to remain in force for five years but were extended for a further five years and then indefinitely.

When all men gained the vote in 1879, the Maori seats should have been abolished.

Since the original purpose of the Maori seats has long disappeared, they should be abolished, not entrenched.

2. The Maori seats breach Section 19(1) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

In 1986 the Royal Commission on the Electoral System recommended abolishing the Maori seats to prevent an over-representation of Maori in Parliament, if our voting system was changed from First Past the Post to Mixed Member Proportional.

Since a quarter of all MPs in our Parliament – including the leaders or deputy leaders of all political parties – are now of Maori descent, the retention of the Maori seats following the introduction of MMP has resulted in a disproportionate over-representation of Maori in Parliament.

In 2010, a ruling by the Attorney General on the principle of proportionality noted, “In a representative democracy, it is important to maintain approximately the same level of representation for everyone.”

Since the Maori seats have increased the representation of Maori in Parliament to a level greater than their proportion in the population as a whole, they have become discriminatory and are in breach of section 19(1) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 – freedom from discrimination based on race. Accordingly, the Maori seats should be abolished, not entrenched.

3. The Maori seats are not suited to entrenchment.

Under section 268 of the Electoral Act, reserved provisions can only be changed through a special 75 percent majority of Parliament – or a binding referendum of voters. There are six reserved provisions, which are all constitutional in nature: the term of Parliament, the Representation Commission, the general electorates, the 5 percent electorate margin, the minimum voting age of 18, and the method of voting.

When the Maori seats were first introduced to give Maori men the vote, they were constitutional in nature. But once all men could vote, the rationale for their existence disappeared, and the reason they were retained was political.

Political provisions are not suited to entrenchment.

4. The Bill is in breach of Parliament’s rules

Parliament’s Standing Order 266 states, “A proposal for entrenchment must itself be carried in a committee of the whole House by the majority that it would require for the amendment or repeal of the provision to be entrenched.”

This means that a Bill to entrench the Maori seats should also be passed by a special majority of 75 percent of Parliament. The fact that the Bill does not specify this, means it is in breach of Standing Order 266 and should be rejected.

5. The Maori seats are no longer lawful

The Maori electoral population used in calculating the number of Maori seats is determined by the number of people who indicate they have Maori descent on their Census forms. However, in 1997, the Government Statistician decided to include a proportion of those who had not answered the Maori descent question correctly in his calculation. As a result, the number of Maori seats rose from 6 to 7. If the estimate had not been added, there would have only been 6 Maori seats since 1997.

Section 3 of the Electoral Act requires the Maori electoral population to be based on “the total number of ordinarily resident persons of New Zealand Maori descent as determined by the last periodical census”. However, since 1997 the calculation has been based on the census plus an estimate from the Government Statistician. That means the Maori seats are being calculated unlawfully. It would clearly be improper to entrench unlawful seats.


For the reasons outlined, the Electoral (Entrenchment of Maori Seats) Amendment Bill should not proceed. Furthermore, the Maori seats should be abolished.

Yours sincerely …

With Labour winning all seven Maori seats at the last election, we should expect to see new forms of privilege emerging, as iwi leaders make use of the negotiating leverage the seats provide. Not content with controlling local authorities, and potentially the whole of New Zealand’s coastline, they now have their eyes set, not only on the control of fresh water, but of government itself through the right to veto every Bill or regulation that is proposed.

The present system that is fuelling Maori privilege, has created a powerful ruling class that is having  a disproportionate influence over government affairs. As a result, the tribal elite are prospering, while their relatives remain mired in hardship.

The Royal Commission blamed the race-based Parliamentary system for the marginalisation of Maori, arguing that if the Maori seats were abolished then all parties would focus on addressing the problems of persistent deprivation. In other words, Maori privilege and separatism are not an answer, equality is.

It’s time New Zealanders opened their eyes to what’s going on and started demanding the removal of the discriminatory Maori seats.

You can download the submission form here, fill in your own details and send: Download

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