Tuesday, May 21

Why I am leaving the Māori roll and why you should too

It would be foolish of me to write this without acknowledging the fact that this is one that has the potential to upset some Māori and, with any hope, the government, and their friends. 

But nonetheless, it is one I feel strongly about, so if it means dealing with people’s ill perceived notions of who I am as a person so be it. All I ask is that people at least read what I have to say before forming judgement about me. 

To get to the point, I need to provide some of my own backstory. At 18, I did what a lot of people do. I enrolled to vote and spent the next 20 years not knowing or caring who I was voting for. I just did the same thing as my parents. And for me, that meant going on the Māori roll and voting for Labour. 

In 2017, I was slightly overjoyed to see the back end of National but that was short lived as Labour proved to over-promise and under deliver on those promises. 

In 2018, Jacinda made, what I think was one of the most condescending speeches towards Māori when she uttered the following words when speaking about issues to do with Māori –

“Ask us how we have given dignity back to your whanau”.

“Before you say to yourself ‘…but Jacinda was only trying to ask for accountability!’ think about this: Is it right for the Prime Minister to think that they hold anyone’s dignity? Is it right for a government to take such a patronizing position on 17% of the population, whose land on which they formed their government?

For me, it was an insult for anyone, let alone the Prime Minister, to think they hold anyone’s dignity or that people should ask a government how they gave it back to them and so in the 2020 election, being politically homeless, I wasted my vote on an independent candidate. It was a move I knew wouldn’t amount to much, but it at least would stop people saying “you can’t complain because you didn’t vote”. 

After watching the chaos that has taken place in New Zealand since Labour’s covid wave of victory in the 2020 election, I decided I couldn’t let another vote go to waste so I started educating myself on politics and how best to use my vote. It has been quite a journey and one I’m grateful to be on because it allows me to share what I’ve learned with others who find themselves in a similar situation and what I’ve discovered is this- 

Māori have been sold a lie when it comes to what the Māori roll, and a Māori seat MP represents. 

In November 2022 government passed their final reading on the Māori roll option. Had this law not come into effect the next option to change wouldn’t have occurred until 2024, after this year’s election. However, the new law which came into effect on March 31st, 2023, means Māori can now change what roll they’re on up until 3 months before a general election. That means until July 14, 2023, people can make the switch from Māori to general and vice versa for this election. 

It’s clear this was a move done intentionally to capture the Māori vote once the government realised there was no way they were going to get the youth vote across the line and have the voting age lowered to 16. If you’ve taken notice lately, you’ll see there is a big push to get people to cross over to the Māori roll.

The unfortunate thing about this law change is it has been packaged to make it appear like it is a good thing for Māori and that they’ve given Māori back their ‘power’ and ‘voice’ by giving them the chance to change rolls when they want. 

The reality is though they’ve left out some really important details about what being on the Māori roll means.

What they’ve neglected to tell Māori is that traditionally only Left leaning parties (Labour, Te Pāti Māori, Greens) and independents tend to be the ones who stand Māori seat candidates. National are standing 2 this year but this is a shallow effort by a party whose leader doesn’t see value in the Māori seats and hasn’t stood anyone in these seats for around 20 years.

Another important fact they’ve left out is that there is no difference in requirements for a General seat candidate and a Māori seat candidate so if people think by being on the Māori roll, they will get a Māori representative or one who speaks Māori this isn’t necessarily true. 

After checking the candidate guidebook for myself and not finding any requirement on Māori seat candidates, I called the elections helpline number to ask about it, only to be told the same thing. There is no difference in requirements between General and Māori seat candidates. Upon further investigation this ‘rule’ has been in place since 1967.

What also isn’t widely known is just how thinly Māori MPs are spread across their electorate. 

Where a General seat MP has one electorate, each Māori seat MP has an area that contains between 5 and 18 general electorates. There are 72 electorates in total. 65 general and 7 Māori. That means 7 Māori MPs are having to serve the same area as 65 General MPs. 

That seems unfair to both the Māori MPs and Māori voters who have been led to believe that being on the Māori roll empowers them and gives them representation. The way I see it is, it gives Māori less representation because our choices are severely limited in the first place and Māori MPs are required to serve far more areas. If they become Ministers, it means their time is even more limited as they juggle those portfolios as well. 

Attempts have been made to do away with Māori seats in the past. Obviously to no avail because we still have them, which is another reason for the big push to get people on the Māori roll and do the census because the Māori roll option and the census are how the number of Māori seats are determined in election cycles

As a traditional Labour supporter in the past, and one who has taken this Labour government and their Ministries to task on different matters over the last few years (state housing, covid, education to name a few) it strikes me as odd that a government that claims to care about Māori, neglects important facts in order to squash more of us into a box that doesn’t fit us.

For far too long, the narrative portrayed by those on the Left and in the media is that Māori are victims of the system and yet the Left continue to be the ones who perpetuate the victim mentality by limiting Māori with nonsense narratives.

If those on the Left truly cared about co-governance and Māori, they would stand on their merits by getting rid of the Māori seats and the limited choices available to Māori and have the courage to stand against their general electorate counterparts and prove to Māori and themselves that they have the skills and not just the right skin tone to get issues fixed that desperately need fixing. 

If there are two things I want those on the Māori roll to know it is this-

• When so many of us aren’t just Māori, why should we stay on a roll that severely limits our options? 

• You don’t need to be Māori to care about Māori or issues that affect Māori. I have met and talked to some amazing non-Māori who have given me more connection to my whenua than my own people and are far more knowledgeable about what is truly affecting Māori because of their own life experiences.

And so, for me, I have decided to use the government’s law change to my advantage and remove myself from the Māori roll so that I can vote for people and a party that better align with my own values. And what aligns better with me is the right to choose who to vote for based on what my values are and not just because “I’m Māori”.