While an MP bridles against neckties, voters who oppose Maori wards are being told to get knotted


While a Maori Party MP was grandstanding against colonial oppression and discrimination by refusing to wear a necktie in Parliament, the government was rushing the passage of a bill which will grant Maori a significant electoral advantage by subverting democracy at the local authority level. 

The grandstanding was done by Rawiri Waititi, who – when kicked out of Parliament on Tuesday for breaching a dress code that has since been changed – told Speaker Trevor Mallard: “It’s not about ties — it’s about cultural identity, mate.” He described a necktie as “a colonial noose”.

The bill being rushed into law removes voters’ right to veto the imposition of Maori wards on city and district councils.  This contradicts the Labour Party’s 2020 election manifesto, which stated:

“Labour will uphold local decision making in the democratic institutions of local government… Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.”

Yeah, right.

But under the Bill as it stands, tens of thousands of ratepayers in local authority areas where petitions have already been announced and signatures have been collected, will have their lawful democratic rights revoked.

As political commentator Karl du Fresne points out, the majority’s right to determine the form of local government representation in their communities is being scrapped to enable Maori (invariably part-Maori) candidates to bypass the need to win popular support.  Successful candidates will be responsible only to constituents who claim Maori ancestry.

The legislation comes under the ministerial responsibility of Nanaia Mahuta, who happens to be accountable only to Maori voters as MP for Hauraki-Waikato, a Maori electorate.

She is unabashed about hurrying the bill through the select committee process, as became apparent in her response to a parliamentary question yesterday:  

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Government consider it adequate consultation—say, for councils or other public bodies—to call for public submissions one day and require those submissions be in by 5 p.m. the next?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: In taking into account public consultation, I have factored in 19 years of a provision which is discriminatory and several councils having local conversations with their communities around trying to establish Māori wards, which has often been divisive. I have taken on board the number of councils who have petitioned me to make a change to this legislation, and, while the select committee process is a short time frame, this issue has been around for a long time. These provisions are clearly discriminatory and need to be changed so that communities who want Māori wards can have them.

Meanwhile in the offices of ministers responsible for education matters, a press statement was being prepared to signal plans to  change the school curriculum. 

The heading blandly said “Curriculum Refresh for Clearer, More Relevant Learning”.

A strong hint of something more substantial can be found in the opening sentence:

The national curriculum for schooling will be refreshed over the next three-to-four years to make Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and The New Zealand Curriculum clearer, more relevant, easier to use, and more explicit about what learners need to understand, know and do, Associate Ministers of Education, Jan Tinetti and Kelvin Davis announced today.

This was among the latest announcements from the Beehive which include –

  • Cabinet has confirmed formal Government approval for use of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, after Medsafe gave provisional approval last week.
  • New rules under the Residential Tenancies Act have come into effect. The government’s reforms aim to improve security of tenure and enable tenants to put down roots in their communities.
  • Children and young people in more than 300 schools and kura are part of an programme that brings together learning about healthy eating and drinking habits, while also taking part in quality physical activity through a joint initiative between Sport NZ and the Ministries of Health and Education. The Government has invested $47.6 million over four years to build on the success of other government programmes across physical activity and nutrition to foster healthy and active learning environments and better connection to communities.

In their “refresh” statement, Tinetti and Davis say that during the next three-to-four years, each learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum will be refreshed – beginning with New Zealand’s histories in the Social Sciences learning area this year, followed with the content for Mathematics, English and Science learning areas in 2022.

The refresh will review the large number of achievement objectives currently in the curriculum and aim to provide greater clarity about progress across the curriculum to ensure all learners are reaching the milestones they need to.

It will also seek to strike a balance between the learning that is important nationally and that which is relevant locally, and professional learning and development has been prioritised to better support schools to develop their local curriculum.

“I know parents, teachers and whānau want more certainty about what tamariki need to learn in schools and kura – their progress, strengths and where support is needed – through a curriculum that focuses on wellbeing, identities, language and culture,” Minister Tinetti says.

Davis says the most important shift is to address equity, trust and coherence through integrating the He Tamaiti Hei Raukura framework.

“Ākonga need to learn from a curriculum that is rich in te reo and tikanga Māori, is meaningful to them and their whānau, and equips our tamariki with the skills and wellbeing they need in this ever-changing world” says Minister Davis.

“It’s time to take the next big step for ākonga by strengthening Te Marautanga o Aotearoa in partnership with whānau, hapū and iwi, grounded in the key values and aspirations of te ao Māori,” he says.

Tinetti contributed her expectations:

“I know first-hand the challenges our teachers face,” Minister Tinetti says.

“These changes seek to reduce teacher workload by providing greater clarity and guidance on what to teach and when. They will help teachers to plan and deliver engaging learning experiences that mean all our tamariki progress and meet their key milestones.”

Educators will be supported through the curriculum refresh – it will be developed collaboratively with opportunities at all stages of the refresh for the education sector, learners, parents and whānau to be involved.

More information on the national curriculum refresh can be found at www.education.govt.nz/national-curriculum-refresh

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