The main arguments against co-governance in relation to three waters are:
- It’s racist
- It is undemocratic.
Both are zero:
- It’s not racist because the “Maori” representatives are there not because of their race, but because the plain language Treaty of Waitangi recognizes the iwi/hapu (tribal) property rights to their assets in New Zealand in clauses 2 and further guaranteed by clause 3. Representation of co-governance reflects the significant and continued ownership of Maori tribal rights.
- It’s not racist because all voices are heard equally and accountability is held equally by success measured against goal achievement for everything people regardless of race (for example, drinking water and sewage disposal). The goal is not be defined in such a way that a race benefits indirectly, as has often happened in the past. If there were problems and somehow Maori got all the water, or judging from the past got all the sewage, a national level reaction would occur. The government is always responsible and able to act.
- It is democratic because local government democracy fails to guarantee and provide clean water and sewage disposal. To remedy the failure of local democracy, the responsibility is transferred to the level of the national government which is ultimately responsible and fully democratically accountable. Democracy continues, it’s just the place where democracy happens that changes. Administration was divided into regions and asset owners were also consulted to make regional decisions. If problems arise, the government can take action. All voices will be heard.
- Levels of representation are not justified solely for the above reasons. And not just because of the existence of the Maori language translation of the treaty which clearly shows that the chiefs were not relinquishing sovereign tribal authority, but also because the practical reality is that an owner of private property must be consulted. It would be very strange if the owner of a private real estate property was present at a negotiation on his property, a current and real property, and a bunch of other people just told him what was going to happen.
The absurdity of the accusation of racism can be seen in the assumptions behind it.
- It assumes clearly defined distinct racial groups. This ignores the huge amount of racial mixing that has occurred. It would be more accurate to say that the distinction in levels of representation is not about race but about how people identify culturally. But even that is not true, it is about property rights.
- It assumes that Maori are a unique identity and voice, but we all know that there are many very different voices among Maori and they will overlap with many other New Zealand voices.
- He assumes that race makes a difference but does not say how.
- It ignores how New Zealand identity is changing and people are adopting more of a Maori identity, with language expressions, Haka, arts, clothing, symbols and culture. We are all becoming inhabitants of the Pacific, or more Polynesians; or we are all more Maori. I suspect that one day many people will consider themselves Maori; at least culturally Maori. Whatever you want to call it, there is change and it is good because it helps to change the injustices of the past that persist in the present. The greatest risk of change is mass immigration which is being used to boost our economy; the risk is that it will dilute this change.
But I don’t know what the future holds. Let’s face it, there is a risk that an elite group will morph into a new aristocracy and Maori like all other New Zealanders will simply be divided into haves and have-nots. Many changes in New Zealand and Maori societies are needed to stop this. At this point, co-governance is a positive step in redressing the divisions between haves and have-nots, and past injustices.