Racism and Representation: A Case Study of Local Government in New Zealand
This paper explores issues of culture, identity and racism in New Zealand using Māori participation and representation in local government as a case-study. Since 2002 considerable national discourse has focused on racism in New Zealand. Liberalism's basic principles of equal rights and equal opportunity underlie the arguments that ensure the values, systems and viewpoints of the majority culture prevail in New Zealand. The rhetoric promotes the notion that New Zealand is a united nation, with one standard of citizenship and one rule for everyone. Recent changes to local government electoral legislation provides the opportunity for better minority representation but those changes are being characterised as undermining democracy and providing special treatment for one sector of the population. The 2004 local government elections have demonstrated that even though local governments can choose an electoral system that could enhance their minority representation, less than ten percent have chosen that option. This paper will discuss why Māori participation in local government is limited and how this lack of representation marginalises Māori culture and values and institutionalises racism.
Keywords: Culture, Identity, Racism, Maori, Representation, Local government
Dr. Ann Sullivan
Associate Professor, Department of Maori Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland