On the importance of woke whiteys (to other whiteys)

New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd announced this week that he would not seek re-election, due to the abuse he has received after his campaign to introduce a Māori ward representative to the New Plymouth District Council. You can hear his interview with John Campbell here.

Nobody deserves to be spat at on the street. The tragedy is that the spitters, of insults and of phlegm, don’t realise what a favour Andrew Judd has done them.

Much has been made of the favour that Judd’s stand has done for Māori. But two Māori candidates for that council have said Judd needs to go further. They rejected his call for a Māori ward, but they believe he should stand by his convictions and keep fighting. Māori do not have the privilege of walking away when it all gets too uncomfortable.

Bill Simpson: “If Mr Judd was Māori, and he came up with the same issues, do you think this would be publicised as strong as it is now?”
John Campbell: “My honest answer is probably not.”

Simpson: “Maori have been saying what Mr Judd has been saying for a number of years but no-one has actually paid attention.”

This is typical of the Indigenous experience: their histories, their stories and their lived reality is disregarded until it can be corroborated by white folks, and often not even then. It all goes double for women and other power minorities.

It’s not new, or isolated. White society systematically disregards Indigenous views, and not just for contentious, contemporary stuff. In 2003 Australian university researchers led by Heather Builth demonstrated using geographical, chemical and computer analysis that the Guditjmara people of what is now called southwestern Victoria had, for about 8,000 years, constructed and maintained a vast system of weirs and canals to farm eels. Eel farming is something modern societies struggle to do effectively, and 8,000 years is a long time ago — roughly at the same time as humans first domesticated chickens. This was an achievement of incalculable value for hundreds of generations, not only the Guditjmara, but also their trade partners and the other mobs who adapted the technology for use in their own country. But its very existence needed to be anointed by the proper authorities before it would be recognised. Guditjmara man Ken Saunders:

We weren’t nomads. We didn’t wander all over the bloody place and gone walkabout. We had an existence here … Well you couldn’t have a blackfella telling that story. So to prove it we had to have a white person doing the scientific research to say this is real

The dynamic is insidious. In Aotearoa we have come a long way from the bad old days of being caned for speaking te reo Māori, changing names and trying to pass for Pākehā, and most of that progress has not been due to the efforts of woke honkeys, but by the dogged struggle of Māori swimming against a white tide. But little gets done in New Zealand without at least the acquiescence of the dominant White society, because white society only listens to itself. And so it often takes people like Andrew Judd and Heather Builth to usher these contraband discussions past the sentinels of public discourse.

I used to write a lot about this sort of thing, but I have no real standing to talk about this stuff, except that I am Pākehā, and therefore less easy to write off as another crazy radical. It’s easy for woke whiteys to pat ourselves on the back for and doing those poor brown folks a favour, bestowing our privileged advocacy on them, but the only way it works is if we talk to ourselves. Indigenous people are better at fighting their own battles than we are. But because little happens without our acquiescence, there is a role for woke whitey race-traitors working to change our own people.

So from my perspective, Judd’s stand is of greater benefit for other Pākehā than it is for Māori. As I wrote earnestly in 2011, honouring the Treaty is not simply about doing what is right for Māori, but about white New Zealanders honouring our own principles and standing upright on this ground that we occupy.

So it’s really very simple: as Tau Iwi, if we live here in Aotearoa, we have an obligation to do our bit in ensuring the Treaty gets honoured. Because to the extent it remains unhonoured, we’re in breach of the only thing which grants us any enduring legitimacy, the only agreement which gives us a right to be here. One of the basic, fundamental principles of the English civil society which Hobson represented, and which New Zealanders continue to hold dear today is the notion of adhering to one’s agreements; acting in good faith. In fact, Hobson’s instructions were to deal with the Māori in good faith as equals. … I’m Pākehā, and even if those other pricks won’t live up to their own declared standards, I want to honour my agreements, and those of my forefathers; and those made by people from whom I’m not descended but from which my 20th-Century immigrant grandparents benefited. This Pākehā, at least, pays his debts.

Andrew Judd is a good model for this. I am not. I had the fortune to be brought up by a mother who lived with Māori and grew biculturalism into our bones, and I have never been properly able to grok people who think the Treaty is a farce, that bygones should be bygones, or that Māori should just be more like “us”. Judd came to it as an adult with his eyes open to the monoculture that grudgingly permits biculturalism to exist, and he tried to change it in a meaningful way.

Another good model is Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy, who was roundly mocked (including by me) as a part-timer with no credibility for her role, but who has repeatedly proven her ability to learn and own the job. These are the people white New Zealand needs: people who know that insidious racism isn’t just a redneck thing, or a Tory thing, or a South Island thing, but something intrinsic to society that is, nevertheless, curable by honest engagement with the historical facts. The people who hold these views are, by and large, just ordinary decent folk afflicted by banal prejudice and ignorance about the realities of a divided society.

White Aotearoa is right, in its way: these divisions harm us. New Zealand would be a better country without racism, without the poverty and crime and dysfunction that results from racism and from the systematic exclusion of a small but growing proportion of our people from full access to education, healthcare, prosperity and influence. Quite apart from the value of basic justice, there are more measurable benefits: the greatest gains begin from a low base, and there is a vast opportunity for Aotearoa’s underprivileged and under-utilised Indigenous people to make enormous economic, cultural and intellectual contributions to the nation. Some already do, and what a difference it makes.

Judd’s bid to ensure Indigenous representation on the New Plymouth District Council failed, and it seems certain that even were he to stand for re-election he would be beaten, because what Mike Hosking said is basically true: he is out of touch with middle New Zealand, and thank goodness! Middle New Zealand is wrong, and it needs to be told so by people whose views it cannot dismiss out of hand. Judd has showed White Aotearoa a way forward. Not an easy way, but an honest way to be true to ourselves, and we owe him our thanks.


9 thoughts on “On the importance of woke whiteys (to other whiteys)

  1. Lew, there is a much better way of ensuring Māori get elected to the New Plymouth District and other local councils – by putting in place the STV voting system, with all councillors elected at-large (city- or district-wide).

    Māori make up 15% of the NPDC’s population. If STV were adopted, Māori voters would have sufficient voting strength to elect at least two of the 14 councillors citywide, on their own terms, if that is what they wanted, with incumbent councillor, Howie Tamati, still able to be elected primarily by Pākehā voters. That is because the quota for election would only be 6.67% (one-fifteenth) of the votes cast.

    If councils were elected by STV at-large, Māori candidates who wish to campaign on, and promote, Māori issues, would be able to do so with the expectation that the votes given for them would accumulate upon the most popular candidate(s) among them, to elect one or more of those candidates. In other words, Māori candidates could be elected without having to say what the majority Pākehā electorate wants to hear.

    Under STV at-large, all councillors will be elected on the same quota of votes, and will therefore enjoy equal standing on the council, their popularity being indicated by the final percentage of votes they each needed to keep, to be elected – what is known as their Final Keep Value.

    The corralling of Māori-roll voters into a single-seat ward will only ensure that the separately-elected Māori councillor will be elected on far fewer votes than his or her council colleagues, because there will be little incentive for Māori-roll voters to vote – their representation will be guaranteed whether they vote or not. Under STV, they will actually have to vote, in order to get what they want, just like all other voters.

    And, as we have seen in the Bay of Plenty, under FPP conditions, councillors elected from separate, single-seat Māori constituencies are often re-elected unopposed, with Māori-roll voters therefore being effectively disenfranchised for that triennium.

    No doubt such a system makes the Māori elite happy: ordinary Māori voters, not so much.

    The adoption of STV at-large (as has been done by the 15-seat Palmerston North City Council) is how you get fair and effective Māori representation on local councils, not by manipulating an already unfair FPP voting system, thereby making it even more unfair (to everyone).

  2. I have just finished watching my earlier recordings of ‘The Hui’ and ‘Marae’.

    Tau Henare on ‘The Hui’ came closest to identifying the problem of the lack of fair and effective representation for Māori on our local councils – well, in the North Island, at least. He said “democracy” doesn’t allow Māori to elect Māori candidates on a “kaupapa Māori basis”. Yes!! That is the issue, which I addressed in my post, above.

    Of course, the panels on both programs were actually alluding to the fact that it is the (multiple-)FPP voting system that routinely shuts Māori out, without actually expressing it in those terms. As I have opined elsewhere in this regard, in the 10-seat New Plymouth ward of the NPDC, for example, 85(%) times 10 beats 15(%) times 10, every time.

    All the people involved in these two discussions would have known that STV is an option for local councils, yet no-one mentioned it as a potential solution to the problem. Even New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd failed to mention it when talking to Mike Hosking on ‘Seven Sharp’ the other night, both of them inexplicably preferring to talk about MMP instead.

    Separate, single-seat, FPP wards are not an effective solution to Māori under-representation on local councils. STV at-large is. However, in those councils where Māori don’t have the voting power to elect candidates on a kaupapa Māori basis, even with STV at-large, co-option of local iwi representatives onto council committees, as is being done in Masterton, is a perfectly reasonable alternative.

  3. Steve, thanks for your comments. While you are right about STV, the burning issue at hand here wasn’t really the lack of Indigenous representation, which is pretty typical, but the response, which wasn’t.


  4. Good post Lew.

    Just curious what you make of the Maori Party who get roughly 1-2% of the vote in elections but Maori are roughly 15% of the population.

    Where are the other votes going?

  5. The Rotorua Lakes Council granted representation to Te Arawa under the Te Arawa partnership Model initiated by current Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, and there has been a fierce hostile reaction led by the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society, now the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Inc. If Chadwick and her faction on Council lose out in this year’s local body election there is every possibility that the Te Arawa Partnership Model will be revoked.

    In the short time that they have served on Council, the Te Arawa representatives have acted with decorum and sound political judgement which is more than can be said for the majority of “elected” councilors.

    The problem for those “left” leaning regular Councilors who want to retain Te Arawa representation is that many of their number are tainted by a history of financial and political scandals and general mismanagement while some of the right-leaning or centrist Councilors who oppose Te Arawa representation on the grounds that it is undemocratic are respected for their political integrity and financial probity. The problem for Te Arawa is that while their own representatives are highly competent, too many of their allies among the “regular” Councilors are anything but capable and honest.

    Therefore the Rotorua experiment, despite its successes, may not survive the next election. Would that be such a bad thing? Perhaps not. Te Arawa have much to contribute but little to gain from involvement in the shambolic and corrupt system of local government. They would be better to concentrate their efforts to forging a new political order open to pakeha as well as Maori, but independent of the chaos created by the British colonial regime.

    That may be the way things go in Rotorua, and possibly in Taranaki as well, and it may not be a bad outcome.

  6. Daniel, when Māori vote at all, they largely vote for Labour, as they nearly always have.

    That the māori party still exists at all is pretty remarkable, given that they’re seven years into a right-wing coalition government, have changed their entire leadership, and seen off a radical insurgent challenge from one of their former MPs.

    I’d still argue they’ve done more good than harm in their government-support role, but I’m pretty sure most of the left (and many Māori) would disagree with me, and they’ll be last cab off the rank again for any foreseeable Labour-led government. Hard times ahead.


  7. Thanks, Lew. If you are referring to the public response, I take your point. I suppose *my* point is that Andrew Judd had two ways of bringing a “tangata whenua voice and an understanding of Te Ao Māori [the Māori world] to the main table” (as quoted in the Dominion Post in March last year): a separate, single-seat, Maori ward (elected by FPP), or by recommending the council resolve to adopt STV (or to hold a poll on the electoral system). Predictably, he chose the far less democratic option, and got himself into a lot of hot water as a result.

    While I believe he felt he was doing the right thing, the fact is he had not campaigned on the issue: basically, springing it on his councillors, and the public. Sure, the council voted 8–7 to pursue the idea (with his vote carrying the motion), but the public reaction was also predictable, especially given the fact the council could have resolved to hold a poll under section 19ZD of the Local Electoral Act 2001. By not doing so, the electors were forced to spend time and effort collecting the signatures of at least 5% of the electorate necessary to demand a poll under section 19ZB.

    In short, Judd either completely misread, or chose to ignore / ride roughshod over, his public, and is now suffering the consequences. In this regard, I hasten to add that none of this excuses the ferocity of the reaction that he has reportedly experienced, but, with a little more thought on his part, and that of his council, in all likelihood, those consequences would never have occurred.

    Hopefully, when councils in future consider how local iwi can be effectively represented on council, they give proper consideration to the non-(racially)divisive STV option. No-one is going to object to Māori candidates, campaigning on a kaupapa Māori basis, being elected to council, if they were elected under the same electoral conditions as all the other successful candidates.

  8. I tend to the view that separate representation for Maori should be mediated through tribal structures. Otherwise the political benefits would be much reduced and the provision could more plausibly be dismissed as a race-based distortion of the electoral process.

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