Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970
The Maori Council
The Maori Council
There is no doubt that the New Zealand Maori Council's decision to support the All Black Tour placed a powerful weapon in the hands of Pro-Tour groups to beat the Anti-Tour protest with. Maoris, it seems, are for the Tour.
But what is the NZ Maori Council and who does it represent? If you don't know then you share something in common with most Maoris. Briefly the Council's structure is as follows:
Local Maori Committees elected by Maoris triennially (the last elections were in April).
Executive Committees representing up to 5 committees—2 members per local committee on the executive.
District Councils—2 members from each executive sit on these councils (of which there are 8 in New Zealand).
The Maori Council—2 or 3 members from each District Council sit on the New Zealand Maori Council itself and comprise the national executise.
This structure and its undemocratic indirect nature barely compares favourably with the form of government in South Africa's first Bantustan in the Transkei. Fortunately, (unlike the Transkei) it can be changed and there will probably be changes in the near future.
The Councils difficulties are only partly due to its cumbersome structure. If reasonable activity was maintained at all levels it would not be so bad, lor the last 3 years and in previous years this has not been so. The following examples illustrate the situation:
Executive members representing defunct committees.
Some District Councils representing committees of which 50 percent or more are defunct.
Executive with 2, 1 or even no local committees
District and Maori Council Members representing paper committees.
Power struggles at District level for representation on the Maori Council.
Furthermore the Council is rurally oriented and urban Maoris are as yet sparsely represented. Ignorance of the Council and its many affiliated (dead?) bodies is widespread among urban Maoris. They are utterly confused by the structure and aims of the organization.
The Council cannot, as yet, confidently claim to represent Maori opinion but many pakehas think it does. Nothing short of a compulsory referendum would reveal what the majority Maori opinion is, but the Maori Advisory Board of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union and others are adamant that the Maori Council speaks for the majority.
It is interesting to note by contrast that the more widely represented and more democratic Maori Women's Welfare League opposes the Tour.
The composition of the Council is very intriguing, Maori National Party candidates get a triennial hiding at general elections, but they emerge triumphant through the labyrinth of the Council's structure. It is their consolation prize. Such members include Mr Henry Ngata, Mr Graham La turner, " the Chairman, Sir Turi Carrol, and Mr Pei Jones.
It is a generalization to describe the members of the Council as conservative Maori 'oldies'. There are a few young members and (in November 1969) one woman. Neither is the Council entirely inflexible in its opinions nor unanimous in its support of the Tour. On the Tour issue (unlike most pro-Tour groups) it has reserved the right to change its mind should future events and circumstances warrant this and what was once a unanimous decision has become less popular (by November 1969). The sole woman member of the Council opposes the Tour and 5 or 6 others abstained from supporting it.
One humorous aspect of the Council's decision is the fact that it has been greatly influenced by a non-white South African. He is described in the .Council's magazine Te Maori, as a great Christian, South African and World leader. But for some strange reason he does not have anything as mundane as a name.
The fact that the Council can not represent majority Maori opinion effectively is not entirely its own fault. Pro-Tour groups and others such as the Maori. Advisory Board of the NZRFU and Maree Wehipeihana of the Dominion-Sunday Times) should not attribute to it a political wizardry which it does not possess.