Why did I enrol on the Maori Roll?

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Kia ora. My story is typical of many young Maori males.

m2497enzOne weekend a few years ago, I was walking through Opotiki with my cousin Sonny and we came across a Maori man standing on top of a small step ladder. He was talking about the time when Maori owned all of the land in the area and how that was taken away with the show of the gun and the stroke of a few pens. It was radical stuff so we stayed for a few minutes to listen.

At the end, the man came down, gave us a hongi and wondered it we were enrolled to vote.

Vote for what, matua?

Vote for me and our political party into Parliament, he replied. There’s an Election coming up this weekend. What we needed to do was select and support Maori leaders into the Beehive so that they could speak up for our culture and traditions in a largely Pakeha system.

In 1867, 4 Maori seats were established and the first 4 Maori MPs entered the House. This was in stark contrast to the very first General Election in which less than 100 Maori voted a decade earlier. We heard that most Maori preferred to deal with the Kingitanga and various Maori movements alive during those times. Still, the 4 Maori seats were minor compared to the 72 European seats. In a way, not much had changed.

Maori now have 7 Maori seats that cover all of Aotearoa – Te Waipounamu, from a total of 121 Parliamentary seats.

Added to that, it is said that at least 15 other Members of Parliament have Maori whakapapa, though not all actively acknowledge nor get involved with Maori hui, marae hui, tangihanga etc.

A new factor are the 1 in 6 Maori who live in Australia, who often have no say either here or in Australia.

Anyway, those macro issues werent as relevant to my decision to join the Maori roll. I was more local and here & now.

What was important to me was the connection we made with this man. He spoke simply and honestly, not telling us what to do but more sharing his world, which was really our world, and getting us excited about getting involved with his movement. He said that had very little chance of getting in but they were all patient, saying that one supporter was all they needed. My cousin Sonny and I both looked at each other andwe knew that our 2 ordinary votes would be important.

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That weekend, we went to the local school and voted – Tame Iti, Mana Motuhake.

He didnt win that election but has gone on to win our hearts with his actions and subsequent sacrifice.

If I were to pick 3 reasons why I joined the Maori roll they would be:

* Hardly anyone talks about us – young, Maori males – in a positive way in the Beehive. Perhaps our vote would mean that finally, we would be respected and made tofeel like part of the nation rather than part of the problem.

* Im proud to be Maori – I have travelled the country and the world to know that our way of living is unique, despite what many others say. My whakapapa has Maori all the way through it and our place in this country is significant, which makes my little 1 vote toward our small 7 Maori seats extraordinary. We do matter and the best way to express that is to engage and participate.

* One day a Maori will be Prime Minister – about the same time Maori got the right to vote, so did African Americans in the United States. Not too long ago, the US voted in an African American President, which opens the door for a young dynamic Maori to do the same here. If you say that publicly, you will be ridiculed and called racist but one day, it will happen and that quiet, silent white roof of power and authority will finally be cracked and broken. Heres hoping.

So the call is for more Maori to enrol and then decide which roll to join.

It seems a simple option but from what we are hearing informally, only 1 in 10 will newly enroll and 2 in 10 will decide and join one roll or the other. Judging by those numbers, Maori will not get an extra seat, although our population says a new seat is viable.

At the same time, if all Maori had to enroll on the Electoral Roll, it would clearly show we have major numbers. But then again, telling all Maori to join a system that still sits uneasily in many communities would cause resistance and an entirely new battle would ensue.

So basically, the reason I enroll on the Maori roll is because it is exciting to think about what is possible with my one ordinary Maori vote.

The Maori MPs have been Kingmakers in the past and that could happen again next election.

And thats mean – imagine if all the votes were counted and it all came down to your one final vote to decide which party will run the country. Would you place your hopes in the future or say you were too busy to be bothered to even vote?

Lots to consider whanau. Kia kaha ki a tatou.

Further Reading:http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/maori-and-the-vote/setting-up-seats

Also: Maori Electoral Option 2013:http://www.elections.org.nz/events/meo-2013

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