Do you remember back in 2013, when the Government of the day undertook a constitutional review? This review featured the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori representation in Parliament and local government. Feedback from around the country was such that the Review Panel concluded there was no widespread support for constitutional change, and recommended that any significant steps in a constitutional journey only be taken following appropriate public participation and deliberation. However, both central and local governments are disregarding this recommendation as they forge ahead with significant constitutional change - doing so without seeking a mandate from the people.
In recent years there have been huge strides made by the Government toward radically transforming our constitution. Many, if not all, legislative changes now include a co-governance with Māori/iwi policy, thereby implementing separate Māori authority across multiple layers of government.
One of the latest to come to our attention is the plan for a radical remake of the nation’s science and research sector. As freelance journalist and columnist Graham Adams writes in his must-read article published on The Platform - ‘Next stop for co-governance - science and universities’ - “The inevitable conclusion to such a makeover, especially if the Green Paper is read alongside Te Pūtahitangi, would be co-governance with iwi of universities & Crown Research Institutes”.
Now that the policy of a Treaty partnership is well entrenched in central government, sights are being set on the local government scene. Hot on the heels of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill to legislate for dedicated Ngāi Tahu seats at the decision-making table, both Rotorua and Auckland Councils are also currently looking to the Government for legislative changes to implement a stronger role for Māori on their councils outside our democratic principles. The Rotorua Lakes Council is promoting a local Bill that seeks to introduce a representation model whereby the vote of someone on the general roll is worth only 40% of one on the Māori roll! As the organiser of a pro-democracy protest held in Rotorua recently said: "Co-governance is basically the antithesis of democracy....."
The Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill passed its first reading last night and has now been referred to the Māori Affairs Committee.
The public have been given only 13 days to make a submission on this bill which will destroy the democratic rights of most of the citizens of Rotorua - we have until 20 April.
Please make a submission. Although a local bill, it is setting a precedence - there is a very real danger that this undemocratic arrangement will be replicated throughout NZ if it is given the go-ahead. You can read more about this issue below - 'Rotorua Lakes Council pushing for Māori co-governance'.
In another grossly undemocratic move by the Government, the Wellington-appointed commissioners have had their stay extended at the Tauranga City Council for another two and a half years, despite the Tauranga community being promised that democratic elections would return this year. In response, the Tauranga Ratepayers Alliance has launched a petition to send a message to Minister Mahuta. See more on this below.
Another example of where the ‘partnership with iwi’ regime is being implemented is at the Otago Regional Council. Consultation is underway on a new land and water plan for the region. I find it disturbing that this is being developed in partnership with Kāi Tahu iwi. The partnership arrangement appears to ignore the fact that Kāi Tahu has sizable land holdings in the region – it is involved in several farming enterprises, including dairy, with plans to expand. Given that the economic interests of Kāi Tahu are an integral part of the iwi, one wonders what the Otago Regional Council policy is on managing conflicts of interest that surely must arise in this instance. If you share my curiosity about this, how about sending an email to the Chairperson of ORC - Andrew Noone at: [email protected]
Update on the Three Waters debacle.
The Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of new Water Services Entities reported back to the Government three weeks ago, with at least one of the group members coming to the realisation that the ‘reforms’ are about something much larger than infrastructure. (I can hear many of our voices saying, “We could have told you that!”). Dr Jason Smith, the mayor of Kaipara District Council, in his Statement following the release of the Recommendations Report of the Three Waters Working Group, writes:
“Looking at the proposed reform programme in its entirety, including its new recommendations which have potentially increased the geographic scope away from local broken pipes now to every square inch of New Zealand and 12 miles out to sea, these reforms are becoming about something much larger than infrastructure."
You can read more about this below at: ‘Three Waters update - Mayors are still not convinced’.
It is pleasing to see that at least some politicians are finally facing up to the attack on our democratic system. The Act Party is proposing that the next government passes legislation defining the principles of the Treaty, and then asking the people to vote on it becoming law. Please sign their petition calling for a referendum on co-governance HERE.
However, as Winston Peters points out - co-governance must be stopped now – not 2026. “..…any alternative will be far too little, far too late”.
Another area of growing concern is the more frequent use of the threat of code of conduct action against our local body politicians when they speak out. This is undermining our democracy. I doubt if anyone else has had more experience of this than Rotorua Lakes councillor Reynold Macpherson, whose latest censure by the council is summarised in our article 'Council Codes of Conduct - a tool for muzzling councillors?'
Reynold is standing for mayor of Rotorua this year. Such a strong advocate for our democratic system, as outlined in the commentary 'Rotorua Lakes Council pushing for Māori co-governance model', (see below), deserves support.
In this climate of radical constitutional change - being done without a mandate being sought from the people - it is now more important than ever for each and every one of us to speak out. We need to demand a halt to all attempts to replace our democracy with co-governed rule. NZCPR has kindly made it easier for us by collating all MP email addresses, local body councillor email addresses, contact details for newspaper letters to the editor, social media links, and other useful contacts on their Have Your Say page HERE.
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