< April 2022 newsletter

Council Codes of Conduct - a tool for muzzling councillors?

Former Prime Minister Sir Bill English described Codes of Conduct as a threat to democracy a good 15 years ago, but we didn't heed his warning. Today they are being used by Councils as a tool to silence our elected representatives - blocking criticism by councillors. This is undermining the democratic process. 

Codes of Conduct are designed to ensure the reputation of the Council is upheld within the community. They are not meant to be used as a means of preventing elected members from expressing their views. However, it appears this is happening to an alarming degree.

According to the NZ Herald, almost a third of our Councils (24 of 78) have investigated Code of Conduct Complaints this term, including Auckland Council, Buller District Council, Central Hawke's Bay District Council, Christchurch City Council, Dunedin City Council, Gisborne District Council, Hamilton City Council, Hutt City Council, Invercargill City Council, Manawatu District Council, Northland Regional Council, Queenstown District Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, South Waikato District Council, Taranaki Regional Council, Tauranga City Council, Tasman District Council, Taupo District Council, Timaru District Council, Waitomo District Council, Wellington City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Whanganui District Council, Whangarei District Council.

The Free Speech Union is also concerned about the damage to free speech and democracy of councillors living under the threat of the Code of Conduct being used against them. They recently published a roundtable discussion with Jackie Elliot of Kapiti Coast District Council,  Peter Schulte of South Waikato District Council, and Nobby Clark, Deputy Mayor of Invercargill City Council. 

Jackie Elliot’s advice to newly elected Councillors is to refuse to adopt the LGNZ supplied Code of Conduct agreement – a contract that allows any employee of the Council to make a complaint against a Councillor through the Chief Executive. She suggests that Councils should scrap Codes of Conduct altogether and rely on existing employment legislation to resolve disputes between Councillors and Council employees. This would leave Councillors free to inform the public of matters of concern and ensure that they are able to speak on behalf of the communities they are elected to represent.

No one appears to have more experience with Code of Conduct complaints than Cr Reynold Macpherson of the Rotorua Lakes District Council.

In April last year, Mayor Steve Chadwick received three complaints from council officers and elected members concerning actions by Cr Macpherson that related to information shared by him through three social media posts on the Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers Facebook page.

The complaints concerned posts sharing his view that underinvestment in the maintenance of water infrastructure was due to over-investment in iwi partnership projects; concerns about the organisational restructures undertaken by the Council; criticism over a new contract with a consortium of Trility, Fulton Hogan and Stantec for the provision of wastewater services across the district; and that the Council was involved in bussing the homeless into Rotorua.

These posts were the subject of official complaints by the Council’s Chief Executive and two of his fellow Councillors. They were referred to the Audit and Risk Committee, as per Council’s Code of Conduct process, to determine whether or not any breach of the Code had occurred.

The Audit and Risk Committee then appointed an Independent Panel (the Panel) to review the allegations and to provide recommendations for remedy. In all three cases, the Panel “was satisfied that the complaint is valid and that Cr Macpherson has breached the Code particularly the guiding principles of Collective Responsibility, Integrity and Honesty, and Respect”. 

The Panel’s recommendations were received by and voted on during the public excluded part of the Council Committee meeting on 16 December. The recommendations included directions for Cr Macpherson to undertake a refresher course on the Code of Conduct of elected members; that he be required to provide a formal apology and retraction to the community, “recognising the reported harm that the respective posts had caused”; and that he be removed from the two Council committees that he is a member of (the Operations and Monitoring Committee and the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee). 

The report also recommended that the Council release the Independent Panel’s report to the public, and that the Council publicise the costs incurred in dealing with the complaints.

Cr Macpherson responded to the process and outcome via a post on the Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers Facebook page on 18 December (a post that appears to have disappeared).


Mayor Chadwick’s ‘kangaroo court’ went exactly as scripted, behind closed doors. Not a word was changed. Six out of ten elected members accepted the advice of the Audit and Risk Committee that an ‘independent’ Investigation Panel had found that I had breached the Code of Conduct in my posts at the RDRR Facebook page. 

Three complaints were selected out of eight to prosecute me. Those deselected were from Mrs Trumper (a fishing expedition), from the Chief Executive (which misconstrued a complaint against Council by Justin Adams), and two secret complaints I was not allowed to see. 

Those selected for prosecution were from the Chief Executive had complained of ‘misinformation’ when I linked sewage leaks to under investment in infrastructure maintenance due to over investment in iwi partnership projects. Mrs Shirley Trumper had complained about my criticism of organisational restructures and the Trility contract. Cr Fisher Wang said I lied when I reported that Council was involved in bussing homeless into Rotorua. Apparently, the truth hurts. 

The Mayor and Crs Dave Donaldson, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Trevor Maxwell, Mercia Yates and Fisher Wang (a complainant who admitted a conflict of interest but then was allowed to speak and vote) conspired to ban me from the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee and the Operations and Monitoring Committee for 2022. They gave reasons for suspending my human rights to freedom of speech and access to information, and for denying my democratic duty to represent my constituents. I had to be banned for peddling ‘misinformation’, not being on the Mayor’s team, being a bully (by the bully-in-chief herself), spelling mistakes, and for not apologizing and showing sincere remorse. For revealing the truth?

My careful documentation of many due process errors and maladministration were ignored. Crs Sandra Kai Fong, Tania Tapsell and Raj Kumar noted that the punishment did not fit the ‘crime’ when they abstained. Cr Peter Bentley was absent. The Chief Executive recused himself. 

I won’t be apologizing for telling the truth about the sewage leaks, the reorganisations and outsourcing, and the assisted migration of the homeless. They must be stopped if we are going to restore Rotorua as a fit place to live. Criticism of this Council won’t be stopped by a purchased ‘investigation’, an elaborate and orchestrated show trial, and blaming the whistle blower for the appalling waste of ratepayers’ money. 

So, a muted Merry Christmas but a Happy New Year of more revelations of waste and incompetence as I watch SP&F and O&M committees online. There are no more sanctions available to the Mayor’s power bloc wanting to stop my back chat to stay in power. I expect that, on 8 October 2022, Rotorua’s citizens will rid themselves of this Soviet-style regime.

Dr Reynold Macpherson

District Councillor and Chairman of RDRR


Rotorua Daily Post - 30 June 2020: Reynold Macpherson's code of conduct complaint: ‘I take any censure as a badge of honour’

NZ Herald -11 January 2021: In-house fighting costs ratepayers thousands of dollars in investigations

Rotorua Daily Post - 30 April 2021: Rotorua councillor Reynold Macpherson facing three new code of conduct complaints

Rotorua Lakes District Council -16 December 2021: Code of Conduct decisions released

Go back to the April 2022 newsletter


Local Government Review Call for Submissions

The juggernaut advancing major constitutional changes to the way our country is governed continues to roll on, much of it flying under the radar. The Government’s radical restructuring agenda includes a review of local government, the purpose of which is “to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody Te Tiriti partnership”. Continue reading

Future for Local Government review proposes radical change

As part of the Government’s wide-reaching reform agenda, (think education and health sectors, three waters, the conservation estate, the RMA replacement), a two-year ministerial review into the future for Local Government was launched in April 2021. The purpose of the review is “to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody Te Tiriti partnership”. Continue reading

LGNZ has lost the plot!

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), an organisation that purportedly represents the interests of local authorities (and by extension local communities), appears to have changed its prime allegiance from local authorities to central government. Continue reading

A recipe for ‘differentiated citizenship’

The Government’s radical plan to impose co-governance over all aspects of the New Zealand government came a step closer with the release of the Review into the Future for Local Government draft report. Read the report here. Continue reading


Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta wants to make it mandatory for councils to consider Māori wards. “Under the proposed changes, when councils undertake their regular Representation Review every six years, the first step must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies. Currently there is no obligation to consider Māori wards at all”, said Ms Mahuta. Continue reading


The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu) Bill, creating permanent Ngāi Tahu representation on Environment Canterbury (ECAN), undergoes its third reading this week. This legislation represents a significant shift away from two key principles of democracy: equal suffrage and accountability at the ballot box. Continue reading

Radical changes to local government afoot

A Ministerial review into the future for Local Government is underway “to consider how New Zealand’s system of local democracy and governance will need to evolve over the next 30 years, in order to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and actively embody the Treaty partnership”. Ārewa ake te Kaupapa – Raising the platform Continue reading


As local body elections loom in September/October, concerns are being expressed that councillors are insufficiently resourced to effectively represent their constituents. Continue reading

Taupō District Council throws democracy under the bus!

Are the current murmurings of Mt Ruapehu a sign that the gods are not happy with the new Taupō Council agreement?  Taupō District Council recently signed a Mana Whakahono ā Rohe agreement with Ngāti Tūrangitukua that has taken a statutory obligation under the RMA much further than required under the legislation - to a whole new level of co-governance. This agreement includes of a range of policy, planning and operational areas outside of the RMA. Continue reading

Submission on the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill

  WRITTEN SUBMISSION Democracy Action does not support the Bill.  We do not support establishing iwi-based power by appointment in our governance arrangements. Therefore, we oppose the purpose of the Act, that is, to enable Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to 2 members to the Canterbury Regional Council.  We urge the Government to reject the Bill in its entirety.  Continue reading

Future for Local Government Review signals Treaty-based local governance

Local government is facing a wave of radical changes - such as the overhaul of the three waters sector and the resource management system - that will significantly affect their traditional roles and functions.  Continue reading

Do your Council’s representation arrangements fail the equal rights test?

Councils owe a duty of fair representation to all the citizens they represent, yet this fundamental principle of democratic governance is being ignored by councils as they build “Treaty partnerships” with their Māori citizens. This is very apparent at Rotorua Lakes Council, where undemocratic arrangements have been introduced to “strengthen the voice of Māori in our decision making”.  Continue reading

Government plans to seize ratepayers’ assets - without compensation

Local Government Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta has announced further details of the Government's regulatory and structural reform of water service delivery in New Zealand. The plan is for an unprecedented transfer of billions of dollars of ratepayer-funded assets from local bodies to four entities. Continue reading

Local Government update

Government plans a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership. On 23 April 2021 the Minister of Local Government established a review into the future for Local Government:  “The overall purpose of the Review is, as a result of the cumulative changes being progressed as part of the Government’s reform agenda, to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody the Treaty partnership”. Continue reading

Tauranga citizens to be further disenfranchised

The anti-democratic madness continues apace in Tauranga. Following the Government-appointed Commissioners recent decision to establish a Māori ward, they have also agreed to a new committee – the Strategy, Finance and Risk Committee - which embodies the 'Treaty partnership', but goes further than that, effectively shutting out the wider community. Continue reading

Māori wards update - May

Even though time and time again referenda have shown that most New Zealanders are opposed to race-based voting systems, 24 local authorities have recently either made the decision to proceed with Māori wards or have indicated an intention to do so. In addition to those mentioned in the April edition of the Democracy Action newsletter, the following have voted to proceed down this path: Continue reading

The cost to ratepayers of implementing the partnership principle

Photo: Penny Smart, Chair of Northland Regional Council The partnership-with-iwi provisions are creating significant cost pressures for councils. This includes large and on-going costs associated with implementing and maintaining the variety of ways Iwi/Māori are involved in local government and contribute to council decision making. Continue reading

Further Councils Considering Establishing Māori Wards

Councils: Waipa, Hawke’s Bay, Horizons, Horowhenua, Hamilton As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the new Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021 extended the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards for the 2022 triennial local government elections to 21 May 2021. This has brought forward a flurry of proposals and votes.  Continue reading

Government legislates away a democratic right

“Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.”  So pledged the Labour Party during the 2020 election campaign. Just four months later they have broken this promise in spectacular fashion, passing under urgency the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act - thereby abolishing the right of local communities to petition for a referendum on Maori wards or constituencies. Continue reading

Step by step, the undermining of democracy continues……….

Maori wards are not the only avenue for separate local government representation for Māori. Continue reading

No respect for democracy - Government to muzzle citizens

In a shock announcement, the Government reveals it intends to use the extraordinary powers reserved for use when the nation is under threat to get rid of legislation that enables referenda on Māori wards. Continue reading

We want a vote on Māori wards!

The Local Electoral Act’s binding poll system is a form of direct democracy that enables local electors to choose for themselves by simple majority vote whether or not they support race-based council representation. However, to trigger a poll 5 percent of electors must support a petition to hold the referendum. Campaigns to do so have already started in several regions. Please offer your support and encouragement to those who are standing up for the right to have a say on whether we support designated race-based seats at the council table. Continue reading

Mayors seek law change to thwart citizens’ right to have a say on Māori wards

Every six years local bodies are obliged to review the ward system. We have seen a flurry of such activity over the past few months, with both New Plymouth and Tauranga acting to establish Māori wards, and others considering whether to follow suit.  Continue reading

More councils adopt racially-selected appointees

Despite constituents strongly opposing separate race-based representation, as shown in referenda held in 2018, the number of councils across New Zealand which have appointed unelected members with voting rights to council committees has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. The following are examples (by no means the total number) of councils who have recently taken the obligation to consult with Māori to an undemocratic level: Continue reading

Yahoo! A double win for democracy

We end the year with the welcome news that the bill making it harder to remove the Māori seats from Parliament has been voted down at the second reading, with New Zealand First opposing the change. Only Labour and the Green Party supported the legislation. The bill cleared its first hurdle in Parliament last year with the unlikely support of New Zealand First, which opposes the Māori seats. The party wanted to use the bill as a vehicle to hold a two-part referendum on the seats, asking whether they should be entrenched or done away with altogether. But no referendum was added after the select committee stage. Continue reading

Local Body Elections 2019

The Democracy Action working group is preparing a set of questions to ask candidates. Please take the opportunity to call radio shows with guest candidates, and attend public meetings, to ask a question or two. Continue reading

The undermining of our democracy continues apace

Please see below some examples from around the country: Earlier this year the Minister of Conservation signed a partnership agreement between the ministry, DOC and Auckland iwi Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, to share in the management of natural resources, and cultural and historical heritage. Ngai Tai ki Tamaki’s role is that of guardians and stewards. They are seeking to establish an ‘iwi conservancy’ over land and taonga species. They are based at Umupuia, just south of Maraetai, on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf. Yet they claim an area of interest, and therefore influence, that stretches from north of Auckland, down to Tauranga, including the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula; much of the Manukau Harbour in the west, and out past Gt. Barrier Island in the east, as shown below. Continue reading

‘Partnership’ - a way of heading off costly litigation?

Last month we reported on the Horizons Regional Council vote to create a committee of councillors and iwi leaders to come up with strategies for managing Manawatū waterways. Continue reading

Auckland Plan 2050 Adopted – With The Anti-Democratic Provisions

The Auckland Plan 2050, the long-term strategy for Auckland’s growth and development, and which provides a framework to inform decisions, has been adopted by Auckland Council. Continue reading

Implementation of Treaty settlements creating significant cost pressures

The Waikato Regional Council’s draft submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Local Government Funding and Financing reveals that the implementation of Treaty of Waitangi settlements creates significant cost pressures for Council. The submission states that “the Council wishes to work with its iwi partners in partnership but notes that the costs to do so is significant to its ratepayers”. Continue reading

Hastings District Council joins the Hall of Shame

A big thank you to those who contacted Hasting District councillors to encourage them to vote against the proposal to enable four members of the Maori Joint Committee to sit and vote on the council’s four standing committees. Unfortunately, enough councillors (10-4) felt able to turn their back on democracy by appointing unelected Maori to all committees.  Continue reading

Good News - designated seats for Ngāi Tahu voted down

New Zealand First has scuppered Labour's bid to give Ngāi Tahu permanent seats on the Canterbury Regional Council, saying its special treatment for Māori. Shane Jones acknowledged the party's long-held position against separate seats for Māori on local body councils. Continue reading

Auckland Council’s ‘Our Water Future’ - Remember to have your say

Auckland Council recently released a discussion document on developing ‘a water strategy to ensure a secure, sustainable, and healthy future for water in Auckland’. We covered this issue in the March update, but to briefly recap, as to the advancement of a co-governance agenda, concerns centre on the following statements: Continue reading

The Waikato District Council Blueprint Project

It appears every act of special entitlement is simply used as a stepping stone to further power. We see an example of this in the Waikato District Council’s Blueprint project, with its pitch to build on the Joint Management Agreements and other agreements with iwi, and the proposal to appoint a ‘Maori Partnership Manager’ “to sit with the CE group, which will, appropriately, facilitate a “chief to chief” relationship” – with the assistance of an operational support person. There are only a few days left to have provide feedback. Go online to have your say by 5pm Monday 8 April. Continue reading

Last call! Have your say on proposed ‘hate speech’ legislation

Submissions close Friday 6th August Since releasing its discussion document aimed at seeking opinions before the Government comes up with hate speech law changes, the proposals have been met with ‘don’t do it’ pleas from all sides of the political spectrum. Continue reading