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December 2022

Season’s greetings to you.

Thank goodness Christmas and summer holidays are just around the corner! However, we haven't yet taken the foot off the pedal just yet. We are currently endeavouring to get our heads around the implications of the resource management law replacement. The first two of three bills – the Natural and Built Environment Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill - were introduced to parliament on 15 November. They collectively run to 891 pages!

The Government once again shows its disdain for local bodies and the public, this time by introducing such lengthy and complicated legislation not long before the Christmas and New Year holiday period break, thereby giving inadequate time to study this complex legislation and complete submissions, which are due by 5 February.

Running a ‘democracy ruler’ over the proposed legislation, we have distilled our primary concerns into a summary, which can read below at ‘Resource Management law replacement a can of worms!’ I hope this will add to your understanding of the legislation and help inform submissions. 

Democratic societies emphasize the principle that all people have equal rights, but the current government shows it has no understanding of - or is it disdain for - this concept as it continues a path of instituting racial discrimination based on its ‘Treaty is a partnership’ ideology. It does so in spades in the proposed resource management law replacement.

Examples of our concern include the following:

  • Iwi/hapu/Māori will have specific rights in every level of the system.
  • While the Environment Minister David Parker is adamant the Government is not proposing 50/50 co-governance provisions - at least not publicly - the door is wide open to allow this very thing to happen. The legislation states that Regional Planning Committees will have a minimum of two Māori representatives out of a minimum committee membership of six. However, local authorities and the iwi/hapū committee in each region must reach agreement on a composition arrangement of a Regional Planning Committee. Can anyone else see what this is likely to lead to? Even the Waitangi Tribunal has recognised the danger, suggesting the Government commit to 50:50 Māori-local government composition on the committees to “take a lot of the heat out of the selection process”.
  • The legislation is a dramatic step on a path towards a different legal system, claims Dr Oliver Hartwich of the New Zealand Initiative. In his must-read commentary, Dr Hartwich points out that “This Bill takes the integration of purported Māori custom into the New Zealand legal system to a new level. It prominently enshrines various Māori concepts as sources of law which may not be properly known even to most New Zealand lawyers…..”
  • The proposed change to the freshwater allocation system are concerning. Iwi leaders have been pushing to be involved in water allocation for many years. Their wish comes a step closer under this legislation, which introduces a process for engagement between the Crown and iwi and hapū on freshwater allocation. “The outcome of the engagement undertaken may be reflected in an allocation statement on the issues relevant to the allocation of freshwater, if agreed between the Minister and iwi and hapū”.
  • The opportunity for iwi and hapū to provide a statement on te Oranga o te Taiao to the relevant Regional Planning Committee - at any time. This appears to be similar in nature to the Te Mana o Te Wai provision in the Water Services Entities Bill. However, the legislation is silent on the weight te Oranga o te Taiao statements would carry. But, given the propensity for this government to make contentious additions after the public submission-making process has closed – thereby giving submitters no opportunity to have a say - don’t be surprised to see this provision given more teeth.

Read further on these and several other troubling issues at ‘Resource Management law replacement a can of worms!’ below.

The Water Services and Resource Management legislation will have a huge impact on local bodies and local democracy, but the Government has not yet finished with its radical shake-up. The next step is to change the system of local government to actively embody the so-called Treaty partnership. The government-commissioned ‘independent’ panel looking into this recently released a draft report - ‘Review into the Future for Local Government’. This review includes recommendations such as establishing and embedding specific mechanisms for partnership and co-governance. Submissions on the draft report close 28 February. You can read more about this at ‘Future for Local Government review proposes radical change’ below.

Water Services Entities Bill passes despite overwhelming opposition

Thank you to all who heeded the call to send last minute messages to the Labour and Green MPs demanding they vote against the Water Services Entities Bill. It is important we continue to speak up. At the final vote the Greens did not support the bill – although I suspect the decision not to do so did not concern democracy issues.

As to speaking up, a big thumbs up to the democracy supporters who protested outside the ‘Transforming New Zealand’s Constitution’ conference held at Auckland University late November. Brandishing signs disputing the rhetoric being promoted by the organiser Dr Claire Charters, (lead author of He Puapua), the group targeted conference attendees as they arrived. Please see more on the conference and the protest at ‘Report on the Constitutional Kōrero 2022 conference’ below. This includes a link to video recordings of several presentations given at the conference.

Protest action is another way for people to have their voices heard. Even protests with a small number of participants can communicate messages effectively, especially if done often. Please look for opportunities to protest in your area. We are happy to produce signage, email us at [email protected].

Stop co-governance tour of NZ 

You may be aware of a new organisation that has joined the fight against co-governance i.e. STOP CO-GOVERNANCE. A tour of cities and towns throughout NZ starting mid-January 2023 is being organised, with Julian Batchelor as the main speaker. The goal of the tour is to raise awareness of the danger of co-governance, and to gather political support to stop it. HELP IS NEEDED. If you can assist Julian, please register HERE to help bring the tour to your City / Town / Suburb. Click HERE for a recording of Julian’s speech on co-governance, Warkworth Town Hall, September 2022

Say NO to co-governance petition

Another opportunity to join the fight against co-governance is now up and running. A petition has been launched to force a citizens-initiated referendum on co-governance. Please see ‘Say no to co-governance petition’ below for further details and a link to the petition. This project is going to take a mammoth effort by us all, as the law only permits citizens-initiated referendums that receive, via signed petitions, the support of at least 10% of registered electors. I suggest you help by printing off copies and circulating them amongst friends and family to sign over the holiday break. 

Recommended reading

I was asked recently to recommend books that offer alternative views that challenge the presentist interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi. To this end I recommend the bibliography authored by Professor Martin Devlin - see 'Recommended  literature on the Treaty of Waitangi' below.

Two further books examining the Treaty in its original context that are well worth reading are:

  • The Treaty and its Times, by Paul Moon and Peter Biggs. (Resource Books).
  • Change and Context: Another Look at the Treaty of Waitangi, by Roger Evans. (Lal Bagh Press). 

It’s time to say good-bye to 2022. Many thanks for all your support over another hectic year. Thank you too for taking the time to read our newsletters, and responding to calls to action.

For further information, please also keep an eye on the Democracy Action Facebook page. As we are not able to cover all relevant issues in our monthly updates, often articles, opinion pieces etc. are posted on this site.

As the mainstream media generally does a very poor job covering matters impacting on our democracy in any depth, please share the information in our newsletters with friends and family. Also, direct to our website anyone who may be interested in the issues we cover and would like to be added to our mailing list. See: https://www.democracyaction.org.nz/join

Last, but not least - wishing you a very merry Christmas, a restful holiday break, and a happy and healthy 2023. We hope to work with you again in the new year.

Kind regards,

Susan Short
[email protected]

Resource management law replacement a can of worms!

The first two of three new Acts to replace the Resource Management Act 1991 – the Spatial Planning Bill and the Natural and Built Environment Bill – passed their first reading in November and are open for submissions until the 5th February 2023. 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

Report on the Constitutional Kōrero 2022 conference

A conference to discuss the progress of formal constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples in their respective countries was held at the University of Auckland on 21-23 November. The Constitutional Kōrero 2022: Transforming New Zealand’s Constitution conference brought together indigenous lawyers and academics from New Zealand, the Pacific, North America, Australia, Asia, Latin America, Greenland, Scandinavia and Africa. Continue reading

Say no to co-governance petition

Here's our chance to force a referendum on co-governance. Please get in behind a recently-launched petition with the question: “Should New Zealand implement a form of co-governance where 50% of elected representatives to Parliament and local authorities (including community boards and local boards) be elected by voters of Maori descent, and 50% by non-Maori?” Continue reading

Recommended literature on the Treaty of Waitangi

Please see below a short bibliography, (spanning 50 years), demonstrating that comprehensive literature exists which challenges the current political/cultural/academic “orthodoxy” of the history of New Zealand and its evolution. Professor Martin Devlin, author of the bibliography, explains "This orthodoxy is mainly based on presentist interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi, continuously relayed in the New Zealand media, which, in turn, consistently fails to present alternative views. Much of this orthodoxy comprises personal opinions, myths and revised histories. This bibliography allows students to see that alternative views exist which challenge the 'orthodoxy'.”  Continue reading