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”.
A draft report on the Review into the Future for Local Government was released to the public in October. The Review Panel is now undertaking a submissions process on the report “to help shape our final report and recommendations” ahead of the final report. Submissions can be made here - by 28 February 2023.
At the outset, the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta made it clear that she is seeking recommendations from the Review to achieve:
- effective partnerships between mana whenua, and central and local government
- a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership, through the role and representation of iwi/Māori in local government and seeks to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and its principles through its functions and processes.
Indeed, the terms of reference include the statement that “The role and representation of iwi/Māori in the local government system should be across all aspects of the Review’s consideration of this matter.”
This is exactly what the dutiful Review Panel has done. The draft report states that local government is responsible for facilitating democracy, ensuring that it reflects our increasing diversity. However, there is little in the way of specific measures suggested to achieve this recommendation - EXCEPT in relation to embodying a partnership between Māori and local government. Proposals to achieve this aim include the following recommendations from the review panel:
- Councils must develop sustainable partnerships with hapū/ iwi and Māori organisations. “This will require councils to take a more holistic, tikanga-based approach.”
- Establishing and embedding specific mechanisms for partnership and co-governance.
- Central government lead an inclusive process to develop a new legislative framework for Tiriti-related provisions in the Local Government Act that drives a genuine partnership in the exercise of kawanatanga/ governorship and rangatiratanga/self-determination in a local context and explicitly recognises te ao Māori values and conceptions of wellbeing.
- That local and central government, in a Tiriti-consistent manner, review the future allocations of roles and functions by applying the proposed approach, which includes three core principles: the concept of subsidiarity; local government’s capacity to influence the conditions for wellbeing is recognised and supported; and te ao Māori values underpin decision-making. [te ao Māori/the Maori world]
- Central government retain the Māori wards and constituencies mechanism (subject to amendment in current policy processes) but consider additional options that provide for a Tiriti-based partnership at the council table. The Panel is exploring the merits of models for democracy that enable both capability-based and mana whenua appointments to supplement elected members. That would mean mana whenua appointees sitting alongside elected Māori ward councillors.
- Councils must develop sustainable partnerships with hapū/ iwi and Māori organisations. This will require councils to take a more holistic, tikanga-based approach.
- Councils develop with hapū/iwi and significant Māori organisations within a local authority area, a partnership framework that complements existing co-governance arrangements by ensuring all groups in a council area are involved in local governance in a meaningful way.
- That central government provides a statutory obligation for councils to give due consideration to an agreed, local expression of tikanga whakahaere [management practises] in their standing orders and engagement practices, and for chief executives to be required to promote the incorporation of tikanga in organisational systems.
- Establishing a strategic role for Māori alongside local and central government in identifying and addressing the priority outcomes that will drive community wellbeing.
- Building local government and Māori capability and capacity to strengthen and maintain a Tiriti-based relationship.
- Central government provides a transitional fund to subsidise the cost of building both Māori and council capability and capacity for a Tiriti-based partnership in local governance.
- Local government leads the development of coordinated organisational and workforce development plans to enhance the capability of local government to partner and engage with Māori.
The report also recommends proposals to implement the change. This includes a framework as the basis for the future relationship and an architecture for change that is woven throughout this report that:
- establishes a strategic role for Māori alongside local and central government in identifying and addressing the priority outcomes that will drive community wellbeing; and
- improves Māori representation in council governance; and
- establishes and embeds specific mechanisms for partnership and co-governance; and
- builds local government and Māori capability and capacity to strengthen and maintain a Tiriti-based relationship.
The justification for such proposals and recommendations includes that:
“There is limited representation and an undervaluing of hapū/iwi and Māori as a critical partner, in the absence of a fit-for-purpose legislative framework inclusive of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in local governance”
The Panel is seeking public feedback on these concepts and more. You can have your say on any or all the draft recommendations and questions.
Other issues up for consideration include:
- allowing 16-year-olds to vote.
- moving all councils to the Single Transferable Vote system.
- moving the local body electoral term from three to four-years.
You can read the report and supporting documents, and make your submission online. Submissions are accepted until 28 February 2023.
Online Public Seminars are to be held throughout February
To help inform your feedback, online public seminars about the Panel’s work will be held in February 2023. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions, discuss the draft report and challenge the Panel’s recommendations before making a submission. Check out the webinar dates and times here.
You can also post comments and ask questions regarding the Future for Local Government Review on their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TeArotake
Frank Newman: Future for Local Government Review