< November 2021 newsletter


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. 

On top of this, the government is undertaking a comprehensive review of local government “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”.

Under current laws, local government is not regarded as a partner in the Treaty relationship. But the Minister is looking to change this policy, seeking to establish a race-based co-governance model. Instructions to the review panel include seeking recommendations that look to achieve:

  • a resilient and sustainable local government system that is fit for purpose and has the flexibility and incentives to adapt to the future needs of local communities;
  • public trust/confidence in local authorities and the local regulatory system that leads to strong leadership; 
  • effective partnerships between mana whenua, and central and local government in order to better provide for the social, environmental, cultural, and economic wellbeing of communities; and
  • 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. (See Terms of Reference) 

An interim report recently released by the panel - the first of a two year three-stage review - declares that “current arrangements do not deliver on the full potential of the Treaty partnership”.

“The relationship between local government and Māori is being re-examined, as the country moves towards a new phase in the Treaty of Waitangi relationship.”

“During the next year we will be engaging with iwi and Māori organisations, and seeking to understand how the partnership might evolve at a local level. We expect to hear about and consider many elements of the relationship including how tino rangatiratanga might be exercised at a local level over matters affecting the wellbeing of Māori communities and rohe (territories); how the responsibilities of iwi / Māori and local authorities might co-exist; what future partnership or co-governance arrangements might develop; how relationships between iwi / Māori and local authorities might most effectively be managed; how capacity might be built and resourced in iwi and Māori organisations to support effective engagement with local authorities”. (p.49 Ārewa ake te Kaupapa - Raising the Platform)

The review is heavily influenced by the Waitangi Tribunal reports, with its highly political interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

The review panel recommends identifying ways in which local government can actively embody a Treaty partnership. This is writ large across the review document - mentioned no less than 22 times.

As Point of Order notes on the Treaty-based local govt reform ideas:

 “These attempts to give Maori a greater say in local government decision-making can only be achieved by diluting – or eliminating – long-standing democratic arrangements for electing mayors and councillors and holding them to account”. 

“A raft of ideas for doing the necessary diluting can be found in the interim report.”

You can read more about the Future for Local Government Review and read the interim report at:  www.futureforlocalgovernment.govt.nz 

An executive summary is available HERE 

It appears the government is using this review to establish further race-based co-governance, and doing so without any mandate from the vast majority of New Zealanders. We need to speak out about unfair, anti-democratic proposals.  

Have your say

The Government is seeking ideas about how local governance and democracy can be improved, e.g. how you think local government could better serve your community.

You can submit HERE.  Warning: survey contains leading questions.

Or share your thinking by sending a written submission, emailed to [email protected]

You may also like to drop a note to Christopher Luxon, National Party spokesperson on local government, who, in a masterful lesson on ignoring the elephant in the room, released this media statement, reported on RadioNZ:

'Too big an opportunity to waste' - National Party

National Party local government spokesperson Christopher Luxon said the party supported the review, and it was an important opportunity to think strategically about the future and the relationship between central and local government.

"The initial findings aren't that surprising. There is clearly room for councils to improve their prioritisation, professionalism and performance."

He said the panel would have its "work cut out" due to council discontent about the "heavy-handed" approach being taken to the Three Waters reforms.

"Hopefully the panel can continue repairing frayed relationships and properly engaging with councils in a true spirit of partnership, because the review is too big an opportunity to waste."

Email Luxon at: [email protected]

Media coverage

Point of Order: Mahuta welcomes report which portends the local authority reforms (and Treaty partnerships) she seems keen to promote

RadioNZ: Local government review: Interim report sets out problems facing sector

Go back to the November 2021 newsletter


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