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.
Accountability - and the ability to remove elected representatives at the next election - is a key element of democracy. But under this legislation accountability to the electorate would not apply to the representatives of Ngāi Tahu.
Furthermore, establishing a system that gives extraordinary governance privileges to Ngāi Tahu is incompatible with the principle of equality of citizens. Members of Ngāi Tahu who live in the Canterbury region will be represented twice – both by the person they vote for, and by those appointed by the iwi leaders.
THE GOVERNMENT SKIRTS THE BILL OF RIGHTS
Considering the recent report from the Attorney-General over the discriminatory nature of the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill and how it contravenes our Bill of Rights, one would think this would also apply to the ECAN bill. But that’s not the way Crown Law sees it. In its convoluted advice to Attorney-General David Parker, Crown Law said the bill "proposes to confer rights on Māori that are not conferred on other people", and that the bill could "therefore be seen to draw distinctions on the basis of race or ethnic origins". But Crown law also said
"The extent to which the distinctions reflect the status of Māori as the Crown's Treaty partner, and the Crown's duties under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we do not consider any other group is in a comparable position”.
Incredibly, Crown law advised this meant the bill did not breach the Bill of Rights!
For further comment on the proposed legislation, please see January newsletter article -
Also, click HERE for the link to both the Democracy Action written and oral submissions on the bill, which outline the reasons for our opposition.
National Party press release: National Will Restore Equal Voting Rights