I hope this update finds you well, safe in your bubble, and managing these difficult times – once again. Let's all hope that the lockdown levels move quickly, and we can all focus on the future again soon.
I doubt that the Covid lockdown has slackened the pace of the Government’s plan to amalgamate the water operations of 67 councils around the country into four mega-entities. This is despite more and more Councils expressing concern not only at the content of the reform, but also at the alarming rate at which it is being pushed. In a statement from a recent Canterbury Mayoral Forum 10 mayors from the region collectively said they have “serious concerns” about the timeframe of the reforms and fear residents may not have enough time for meaningful engagement.
Concerns about these reforms are elucidated in the thought-provoking commentary ‘Ideological government indulges sectional political constituency’ by Gary Judd QC. This is a must-read, I recommend you take the time to do so.
Under the Local Government Act, councils are required to consult with ratepayers when strategic asset purchases or disposals are being considered. This is where we come in - read more about this in the update on Three Waters below, which includes suggestions of several actions you can take if you too see the dangers inherent in the Government’s plan.
Another issue you can have a say on are local body representation reviews, which several Councils are currently undertaking - including those that need to do so to accommodate their decision to introduce Māori wards. Andy Cranston, a councillor on the Gisborne District Council, which is to establish five Māori wards, recounts a recent conversation he had with a constituent.
Cr Cranston: “I did have a cringe moment in a recent conversation when I was queried about the difference between the Maori wards and the Pakeha wards. Hearing it described in those terms hinted at a separatism I am uncomfortable with and would like to avoid”.
You think, Councillor Cranston?? Did you not consider when voting to establish Māori wards that such a move would be divisive? And if you start dividing people on a racial basis... it's going to change the way people think and feel about who they should elect? And that many of us are very uncomfortable about institutionalising racial division?
All Councils undergoing these representation reviews are obliged to publicise their policies and provide opportunities for citizens to have a say on their proposals. Please keep an eye on your Council’s website and Facebook page for updates, and an invitation to provide feedback - especially as some appear to be veering even further towards a co-governance regime. In this month’s update we feature the Rotorua Lakes Council representation review as an example of what not to do if a Council values a democratically fair electoral process.
Following Justice Churchman’s decision elevating the status of ‘tikanga’ above the common law tests in a case taken under the Marine and Coastal Area Act, another High Court ruling has dropped a further bombshell on the rights of all citizens to access ‘the commons’, i.e. resources held in common, not privately owned. Even though we have been told by Governments that ‘no-one owns the water’, commercial operators will now be required to obtain licenses from Iwi for rights to use and occupy the Taupō waters.
In law firm Simpson Grierson’s opinion: “The judgment may have significant financial and legal implications for commercial operators. Additionally, while this judgment concerned a specific deed, the judgment may more broadly set a precedent for iwi authorities to charge commercial operators who operate on iwi property.” See: High Court clarifies Iwi’s right to charge licensing fees for use of Taupō Waters
In past newsletters we have written about the ructions at the West Coast Conservation Board. Today we report that the situation has not improved – in fact it has worsened. Three members have recently resigned – following two last year – increasingly frustrated about being unable to advocate for conservation in the face of hostility from Ngai Tahu board members who believe they need not be bound by the Conservation Act. Read more about this in the article below: ‘Iwi avarice trumps conservation values on West Coast’.
Lastly, please to keep up the good work. Governments regard silence from the public as support, so please take the time to contact your local body representatives and our MPs to voice your concerns. Contact details for MPs are available HERE. If you don’t receive a satisfactory reply, it can be good value to ring Parliament - 04 817 9999 and ask to be put through to the MPs office, then say you would like a reply that properly addresses the issue.
If we do not speak out about the anti-democratic measures being foisted on us, then the Government will be emboldened to press ahead with all they have planned.
Lastly, if you have not done so, please take the opportunity to read the action plan to destroy democracy - He Puapua. A copy is available HERE. Follow this up by reading John Robinson’s book He Puapua – Blueprint for Breaking up New Zealand. Copies can be ordered from Tross Publishing.To keep up to date with democracy issues facing New Zealand, please remember to regularly check-out the Democracy Action Facebook page, where we post opinion pieces and new items as they come to hand.
Thank you for your continued interest and support. If you have any suggestions you would like to offer, or if you need further information or help, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]
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