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September 2022

In this month's update I would like to bring your attention to the ‘Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill’ currently before parliament. This legislation combines RNZ and TVNZ into a new public media entity.

An independent media, free of government influence, is extremely important - it's a cornerstone of our democracy. However, this legislation would make it much easier for governments to succumb to the temptation to exert political influence over public media. The current government has made it only too obvious that they are willing to do just this, with the $55 million-dollar Public Journalism Fund given on the condition that the media promote a particular political agenda - that is to “Actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledging Māori as a Te Tiriti partner”.

Please make a submission on the bill – even a short statement expressing you opinion would be helpful - but there is not much time left as the opportunity to do so concludes next Thursday 8 September. You can read more about why this bill is concerning, and a list of suggested points you could make in your submission, in ‘Fears raised about government control of new public media entity’ below.

Opposition to the Water Services Entities Bill continues to grow, with the latest attack coming from Andreas Heuser, the Managing Director in Asia Pacific of Castalia (a consulting firm specializing in water sector improvement). In a damning critique, Mr Heuser argues that the legislation creates significant risks, and that the selected reform model is highly flawed. Instead, Castalia has developed a constructive alternative reform model for Communities 4 Local Democracy. You can read his views in the commentary ‘Five big problems with Three Waters’ published by the NZ Herald. 

This past week the Finance and Expenditure select committee continued to hear oral submissions on the Water Services Bill. Overwhelmingly, the submissions oppose the legislation. The many interesting presentations can be viewed on the Finance and Expenditure select committee Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/FESCNZ/

If you were one of the many who was not invited to present their submission to the committee – of which Democracy Action is one – I suggest sending a copy of your written submission to all MPs. Their email addresses are available HERE.

With local body elections just around the corner – voting closes at noon on Saturday October 8 - it’s time to question the candidates on their intentions and their stance on issues of concern before casting our votes. We don’t have the capacity to question every candidate throughout the country, but we highly recommend you do so in your area. See more on this below.

In our December 2019 newsletter, we alerted you to an unwelcome development regarding Auckland’s volcanic cones/maunga, (see Citizens stand up to the Tūpuna Maunga Authority). At the time, the controlling body - the Tūpuna Maunga Authority – was about to continue a plan to 'decolonise' Auckland's maunga by culling the exotic trees - all 2,500 of them! However, they did not count on the Ōwairaka/Mount Albert community's passion for their mountain, its trees and wildlife. The public occupied the maunga day and night for months on end - up until a judicial review was underway. After two court cases the judiciary found that the TMA’s plan breached the Reserves Act and didn't carry out appropriate consultation with the public. As a result of this judicial decision, the TMA is now calling for public submissions on its plans to fell the trees. We are currently invited to have a say on this plan. Submissions must be received by 5pm, Saturday 8 October 22. You can read more about this, and some tips on making a submission in the article below, ‘Update on the fate of Auckland maunga trees.’

Keep up the good work! Defending democracy is a collective effort. One of the most effective things we can do as individuals to contribute to this effort is to make submissions, and to write letters to MPs, government departments and influential people. It takes time but making submissions and writing to MPs and relevant government departments is a great way to make sure your voice is heard - and thank you to all who do so. Yes, it can be galling when you get a standardised response back but behind the standard responses politicians take notice of mail volumes, particularly personally written letters and submissions.

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]

And please help spread the message by sharing our newsletters with anyone who may be interested.

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Kind regards,

Susan Short
Secretary
[email protected]

Local body elections – backing democratic governance and political equality

Candidate nominations for this year's local body elections have closed, and campaigning for a place at the council table is well underway. Now is the time to ask the contenders the crucial questions – before casting our votes we need to know their intentions and their stance on issues of concern.  Continue reading

Fears raised about government control of new public media entity

Independent media, free of government influence, is vital to a well-functioning democracy. The media must be able to hold government officials accountable, raise controversial issues without fear of reprisal, and include a diversity of voices and opinions, not just those that politicians want covered. However, the legislation to merge RNZ and TVNZ - the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill - is raising fears that our new public media entity - ‘Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media’ will result in opportunities for political interference. Continue reading

Update on the fate of Auckland maunga trees

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority – a Treaty partnership body that equally comprises iwi and Auckland Council members - wants to rid Auckland’s volcanic cones (maunga) of all exotic trees - some 2500 in all. Continue reading

Recommended reading - ONE SUN IN THE SKY

‘ONE SUN IN THE SKY - The untold story of sovereignty and the Treaty of Waitangi’ by Ewen McQueen, presents an evidence-based perspective on the question of sovereignty and the Treaty of Waitangi.  Continue reading