Submission on the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill

 

WRITTEN SUBMISSION

Democracy Action does not support the Bill. 

We do not support establishing iwi-based power by appointment in our governance arrangements. Therefore, we oppose the purpose of the Act, that is, to enable Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to 2 members to the Canterbury Regional Council. 

We urge the Government to reject the Bill in its entirety. 

REASONS FOR OUR OBJECTION 

1. This legislation would ride roughshod over our nation’s democratic tradition. 

2. The Bill represents a significant constitutional change that is contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy. Non-democratic appointees to council overturns the basic principle of democracy that the citizens of the region elect their local councils. 

3. Establishing a system that gives special governance privileges to Ngāi Tahu is indisputably incompatible with the principle of equality of citizens. 

4. Members of Ngāi Tahu who live in the Canterbury region area will be represented twice – both by the person they vote for, and by those appointed by the iwi leaders. This contravenes Article III of te Tiriti o Waitangi which guarantees the same rights to all citizens. 

5. Being unelected, the Ngāi Tahu appointees would not be accountable to the wider community. 

6. The Bill gives influence and power to people whose express purpose is to favour their own. 

7. There is potential for significant conflict-of-interest issues to arise when the extensive business interests and assets controlled by Ngāi Tahu are brought into consideration. 

8. No mandate has been sought from the community for such a radical constitutional change to the Canterbury Regional Council governance arrangements. Only the beneficiaries of this arrangement were consulted. 

9. Ngāi Tahu are already providing input and influencing council decisions through Te Rōpū Tuia – a partnership body between Environment Canterbury and Ngāi Tahu. 

10. This Bill goes well beyond local body obligations to Māori under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002. 

RECOMMENDATIONS 

• Anything less than 100 percent elected members on our governing bodies is unacceptable. Therefore, we recommend that all members on the Canterbury Regional Council are elected by the citizens, making them accountable at the ballot box. 

• As the Bill proposes to entrench a significant constitutional change to the Canterbury Regional Council governance arrangements, those seeking to institute this change must seek a mandate from the community through a binding referendum before proceeding. 

SUMMARY 

Democracy Action supports a fully elected, democratic regional council in Canterbury. Therefore, we strongly urge the committee to recommend to the Government that the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill be withdrawn. 


ORAL SUBMISSION TO THE MĀORI AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 

Presented by: Lee Short, Chair Democracy Action at 10:50am, 2 March 2022 
You can view the recording HERE. 


Mōrena 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment on the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill. I am presenting this submission on behalf of Democracy Action. 

Democracy Action is a community organisation formed by a group of concerned citizens. We are working to promote and protect democracy, and to defend the core principle of democratic governance – one person, one vote, each of equal value. 

My submission today voices the concerns of both myself, and the supporters of Democracy Action. 

I speak in opposition to this Bill. 

We do not support establishing iwi-based power by appointment in our governance arrangements. 

Therefore, we oppose the purpose of the Act, that is, to enable Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to two members to the Canterbury Regional Council. 

To understand our opposition to the Bill, I ask the committee to consider the following reasons: 

The Bill represents a radical departure from our democratic and egalitarian principles 

This Bill is not minor tinkering – it is changing electoral law. This is a profoundly serious matter. It introduces fundamental constitutional change – change that has no mandate from the citizens of Canterbury. They have not been consulted directly, let alone asked for their consent. Only the beneficiaries of this proposed arrangement were consulted before bringing this proposed law before the House. 

Therefore, the Government has no mandate from the citizens of the Canterbury region to embark upon such a significant change to their governance arrangements. Indeed, this Bill is in in conflict with Environment Canterbury’s operating principles, which state: 

We will make good decisions by: 

  • Listening to the people to serve communities, and; 
  • Displaying confident and caring democratic leadership. 

This legislation institutionalises inequality. The golden rule of democratic governance will be broken - that is one person, one vote, each of equal value. Instead, members of Ngai Tahu who live in the Canterbury region will have greater rights than those of their fellow citizens. They will be represented three times – both as the outcome of their democratic vote, and by the two Ngai Tahu appointees. Not only is this at odds with the fundamental principles of democracy, but it also contravenes article three of the Treaty of Waitangi, which promised that Māori would possess all the 

rights and privileges of British subjects. In other words, equal under the law with all other New Zealanders. Equal citizens have equal voting rights and electoral representation. This would not be the case under this legislation. The fact that the Treaty promised equality before the law is ignored by this Bill. 

Furthermore, not only does the Bill institutionalise inequality, but we can’t escape the fact that it also legislates for racial discrimination. According to the Ngāi Tahu website Ngāi Tahu are identified as the Māori people of the southern islands of New Zealand. Therefore, under this legislation race is being used to gain more electoral power over and above that of other citizens. This discriminates against all other citizens. 

It must also be noted that the outcome of this Bill would be to impose, by law, a racially based structure on the whole community. 

The Bill ignores the potential for serious conflict-of-interest issues to arise 

Having two seats at the decision-making table to act on behalf of Ngāi Tahu appears to ignore the fact that the iwi is a major player in the Canterbury economy, with extensive business interests and assets, the majority of which have a significant impact on the environment. This being the case, the potential for conflict of interest in Ngāi Tahu being given permanent decision-making roles on Ecan - a statutory body which aims to protect the health of our environment - is too great to ignore. 

This brings me to the issue of accountability. Good governance requires accountability. It is well accepted that the public accountability obligation is the strongest single force for creating fairness in society. In a representative democracy we elect representatives to make decisions on our behalf. If they do not make decisions we are happy with, and enough of us choose to do so, we can vote them out at the next election. This would not be the case of the Ngāi Tahu appointed representatives. These appointees would not be accountable to the wider community, nor with any obligations to make decisions in the public interest. And they can’t be voted out by the community. 

Our opposition to this Bill can be summarised as the following: 

  • There is no mandate from the citizens of Canterbury for such a significant constitutional change to their governance arrangements. 
  • The Bill legislates for inequality. This is in contravention of the Treaty of Waitangi and the principles of democracy. 
  • It also legislates for racial discrimination. 
  • The Bill ignores the potential for significant conflict-of-interest issues to arise. 

Decision sought: 

Democracy Action supports a fully elected, democratic regional council in Canterbury. Therefore, we strongly urge the committee to recommend to the Government that the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill is rejected in its entirety. 

Tēnā koutou 


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