< April 2019 newsletter

The Waikato District Council Blueprint Project

It appears every act of special entitlement is simply used as a stepping stone to further power. We see an example of this in the Waikato District Council’s Blueprint project, with its pitch to build on the Joint Management Agreements and other agreements with iwi, and the proposal to appoint a ‘Maori Partnership Manager’ “to sit with the CE group, which will, appropriately, facilitate a “chief to chief” relationship” – with the assistance of an operational support person. There are only a few days left to have provide feedback. Go online to have your say by 5pm Monday 8 April.

The Waikato District Council covers a large proportion of the Waikato region, bordering Auckland in the North, and the Hamilton, Waipa and Otorohonga Councils in the south; and from the west coast to Hauraki and Matamata-Piako Councils in the east. Below is a map showing the extent of the area.

The Blueprint is to provide a high-level ‘spatial picture’ of how the district could progress over the next 30 years. As the introduction says, it will provide the Waikato District Council with an effective and legible tool to move from vision to strategy, and from strategy to action by setting out specific, prioritised initiatives at the district and local level.

The plan proposes a comprehensive list of exciting initiatives with themes such as nature, communities, growth, economy, transport, and infrastructure. But it also singles out iwi as a separate category, proposing a further ratcheting up of special rights. The Iwi section includes a proposal to build on the agreements with iwi. From page 21 –

The Joint Management Agreements (JMA) and other relationship agreements

It is proposed that the JMAs and other relationship agreements be used more effectively. The following should be considered in this regard:

  • The agreements should be the umbrella accords, Council processes should be put through the lens of the agreements.
  • Newly developed processes that are relevant need to be included as a part of the agreements.
  • Iwi and hapuu management plans have to be recognised by the Council under legislation. This could also be brought into the agreements.

Such proposals would create a shift in the balance of power between iwi and the council in relation to the agreements.

And on page 23:

New staff positions

It is proposed that the above propositions be supported by the creation of new staff positions. The following should be considered in this regard:

  • The appointment of a Maaori Partnership Manager. This Pohono Iwi ki te Haapori (Maori Partnership Manager) sits with the CE* group which will, appropriately, facilitate a “chief to chief” relationship
  • WDC likely also needs an operational person supporting the Maaori Partnership Manager as there are 40 Marae to engage with.

*CE – Chief Executive

It would be very interesting to see the job description for the Maori Partnership Manager, especially as it is proposed this position is to be assisted by an operations manager tasked with engaging with iwi.

There are only a few days left to have provide feedback. Go online to have your say at www.waikatodistrict.govt.nz/blueprints by 5pm Monday 8 April.

You can read the Blueprint HERE

See also WDC media release 11 March 2019 HERE

The essence of democratic government is that the widest range of people have their share of influence and an equal chance of being heard.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council is eschewing this common wisdom, surely the back bone of democracy. In 2013 the council signed a Memorandum of Partnership with tangata whenua, which operates concurrently at governance, executive and operational levels.

The Memorandum of Partnership includes shared decision-making, a right claimed to be supported by the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. (See Appendix 1 for an interpretation of the principles, as agreed upon by the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the region’s iwi leaders, and Appendix 3 on page 15 for a graphic illustration of the shared governance model).

In a recent response to questions asked by Bob Edlin, as reported in the Point of Order article:

Some light is thrown (but not much) on biodiversity working group’s line of accountability, the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GW) says it has had a strong and evolving relationship with its mana whenua partners for the past 25 years.

In 1993 GW formalised a Charter of Understanding with its six mana whenua iwi partners in the region. GW and iwi built on this in 2000 with a Memorandum of Understanding which the partners reviewed and signed again as the 2013 Memorandum of Partnership – available here on GW’s website.”

Within this relationship GW has committed to proactively partnering with mana whenua in areas of mutual interest. This often requires innovative approaches that reflect co-management principles as the relationship continues to evolve”.

New principles may emerge at any time – but will you be consulted?

The Memorandum of Partnership states:

“The parties recognise that understanding of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is a developing area and new principles may emerge as the meaning and intent of the Treaty is further defined.”

“The Council and tangata whenua may, with mutual agreement, decide to develop and adopt further principles.”

In the project, GW has committed to a mana whenua partnership approach to leading the non-statutory working group that is being established to carry out the project”.

A project currently being developed by GW “in partnership with their mana whenua partners” is the Wellington Regional Biodiversity Framework, (WRBF) which will be shaped by a “mātauranga Māori worldview”. This project is to be driven by the Collaborative Working Group, independently co-chaired in partnership with mana whenua. The group will include three Maori members who will cast TWO votes each when it comes to electing the co-chairs. Maori members will get to vote for their own co-chair and then get to vote for the other co-chair – but the other 12 or so members will get to vote for only one co-chair. Each of these members are required to have an understanding of, and be open to, the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. (p.6 The Wellington Regional Biodiversity Framework project).

As Bob Edlin writes on the Point of Order blogpost:

 ‘All votes are equal on this regional council working group – but some are more equal than others’,

“the Greater Wellington Regional Council has been infected by the same urge to foster co-governance that has swept through the country’s local authorities in recent years.”

Relationship Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding are now in common use across councils nationwide, but…

How did we get to this point?

Māori / local government engagement began in earnest with the reform of local government in 1989 and the passage of the Resource Management Act 1991. But in more recent times these agreements have tended to move beyond the relationship type agreement/MoU and into firmer commitments relating to specific statutory processes and decision-making. Understandably, this has resulted in problems for councils, and councillors. During a presentation to the inaugural ‘Working with Iwi Conference’ in 2011, Dr Mike Reid, Principal Policy Advisor, Local Government New Zealand, said:

“The legislative requirements that require councils to develop specific mechanisms for engaging with tangata whenua or Māori, and which sit on top of more “generic” requirements to consult and engage with citizens, place local authorities between a rock and a hard place. They are required to balance the views of their citizens (which will also include Māori citizens acting in accordance with their Article Three rights) with the views of mandated tangata whenua and Māori organisations while at the same time exercising governance for the good of the district or region as a whole. This poses a significant challenge for elected members and their advisers…..”


For a list of relationship agreements, memoranda of understanding, representation and advisory structures, formal agreements and joint entities, as at June 2017, see:

The LGNZ Report on Council-Māori Participation Arrangements.

This report also includes information about the Engagement and consultation processes, and Council tools and practices to improve engagement. More information is available HERE.

Article links:

Go back to the April 2019 newsletter


Local Government Review Call for Submissions

The juggernaut advancing major constitutional changes to the way our country is governed continues to roll on, much of it flying under the radar. The Government’s radical restructuring agenda includes a review of local government, the purpose of which is “to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody Te Tiriti partnership”. Continue reading

Future for Local Government review proposes radical change

As part of the Government’s wide-reaching reform agenda, (think education and health sectors, three waters, the conservation estate, the RMA replacement), a two-year ministerial review into the future for Local Government was launched in April 2021. The purpose of the review is “to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody Te Tiriti partnership”. Continue reading

LGNZ has lost the plot!

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), an organisation that purportedly represents the interests of local authorities (and by extension local communities), appears to have changed its prime allegiance from local authorities to central government. Continue reading

A recipe for ‘differentiated citizenship’

The Government’s radical plan to impose co-governance over all aspects of the New Zealand government came a step closer with the release of the Review into the Future for Local Government draft report. Read the report here. Continue reading


Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta wants to make it mandatory for councils to consider Māori wards. “Under the proposed changes, when councils undertake their regular Representation Review every six years, the first step must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies. Currently there is no obligation to consider Māori wards at all”, said Ms Mahuta. Continue reading


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. Continue reading

Radical changes to local government afoot

A Ministerial review into the future for Local Government is underway “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”. Ārewa ake te Kaupapa – Raising the platform Continue reading


As local body elections loom in September/October, concerns are being expressed that councillors are insufficiently resourced to effectively represent their constituents. Continue reading

Taupō District Council throws democracy under the bus!

Are the current murmurings of Mt Ruapehu a sign that the gods are not happy with the new Taupō Council agreement?  Taupō District Council recently signed a Mana Whakahono ā Rohe agreement with Ngāti Tūrangitukua that has taken a statutory obligation under the RMA much further than required under the legislation - to a whole new level of co-governance. This agreement includes of a range of policy, planning and operational areas outside of the RMA. Continue reading

Council Codes of Conduct - a tool for muzzling councillors?

Former Prime Minister Sir Bill English described Codes of Conduct as a threat to democracy a good 15 years ago, but we didn't heed his warning. Today they are being used by Councils as a tool to silence our elected representatives - blocking criticism by councillors. This is undermining the democratic process.  Codes of Conduct are designed to ensure the reputation of the Council is upheld within the community. They are not meant to be used as a means of preventing elected members from expressing their views. However, it appears this is happening to an alarming degree. Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

Do your Council’s representation arrangements fail the equal rights test?

Councils owe a duty of fair representation to all the citizens they represent, yet this fundamental principle of democratic governance is being ignored by councils as they build “Treaty partnerships” with their Māori citizens. This is very apparent at Rotorua Lakes Council, where undemocratic arrangements have been introduced to “strengthen the voice of Māori in our decision making”.  Continue reading

Government plans to seize ratepayers’ assets - without compensation

Local Government Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta has announced further details of the Government's regulatory and structural reform of water service delivery in New Zealand. The plan is for an unprecedented transfer of billions of dollars of ratepayer-funded assets from local bodies to four entities. Continue reading

Local Government update

Government plans a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership. On 23 April 2021 the Minister of Local Government established a review into the future for Local Government:  “The overall purpose of the Review is, as a result of the cumulative changes being progressed as part of the Government’s reform agenda, to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody the Treaty partnership”. Continue reading

Tauranga citizens to be further disenfranchised

The anti-democratic madness continues apace in Tauranga. Following the Government-appointed Commissioners recent decision to establish a Māori ward, they have also agreed to a new committee – the Strategy, Finance and Risk Committee - which embodies the 'Treaty partnership', but goes further than that, effectively shutting out the wider community. Continue reading

Māori wards update - May

Even though time and time again referenda have shown that most New Zealanders are opposed to race-based voting systems, 24 local authorities have recently either made the decision to proceed with Māori wards or have indicated an intention to do so. In addition to those mentioned in the April edition of the Democracy Action newsletter, the following have voted to proceed down this path: Continue reading

The cost to ratepayers of implementing the partnership principle

Photo: Penny Smart, Chair of Northland Regional Council The partnership-with-iwi provisions are creating significant cost pressures for councils. This includes large and on-going costs associated with implementing and maintaining the variety of ways Iwi/Māori are involved in local government and contribute to council decision making. Continue reading

Further Councils Considering Establishing Māori Wards

Councils: Waipa, Hawke’s Bay, Horizons, Horowhenua, Hamilton As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the new Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021 extended the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards for the 2022 triennial local government elections to 21 May 2021. This has brought forward a flurry of proposals and votes.  Continue reading

Government legislates away a democratic right

“Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.”  So pledged the Labour Party during the 2020 election campaign. Just four months later they have broken this promise in spectacular fashion, passing under urgency the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act - thereby abolishing the right of local communities to petition for a referendum on Maori wards or constituencies. Continue reading

Step by step, the undermining of democracy continues……….

Maori wards are not the only avenue for separate local government representation for Māori. Continue reading

No respect for democracy - Government to muzzle citizens

In a shock announcement, the Government reveals it intends to use the extraordinary powers reserved for use when the nation is under threat to get rid of legislation that enables referenda on Māori wards. Continue reading

We want a vote on Māori wards!

The Local Electoral Act’s binding poll system is a form of direct democracy that enables local electors to choose for themselves by simple majority vote whether or not they support race-based council representation. However, to trigger a poll 5 percent of electors must support a petition to hold the referendum. Campaigns to do so have already started in several regions. Please offer your support and encouragement to those who are standing up for the right to have a say on whether we support designated race-based seats at the council table. Continue reading

Mayors seek law change to thwart citizens’ right to have a say on Māori wards

Every six years local bodies are obliged to review the ward system. We have seen a flurry of such activity over the past few months, with both New Plymouth and Tauranga acting to establish Māori wards, and others considering whether to follow suit.  Continue reading

More councils adopt racially-selected appointees

Despite constituents strongly opposing separate race-based representation, as shown in referenda held in 2018, the number of councils across New Zealand which have appointed unelected members with voting rights to council committees has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. The following are examples (by no means the total number) of councils who have recently taken the obligation to consult with Māori to an undemocratic level: Continue reading

Yahoo! A double win for democracy

We end the year with the welcome news that the bill making it harder to remove the Māori seats from Parliament has been voted down at the second reading, with New Zealand First opposing the change. Only Labour and the Green Party supported the legislation. The bill cleared its first hurdle in Parliament last year with the unlikely support of New Zealand First, which opposes the Māori seats. The party wanted to use the bill as a vehicle to hold a two-part referendum on the seats, asking whether they should be entrenched or done away with altogether. But no referendum was added after the select committee stage. Continue reading

Local Body Elections 2019

The Democracy Action working group is preparing a set of questions to ask candidates. Please take the opportunity to call radio shows with guest candidates, and attend public meetings, to ask a question or two. Continue reading

The undermining of our democracy continues apace

Please see below some examples from around the country: Earlier this year the Minister of Conservation signed a partnership agreement between the ministry, DOC and Auckland iwi Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, to share in the management of natural resources, and cultural and historical heritage. Ngai Tai ki Tamaki’s role is that of guardians and stewards. They are seeking to establish an ‘iwi conservancy’ over land and taonga species. They are based at Umupuia, just south of Maraetai, on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf. Yet they claim an area of interest, and therefore influence, that stretches from north of Auckland, down to Tauranga, including the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula; much of the Manukau Harbour in the west, and out past Gt. Barrier Island in the east, as shown below. Continue reading

‘Partnership’ - a way of heading off costly litigation?

Last month we reported on the Horizons Regional Council vote to create a committee of councillors and iwi leaders to come up with strategies for managing Manawatū waterways. Continue reading

Auckland Plan 2050 Adopted – With The Anti-Democratic Provisions

The Auckland Plan 2050, the long-term strategy for Auckland’s growth and development, and which provides a framework to inform decisions, has been adopted by Auckland Council. Continue reading

Implementation of Treaty settlements creating significant cost pressures

The Waikato Regional Council’s draft submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Local Government Funding and Financing reveals that the implementation of Treaty of Waitangi settlements creates significant cost pressures for Council. The submission states that “the Council wishes to work with its iwi partners in partnership but notes that the costs to do so is significant to its ratepayers”. Continue reading

Hastings District Council joins the Hall of Shame

A big thank you to those who contacted Hasting District councillors to encourage them to vote against the proposal to enable four members of the Maori Joint Committee to sit and vote on the council’s four standing committees. Unfortunately, enough councillors (10-4) felt able to turn their back on democracy by appointing unelected Maori to all committees.  Continue reading

Good News - designated seats for Ngāi Tahu voted down

New Zealand First has scuppered Labour's bid to give Ngāi Tahu permanent seats on the Canterbury Regional Council, saying its special treatment for Māori. Shane Jones acknowledged the party's long-held position against separate seats for Māori on local body councils. Continue reading

Auckland Council’s ‘Our Water Future’ - Remember to have your say

Auckland Council recently released a discussion document on developing ‘a water strategy to ensure a secure, sustainable, and healthy future for water in Auckland’. We covered this issue in the March update, but to briefly recap, as to the advancement of a co-governance agenda, concerns centre on the following statements: Continue reading