Local government leaders can show Waititi how to dispose of democracy and adopt a Treaty-based system of representation

Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was preaching to a powerful army of converts among local government leaders when he said New Zealand should forget about this democracy thing and adopt a Treaty-based system of government.

If he was accurately reported, Waititi expressed his belief that some citizens – by virtue of their race – should be more equal than others.

Can you guess which ones?

According to Newshub, he said:

“We need to start looking at how Maori can participate more equally and equitably in that particular space in a tiriti-centric Aotearoa. Not in a democracy, because… democracy is majority rules, and indigenous peoples – especially Maori at 16 percent of the population in this country – will lose out, and we’ll sit in second-place again.”

He rejected suggestions abandoning a simple democracy for a “tiriti-centric” system would lead to separatism.

“We’ve been on the road to separatism for 180 years. If we look at a tiriti-centric Aotearoa, we’ll probably be the best nation in the world heading down this track.”

His thinking on  de-democratisation is already being given constitutional expression  by elected local government representatives who – like turkeys eager for an early Christmas – have been voting to weaken their democratic systems of governance and share their decision-making powers with unelected appointees.

Examples:

  • Invercargill

Two months ago, while councils throughout the country were rushing to establish Māori wards in time for the local government elections next year, Invercargill deputy electoral officer Michael Morris recommended the Invercargill City Council take a different course – it should consider mana whenua seats at the council table.

Whose idea was this?

According to  Stuff:

His recommendations were made after Ngai Tahu had made it clear they did not want a Māori ward.

And so …

Under the recommended option, which councillors agreed to on Tuesday, council staff would be directed to work with mana whenua to create mana whenua seats instead.

“These seats would be exclusively for mana whenua and would not be elected by the voting public. The seats would be on the council’s standing committees that come with voting rights and an advisory seat on full council (non-voting),” Morris says in the report.

Councillors adopted his recommendations, although two councillors  had the political courage to vote against it.

Cr Peter Kett said there had always been a fair representation of Māori on the council.

“I have always been of the belief if you are going to have a say around the council table … you should be elected there.”

The voting systems in place were “very fair” and no-one was at a disadvantage, he said.

“So I would like to stick with the status quo, I believe everyone should stand on their own two feet.”

But a hefty majority of councillors apparently prefer to give constitutional primacy to a “treaty partnership” which is not mentioned in the Treaty of Waitangi or the Local Government Act.

Councillor Rebecca Amundsen said there was clear feedback from the representation review that the council needed to do a better job in engaging with Māori and have a genuine partnership with Māori under the treaty obligations.

People she had spoken to thought mana whenua seats had more value, partly because it was more representative of Iwi – given anyone in the community could stand for a Māori ward seat.

This over-rode the observation from Cr Nobby Clark that about 60 per cent of the Iwi population in Southland was not mana whenua and would disengage others to have their rights represented through a Ngai Tahu sub group.

The council disregarded this  They voted against introducing a Māori Ward for the 2022 election  and directed council staff to work with mana whenua to create appointed mana whenua positions at the council.

Last week, Stuff reported that council staff have prepared a report for councillors to be discussed at the performance, policy, and partnerships committee meeting tomorrow.

These officials recommend that Waihōpai Rūnaka and Te Rūnanga o Awarua both be allocated a seat on two Invercargill City Council committees.

The recommendation is that there will be two roles, one for each runaka, on the performance, policy, and partnerships committee and infrastructural committee.

They will have full voting rights.

It has also been recommended that council offers an advisory role to the Bluff Community Board for Te Rūnanga o Awarua.

Council will consult with Takata Whenua on the people who will be appointed to the roles.

The report says the plan is for those appointees to the newly created mana whenua positions to start in September 2021.

A decision will need to be made on what remuneration would be appropriate for the new roles. It has been recommended that the roles be remunerated.

  • Otago

The Otago Regional Council’s strategic and planning committee in the past week approved a draft policy on Maori participation for public consultation.  The ODT reported:

Regulatory and communications general manager Richard Saunders said it made public the council’s commitment to its partnership with mana whenua.

That partnership was “front and centre” in the draft policy, but it also set out the council’s commitment to the community and its stakeholders, he said.

It was developed in partnership with mana whenua, and Aukaha and Te Ao Marama Inc reviewed and contributed to the document in its draft form.

The proposed policy vows to make matauranga Kai Tahu an integral part of the council’s decision-making.

“This includes acknowledging historic grievances and respecting Kai Tahu customs and beliefs when engaging with mana whenua,” it says.

Council staff (unelected) said legislative requirements were considered a “bottom line”. Presumably this was a reference to the Local Government Act, which makes no mention  of a “partnership” between local tribes and governing bodies.

But in Otago…

“We aspire to go beyond these statutory responsibilities to ensure meaningful engagement with mana whenua which recognises the principles of partnership of the Treaty [of Waitangi].”

Otakou marae kaumatua Edward Ellison, who sits on the committee as an appointed member, said the policy was “very good”.

Only two councillors, Michael Laws and Gary Kelliher, went out to bat for democracy by  voting against it.

The draft policy will be available for public consultation for four weeks from July 19.

This is the same council which, late in 2017, followed the advice of a council report and resolved not to create a dedicated Maori constituency for its 2019 election.

Local Maori tribal leaders supported this resolution.

The Otago Daily Times at that time reported: 

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said it engaged with four local runanga groups about the proposal.

Otakou Runaka formally responded saying it was against the proposal, and the other three had informally indicated they thought similarly.

Cr Laws declared it was no surprise local runanga did not want a dedicated seat, because this would diminish their own influence.

“They believe that allowing a democratic choice for Maori would go against their own voice.”

The council had a legal responsibility to act for all Maori, not just local iwi, he said.

A majority disagreed.

  • Dunedin –

Late last month, the Dunedin City Council determined to introduce Maori members to key standing committees.

Councillors considered a proposal for both the infrastructure services committee and the planning and services committee to have two extra members with full voting rights, one each from Otakou Runanga and Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki Runanga.

The ODT report suggests further concessions of governance privileges to the tribes are on the cards:

Mayor Aaron Hawkins said it was a significant day for the council and the city.

It would not be the end point for the council’s collaboration with Maori, but was a significant milestone in the partnership.

Cr Chris Staynes is among the growing number of local body leaders who believe the Treaty of Waitangi promises much more to Maori than Point of Order can find in the three Treaty articles.

He said this was an “absolute red letter day” for the council and was a step towards honouring what was agreed when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Cr Jim O’Malley similarly interprets the Treaty as a document which requires us to dilute, if not abandon, democratic principles.  He said it was not appropriate to impose a Western European selection process on the proposed Maori representatives.

Speaking as the chairman of the infrastructure committee he said he was very excited about the change and society would look back on how councillors had voted 30 years from now.

Only one councillor – Cr Lee Vandervis – stood up in defence of the city’s democracy.

He said it was extraordinary the council would not have input into how the representatives would be chosen, and the motion would “throw elected representation to the dogs”.

It was unacceptable to give voting rights to non-elected members of standing committees, he said.

  • Wellington – 

Former Porirua Deputy Mayor Liz Kelly​ has been appointed Ngāti Toa Rangatira’s representative to sit on Wellington City Council’s committees and subcommittees.

The council voted 8-6 in April to appoint mana whenua representatives to all committees and subcommittees, except the CEO Performance Review Committee.

Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira were each allowed one representative on the committees with full voting rights and each iwi is to be paid $111,225 a year for their contribution, equivalent to the salary of an elected councillor.

When the council voted in favour of this de-democratising form of representation in April, Wellington Mayor Andy Foster was decried for suggesting the proposal to give iwi voting rights on council committees should be taken to the public for feedback before going to a council vote.

Foster quite rightly said current councillors were democratically elected and answerable to voters, whereas appointed iwi members would not be.

“We’re elected to make decisions for the whole community. I’m suggesting we agree in principle [to the proposal], but we allow the opportunity for the public to provide feedback,” he said. “I think I’d like to give it more substance than just our view without any other input at all.”

  Simon Woolf was the only councillor to support the mayor’s amendment.

Cr Fleur Fitzsimons accused Foster of putting forward a “process delay amendment” and ignoring the council’s Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

Cr Jenny Condie agreed the proposal did not require formal public feedback, because it would be “rectifying an injustice”.

She told Foster he was “waiting for potentially racist feedback to provide you with some political cover”.

“This is a delaying and political tactic that will cause more hurt for Māori and mana whenua.”

Cr Rebecca Matthews said seats on the council had traditionally been a “white privilege”.

“There is absolutely no excuse for sitting around this table if you don’t understand our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Mana whenua members previously had membership on two council committees, but were not paid and did not have voting rights.

Kelly, a Porirua City Councillor from 2004 to 2013, and deputy mayor in her final term, ran for the Porirua mayoralty in the 2016 election but lost to Mike Tana.

The Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika representative will be announced in July.

The tribal appointments have been decreed necessary even though the council voted in May to create a Māori ward which would come into effect for the 2022 local elections.

  • South Taranaki

Local Maori tribes have rejected a new partnership plan with the South Taranaki District Council until the rules are made more acceptable.

Since November last year the council and the four tribes have been drawing up the Iwi-Council Partnership Strategy.

Council officers had recommended the Iwi Liaison Committee approve a draft strategy and send it to the full council for adoption next week.

According to the New Zealand Herald:

“Te Korowai o Ngāruahine’s pouhautū Emma Gardiner said the strategy needed to be stronger.

“The goals are quite diluted. They’re a mixture of goals, actions and protocols –– we probably need to flesh that out so it’s a strategy.”

Te Kāhui o Taranaki’s John Niwa said the iwi needed time to make sure the strategy was correct.

“Do we understand, Māori and others, what we are all in for? This is historical. It’s got to be right, it’s got to be clear what we’re going into partnership with and for.”

The Iwi Liaison Committee resolved to incorporate suggested changes to the partnership agreement and reconsider it at its next meeting.

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