Mahuta welcomes report which portends the local authority reforms (and Treaty partnerships) she seems keen to promote

The announcement we were expecting yesterday came later in the day, but not from the PM.  Rather, it came from Ayesha Verrall, Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation, who said government and businesses are working together to pilot the use of rapid antigen testing in workplaces.

But readers who believe that all citizens in a democracy should have the same entitlements and voting rights and the same ability to hold to account the people who govern us should look beyond Covid to another threat.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has welcomed the interim report on the Future for Local Government Review.

In her press statement, she says

“.. our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve to be fit for the future.” 

You could say it has been fast evolving already (or eroding, perhaps) on Mahuta’s watch in the local government portfolio. She has been instrumental in

  • removing the rights of citizens to challenge electoral arrangements which displease them, such as the introduction of Maori wards by local council;  and
  • pushing on with the highly contentious Three Waters reforms, which include arrangements for Maori to become co-governors (unaccountable to the majority of citizens) of four new water-administering authorities.

Mahuta describes the interim report on local government reform as

“… a starting point for strengthening our local democratic participation, empowering communities to have a voice in local decision-making, more collaboration between central and local government, and the role of Māori and other local communities in local government,”

In  the next phase of the Review (she says) the panel will

“…  engage with community leaders and groups, business people, young people, iwi and Māori and a wide range of other diverse communities. Their programme will include online and in-person workshops and wānanga, online surveys, stakeholder conversations, and local government meetings.”

You can read more about the Future for Local Government Review and read the interim report at:  www.futureforlocalgovernment.govt.nz

The report makes just two mentions of Asians, although it projects they will account for  26 per cent of the population over the next two decades.

In contrast, there are 131 references (including footnotes) to Maori, who are projected to become 21 per cent of the population.

The “Treaty” explains this disparity in the treatment of two significant ethnic groups.

At one point, the report says:

“The relationship between local government and Māori is being re-examined, as the country moves towards a new phase in the Treaty of Waitangi relationship.”

And:

“Planned reforms to resource management and three waters create much stronger statutory obligations to give effect to Te Tiriti, along with provisions for joint decision-making and statutory protection for Te Mana o te Wai (the health and mauri of fresh water) and Te Oranga o te Taiao (the health of the natural environment). If implemented as currenly planned, these reforms will apply specifcally to water and resource management, rather than the whole local government system.”

 Elsewhere the report gives a portent of the sort of programme the Ardern government looks ominously eager to promote:

Any future local governance arrangements will need to give authentic

expression to the Te Tiriti relationship at a local level, and also support

iwi and Māori aspirations for the wellbeing and prosperity of their

people, and the health of the natural environment. Among other things,

this could mean:

▸ Considering how the statutory framework for local governance

might recognise and give effect to tino rangatiratanga, and

incorporate Te Ao Māori values and principles.78

▸ Clarifying the place of local government in the Te Tiriti

partnership.

▸ Considering structures and mechanisms for partnership and

shared decision-making over matters that are signifcant to Treaty

rights and iwi and Māori wellbeing.

▸ Creating opportunities for local authorities and iwi / Maori to

collaborate in order to advance wellbeing in their communities.

▸ Providing for community-led and ‘by Māori for Māori’ approaches

to address social and economic development.

▸ Ensuring that iwi and Māori have suffcient representation in any

local governance structures to protect their rights and advance

their aspirations.

▸ Taking steps to increase the capacity of iwi and Māori to share in

local authority decision-making.

▸ Recognising that one size does not ft all – iwi, hapū, Māori

organisations and rōpū (groups) vary in size, capacity, territories,

and interests and aspirations.

▸ Taking account of iwi and Māori rights and interests when

determining local authority structures and boundaries.

▸ Training and upskilling local authority elected members and

staff to ensure that local authorities provide a culturally safe and

respectful environment for Māori.

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