You thought voting rights and representation was a governance matter? Get to grips with the Treaty and sophistication

We were alerted by David Farrar to the further crumbling of local government democracy under the Ardern Government – or, as she would put it, to making our governance arrangements more sophisticated.

The outrage – or sophistication , depending on your ideology – goes further than Farrar reported in a post headed Parliament votes to end “one person, one vote” (although some of his readers picked up on it).

Yes, the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill abandons the key constitutional concept that all Kiwis have the same voting rights. 

But check out how the government opted to deal with legislation which prescribes how the people of Rotorua will be able to vote and how their council will be structured.  It is being treated as a Maori Affairs issue, not a local government issue.  

The job of Parliament’s Governance and Administration Committee is to look at business related to parliamentary and legislative services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, State services, statistics, internal affairs, civil defence and emergency management, and local government.

This committee, although chaired by National’s Ian McKelvie, has a Labour majority.

But at the bill’s first reading, Parliament voted to refer it to the Māori Affairs Committee.

The job of this committee is to look at business related to Māori affairs and Treaty of Waitangi negotiations.

It is chaired by Labour list MP Tamati Coffey.

And – guess what, dear reader?

Tamati Coffey happens to be the fellow who is sponsoring the local bill and he is the fellow who asked for it to be referred to the committee which he chairs.

Kiwiblog reported after the bill’s first reading:

Parliament (well Labour and Greens and Māori Party) voted last night to end the concept of one person one vote in New Zealand.

By 77 to 43 they voted for the first reading of the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill.

This bill over-rides the existing electoral law which requires wards to be roughly the same size, so that a vote in one ward is worth as much as a vote elsewhere. The same law applies at a national level with a 5% tolerance.

But what this bill does is legislate for 22,000 voters on the Māori roll to elect three ward Councillors and 56,000 voters on the general roll to elect three ward Councillors. This means the votes of people on the general roll will be worth 39% of the votes of those on the Māori roll – which is of course restricted to those who have had at least one Māori ancestor.

So Labour and Greens have voted for a bill that will, in Rotorua, reduce the votes of those on the general roll to 39% of those on the Māori roll. And the media deem this barely worth reporting on.

Make no mistake, if this law passes for Rotorua, it will eventually become the standard everywhere – for all Councils, and eventually for Parliament. Anyone who denies this is deluded. The Māori Party openly advocate for this.

This bill needs to be defeated. We need tens of thousands of submissions against it. You can make a submission here. This is not the time to sit on the sidelines.

Point of Order draws attention to the constitutional expertise of Prime Minister Ardern who  – when answering questions in Parliament last month – reinforced impressions she believes the Treaty of Waitangi entitles some New Zealanders to more political rights than others.

David Seymour: Does she agree with this statement, “All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot.”, and, if so, how is that consistent with more and more governance roles being appointed along ethnic lines instead of elected?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I support the longstanding principles of democracy in this nation, but the idea that that cannot sit alongside Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I take issue with that. We are more sophisticated than that, surely, than to take such a simplistic view.

Tamati Coffey gave us a better understanding of Ardern’s ideas of sophistication when introducing the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill

He proudly recalled that last year, the Ardern Government chose to prioritise Māori wards all around the country

“… to make sure that we had guaranteed Māori representation at those [council] tables.

“Our people back home, they got really excited about that idea—the idea of not just sitting on committees, not sitting on advisory committees that are unpaid with no teeth; they got excited about the true idea of a meaningful partnership …”

This led to work being undertaken on what Māori wards would mean for the people of Rotorua, and the council came up with the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill.

Coffey described the arrangement:  one mayor elected at large; one Māori ward with three seats across the whole of Rotorua; one general ward with three seats across the whole of Rotorua; and four at-large seats, which can be voted for by anybody on the general or the Māori roll.

Then he boasted of the role he is playing:

“They called me up and said, ‘Would you be the local member that will take this to Parliament? Because we believe that it’s the right thing to do. Will you do it for our city?’

“And I said to them, ‘I will do it for our city.’

“More than that, I want this to come to our Māori Affairs Committee, of which I am the chair.”

But this is not the only pernicious legislation in the Parliamentary pipeline intended to erode the voting rights of New Zealanders.

Rino Tirikatane, Labour MP for Te Tai Tonga, proudly reminded the House of legislation aimed at ensuring Ngai Tahu will be guaranteed two seats – without having to campaign for election – on the Canterbury Regional Council.

This, too, is deemed to be a matter for Maori Affairs Committee scrutiny, not a Governance and Administration Committee matter.

Tirikatane congratulated the Rotorua District Council “for bringing this unique issue to the House”.

Hmm  Once the precedent has been set the Rotorua issue won’t be unique for too long.

Tirikatane said as much when he acknowledged Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta “and our good Government” for introducing legislation that

“..is going to transform local government right across Aotearoa. I’m looking forward to the results of the elections later this year and seeing so many new Māori faces around the council tables.”

Then he said he was no stranger to local bills – he is the member in charge of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill.

“And, again, they’re all about ensuring that mana whenua presence and representation around the table, which is so important and that reflects the promise of the Treaty.”

As Point of Order has observed, this legislation is all about giving local tribal leaders a right that no other group in the country has been given – the right to have their chosen nominees sit on two seats at the regional council table without Canterbury voters having any say in the matter.

We can be sure all other tribes will want the same entitlements in their respective districts.

5 thoughts on “You thought voting rights and representation was a governance matter? Get to grips with the Treaty and sophistication

  1. This is absolutely outrageous and must be resisted. If it passes then the next government must do away with it and all similar policies, repeat all, without delay.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The provisions of this bill giving disproportionate representation to Maori on the Rotorua and Lakes Council breach New Zealand’s obligations under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular Article 25, as follows:

    “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any
    of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable
    restrictions:

    (a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through
    freely chosen representatives;

    (b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which
    shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret
    ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;

    (c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in
    his country.”

    The “distinctions mentioned in Article 2” include race. Racial discrimination when it comes to voting is a violation of the Covenant. States are also obliged to provide for not only universal but EQUAL suffrage which rules out the disproportionate representation proposed by the bill. Equal suffrage is also protected under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, Section 12. Tamati Coffey does not seem to have done his homework. He might also wish to know that the Covenant is a treaty which is binding on New Zealand, unlike the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is not binding on any government.

    It appears Ardern’s “more sophisticated” version of democracy is in fact a race-based gerrymander. How is this intended to bring about “greater social cohesion”?

    Everyone who is concerned should make submissions against this bill. They close on 20 April – Mr Coffey has generously allowed two weeks, They should also share information about it as it seems the media have imposed a news blackout on what would be a fundamental constitutional change undermining democracy in New Zealand.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ngai Tahu, the largest commercial entity in the South Island get to have an outsized say in the allocation of resources that they themselves, and their competitors use. They also have, by decree, required input into any resource applications. Crony capitalism with a tribal twist, what could possibly go wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

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