Here’s why we took a special interest in the latest appointments to the Local Government Commission

Latest from the Beehive [updated]

Our first instinct, on reading of government appointments nowadays, is to check to see who has landed new jobs and what are their family connections to the inhabitants of the
Beehive.

This follows the disclosure and questioning in recent weeks of certain appointments to public positions.  But only some mainstream media have shown any interest.

Among the exceptions:

  • June 21 – NZ Herald

PM stands by Nanaia Mahuta after Nats say Government contracts to family show ‘pattern of perceived conflicts

The Prime Minister is standing by Nanaia Mahuta over claims about perceived conflicts of interest in contracts involving Mahuta’s family.

Last month the Herald revealed the Ministry for the Environment had awarded Mahuta’s husband and family members contracts worth about $90,000.

  • June 23 – NZ Herald

Nanaia Mahuta family member appointments: Officials launch review into working group positions

The Ministry for the Environment is looking over the process that saw Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s husband and two members of her extended family appointed to a five-member working group.

  • June 27 – Newstalk ZB

Mike’s Minute: About time there was an investigation into the Mahuta contracts

As if the Government didn’t have enough credibility issues, the inevitable Mahuta investigation has begun against the backdrop of the Prime Minister saying she had her full confidence.

Among previous Point of Order reports on the appointments, we featured an admirable rundown (HERE) by Dr Bryce Edwards, Political Analyst in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington and director of the Democracy Project.

Edwards drew attention to this:

The fact that the Ministry of the Environment has recently launched an internal inquiry into some of its appointments and the agency’s processes shows that the allegations probably do merit further public discussion.

One of the allegations relates to the Three Waters reforms that Mahuta is controversially pushing through Parliament at the moment. At the same time, Mahuta’s younger sister, Tipa Mahuta, has been made chair of the Māori Advisory Group that will control the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai. This role is arguably going to be the most powerful in the Three Waters configuration, and she will have an indirect influence on how each individual new water entity operates.

But whereas these appointments and the questions they have raised have largely been ignored by the state-subsidised mainstream media in this country, they have not gone unnoticed across the Tasman.

The Australian published an article headed NZ minister Nanaia Mahuta accused of conflict of interest over sister’s job and The Spectator in Australia on July 6 published an article headed New Zealand’s Three Waters scheme a debt trap?  The Australian article is behind a paywall and the Spectator’s article has been removed from its website.  

The articles published in Australia and Dr Bryce Edwards’ article say Mahuta responded to allegations of nepotism by saying:

“I’ve got a talented whanau. Conflicts have been declared, managed appropriately, and in accordance with the Cabinet Manual.”

With this rich vein of family talent to be tapped, it seems worth checking the latest government appointments to see which agency, commission or whatever will be benefiting from their expertise.

Two lots of appointments show up on the Beehive website today, one of them announced by Mahuta, but – at first blush – none of her family members are involved.

Attorney-General David Parker announced the appointments of five lay members of the High Court under the Commerce Act 1986.

Lay members assist the Court in cases involving appeals from decisions of the Commerce Commission and in other matters under the Commerce Act and play a key role in ensuring that expert evidence on complex competition or regulation issues is properly understood, tested and assessed by the Court.

Local Government Minister Mahuta appointed three people to the Local Government Commission.

  • Brendan Duffy, Chair
  • Bonita Bigham
  • Sue Bidrose

Mahuta’s press statemen explains that the Local Government Commission was established in 1947 to consider proposals for local government reorganisation. Over time, oversight of representation arrangements and promoting good practice have been added to its roles.

Most recently the Commission made decisions on representation arrangements for this year’s local elections for 31 councils, many of which involved the establishment of Māori wards. It also recently conducted a review of local authority codes of conduct which will see the development of a governance education framework for elected members and council staff.

Mahuta didn’t mention that the commission played a role in determining the new voting and representation arrangements for Rotorua.

It’s not the outrageous system which the Rotorua Lakes Council’s proposed and which the Attorney-General deemed to be discriminatory against non-Māori.

The Rotorua District Council Representative Arrangements Bill, prepared by the Rotorua Lakes Council, would have given 21,700 Māori roll voters three seats, the same number as the 55,600 General roll voters. 

The proposed law was brought to Parliament by Rotorua-based Labour MP Tamati Coffey and was supported by Labour at first reading. But Labour’s own Attorney-General David Parker said it could breach the Bill of Rights Act

 The Rotorua Lakes Council accordingly decided to pause the restructuring process.

Its backdown resulted in its adopting the Local Government Commission’s recommendation, which Mayor Steve Chadwick had previously rejected.

This means Rotorua citizens will now vote for a mayor elected at-large, three​ councillors from a Māori ward, one​ from a rural ward, and six​ from a general ward.

Latest from the Beehive

15 JULY 2022

Local Government commissioners appointed

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of three commissioners to Mana Kāwanatanga ā Rohe | Local Government Commission.

Five lay members of the High Court appointed

Attorney-General David Parker announced today the appointment of five lay members of the High Court under the Commerce Act 1986.

Fish Passage remediation in Tasman District to boost fish numbers and employment

A joint Government and Tasman District Council project is investing to bring more freshwater fish to the Tasman region, protect local waterways and employ local people.

CORRECTION:  This article originally included an extract  from the Spectator’s report which overstated the number of Mahuta family involved in Three Waters  appointments or contracts. Tipa Mahuta is the only family member involved.  She is chair of Te Puna (the Maori Advisory Group). 

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