Buzz from the Beehive
Hurrah. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta did get around to recognising the draft report on the future of local government from a review team whose membership and mission she announced in April last year.
The team’s proposals include the creation of a Kiwi version of Animal Farm in which all citizens are equal, but some (depending on genealogy) are more equal than others.
Point of Order had been keen to learn what Mahuta thought of the draft report, but Opposition reactions reached us first.
ACT’s press statement from local government spokesman Simon Court said the Government’s review team proposes ‘differentiated liberal citizenships’, where people get different rights based on their cultural and ethnic background.
“Is this what Willie Jackson meant when he said, ‘democracy has changed’?
“The suggestion that people should get different rights because of who their grandparents are is anti-democratic. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta needs to front up and tell ratepayers if she believes in this concept and if so, how is it consistent with the Bill of Rights?”
Then we received a statement from National’s Paul Goldsmith and Simon Watts headlined National rejects anti-democratic council proposals. This makes their position plain.
Mahuta’s statement on the Beehive website makes no mention of this highly contentious element of the review team’s recommendations.
It is one of five recent posts on the website which tell us she and her ministerial colleagues have been ….
· Delivering a Crown apology for Treaty breaches
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little has delivered the Crown Apology to Ngāti Maru for its historic breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Deed of settlement was signed February 2021, and the Ngāti Maru (Taranaki) Claims Settlement Act 2022 became law March 2022.
· Enthusing about Treaty “partnerships” and the results of spending millions on Māori housing
Associate Housing Minister Peeni Henare – who was joined by Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash at the opening of the Toitū Builtsmart Facility in Gisborne – enthused about the discriminatory spending of public funding that results from his government’s fostering of iwi-Crown partnerships in accord with its contentious interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi.
He said delivering over 50 homes, creating 18 full-time jobs, while providing a site for Toitū Tairāwhiti Māori cadetships
“… is proof that iwi and Crown partnerships work.”
Hmm. Has anyone told him how things are going in Tuhoe country?
Toitū Tairāwhiti secured up to $4 million in funding from Kānoa Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit (RDU)’s Regional Strategic Partnership Fund to help with the construction of the site and it co-funded the remaining $4 million “to bring the project to life”.
In last year’s Budget, the Government committed $730 million for Māori housing to deliver 1000 new homes, repairs and maintenance to 700 homes, and infrastructure support for 2,700 homes. This investment includes $30 million towards building future capability for iwi and Māori groups to accelerate housing projects and support services.
· Hailing the heartening portents from the latest tourism statistics
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said New Zealand is set for a strong summer season as the tourism sector continues its recovery, with overseas visitor arrivals and card spend tracking towards pre-pandemic levels.
His optimism was generated by data showing:
- Around 145,250 overseas visitors arrived in the four weeks to 26 October
- Over 10,000 Working Holiday Visa holders have now arrived in New Zealand
- International card spend at 88% of pre-COVID levels (from 26 August to 22 September 2019) in the four weeks to 25 September (i.e. 29 August to 25 September 2022)
- Economic boost from cruise season expected to be between $350 to $510 million
- Around 19% of total bed nights booked for 2022/23 are from international visitors
Nash reminded us of the Government’s support for the tourism sector throughout the pandemic has included the $400m Tourism Recovery Package, the $200m Tourism Communities Plan, and the $54m Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery.
In September it announced $2 million to Go with Tourism, a programme for addressing labour supply issues in the tourism and hospitality sector.
· Rallying applicants to sup from a trough that will fund schemes to improve drinking water for rural communities
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced applications are open for a programme to support rural access to clean and safe drinking water.
She subtly spruiked Three Waters, saying:
“The Government is committed to keeping a lid on rate rises by addressing the rising costs of water on households and fixing our critical water infrastructure.
“Everyone agrees that change is needed to ensure that all New Zealanders do not have to foot the bill through unreasonable rate hikes, to have access to safe, clean drinking water.”
Mahuta reminded us, too, of a previous signal that the government is keen to ensure rural drinking water suppliers are supported to meet new regulatory requirements and standards, by funding the installation of safe, modern water treatment equipment and infrastructure.
Employing the patois which suggests she wasn’t trying too hard to reach a non-te reo audience, she said:
“Our Rural Drinking Water programme will invest $20 million to help upgrade community water systems in high deprivation areas which includes rural marae, papakāinga and kōhanga reo.”
She further said:
“This programme demonstrates our commitment to upgrading and future proofing infrastructure for remote communities and acknowledges historic inequities of access to safe drinking water for Māori in rural areas.”
It will empower rural communities with training from technical specialists involved in the installation and maintenance of upgraded equipment. Under the programme, they will be supported for five years and any new equipment installed will be retained and owned by the respective drinking water supplier.
Further information on the programme and how to apply can be found at: Crown Infrastructure Partners
· Extolling the virtues of democracy while commenting on a report which aims to weaken it at the local government level
Yep, this is what we had been waiting for – the statement from Nanaia Mahuta on the future of local government.
Although she announced the review team which has just published its draft report, she apparently wants us to think this is the work of local government. She said:
“The local government sector has taken the next step in its work on the future shape it wants for regional, district and city councils, with the release of the second report by an independent panel.”
“The Future for Local Government Review is very much the construct of local authorities themselves.”
Notes at the bottom of the press release tell us:
Central government agreed to support the process and funded the review and its five-member panel.
Mahuta does acknowledge the government has concerns, but they are concerns firstly for the financial wellbeing of citizens:
“The Government is focused on prioritising ways to keep a lid on rate rises.”
Oh – and the government is keen on consultations (just as it has been keen to hear from us on the Three Waters issue):
“We continue to support the sector in its efforts to engage with local communities in order to get the buy-in needed for any changes. The independent panel will now embark on a round of consultation with the wider local government sector to seek submissions, before producing its final report by June 2023.”
The only hint Mahuta gives that the review might result in special citizenship rights for mana whenua, guaranteeing local iwi leaders appointed spots around council tables, is when she says:
“Just as central government is preparing for what the world throws at us by keeping debt low and continuing to invest in a high-wage, low-emissions economy; local government also needs to respond to the challenges ahead, whether it is keeping a lid on rate rises, upgrading critical water infrastructure, climate change, or ensuring diverse voices are at the council table.”
“Local democracy is critical for our society, and it is my expectation that the Panel will engage with and consider the views of as many New Zealanders as possible. I encourage everyone to have their say.”
Is this the same sort of say we were given on Three Waters and the enshrining of appointed seats for Ngai Tahu on the Canterbury regional council?
The press statement says the draft report does not represent government policy.
But this simply invites the rejoinder: not yet.
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