Yes, we know about the Rotorua councillor’s resignation – but the legality of the mayor’s secrecy motion has gone unquestioned

Malcolm Harbrow, an admirably dogged campaigner against governmental secrecy on his No Right Turn blog, has drawn attention to something the mainstream media missed.

He has focused on the legality of Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick’s actions at a stormy meeting of the Rotorua Lakes Council.

RNZ is among the media which reported on the meeting, where a motion to move into confidential session over the controversial Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill triggered a a councillor’s immediate resignation.

No Right Turn has provided a link to the council’s livestream recording of the meeting (from 4:15 to 8:15), so we can see for ourselves what happened.

It then notes that RNZ‘s focus is on the resignation, but something has been missed – the mayor’s secrecy motion:

At a full council meeting today, Chadwick moved to include a discussion about the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill into a confidential section of the meeting.

She said it was to “enable us all as council, together, to have a free and frank discussion in response to the attorney general’s request for further information needed to develop policy work”. Continue reading “Yes, we know about the Rotorua councillor’s resignation – but the legality of the mayor’s secrecy motion has gone unquestioned”

Mahuta and Robertson are flushed with enthusiasm as they pump revised Three Waters plans back into the political pipes

The Labour Government is again using a Friday while the Prime Minister is on leave to dump information, ACT Leader David Seymour claimed in a press statement today.   

He referenced an announcement on Friday last week setting out the  next steps on He Puapua, the government’s programme for extending the meaning of “Treaty partnership” and discriminating in favour of “indigenous” people as “special”.

Today, the government has released its decision on Three Waters.

Just one thing.  Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson certainly have announced the Government’s Three Waters plans.

But when Point of Order checked The Beehive website at 3.30pm – well, it still wasn’t there.

In his statement, David Seymour noted that Three Waters and He Puapua involve major constitutional reform.

“They are issues that deserve sunlight and proper debate,” he said.

“It’s frankly pathetic from Labour to try to quietly release these on Friday while Jacinda is unavailable for interviews.” Continue reading “Mahuta and Robertson are flushed with enthusiasm as they pump revised Three Waters plans back into the political pipes”

Democracy and voter equality is all Greek to Coffey – but he does favour tweaking the electoral system to give us a Treatocracy

Tamati Coffey, a Labour list MP and chairman of Parliament’s Māori Affairs Committee, may well be busy answering hundreds of letters. Point of Order therefore should be more patient while we await his responses to questions we put to him.

On the other hand, he may ignore all correspondence.

In that case we would have cause to be aggrieved because – as the chairman of a select committee – we understand that our taxes contribute to his Parliamentary salary of $179,713 plus an expenses entitlement of $16,980.

The questions we emailed to Coffey on Thursday last week were triggered by the recently published Local Government Commission’s determination for Rotorua.

This would result in three Māori Ward Councillors being elected in Rotorua’s local government elections, but (as Kiwiblog pointed out) without sacrificing the important principle of equality of suffrage. Continue reading “Democracy and voter equality is all Greek to Coffey – but he does favour tweaking the electoral system to give us a Treatocracy”

Treaty settlements, environmental management and the insidious march from co-management to co-governance

We can’t be sure, here at Point of Order, about when “co-governance” was first introduced to this country’s political vocabulary.  For some time before ministers were talking about co-governance, they had been talking about co-management.

There’s a difference. A big difference, when it comes to constitutional arrangements within public authorities.

According to one distinction we uncovered, “governance” is the strategic task of setting the organisation’s goals, direction, limitations and accountability frameworks. “Management” is the allocation of resources and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organisation.

The first mention of co-governance we could find on the Beehive website – which records all ministerial statements and speeches and statements since 1993 – was made by John Luxton in May 1997.  As Associate Minister of International Trade, addressing guests at a meat industry function, he talked about the meat industry’s movement into the next millennium.

He said the development of co-governance principles under CER were among the government priorities he mentioned.

Obviously that had nothing to do with the Treaty of Waitangi, although someone is bound to pop up and insist everything that happens in this country is Treaty-related.

The first mention of co-governance in the context of Crown-iwi relations was made by Christopher Finlayson, Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Settlements, in 2009, according to our search of the Beehive website.  He also shifted the parameters of Treaty-related expectations.  Continue reading “Treaty settlements, environmental management and the insidious march from co-management to co-governance”

Local Govt Commission over-rides Rotorua’s undemocratic voting model – but what will Labour-majority Parliament do?

Kiwiblog today reports that the Local Government Commission has completed a determination for Rotorua which will result in three Māori Ward Councillors being elected, but without sacrificing equality of suffrage.

As Kiwiblog tells us, the commission favours –

  • An urban general ward – 48,410 people elect six councillors – 8,068 population per councillor.
  • A Māori ward – 21,700 people elect three councillors – 7,233 population per councillor.
  • A rural general ward – 7,200 people elect one councillor – 7,200 population per councillor.

This means the commission has rejected Rotorua Lakes Council’s model which comprised one Māori ward seat, one general ward seat and eight at-large seats.

To implement the council model, special legislation has been introduced to Parliament to over-ride requirements of the Local Elections Act.

The local bill, the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, passed its first reading in Parliament last week and is being examined by a Parliamentary select committee.

Not the Governance and Administration Committee which looks at business related to local government, it should be noted.

At the bill’s first reading, Parliament (or rather, Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party) voted to refer it to the Māori Affairs Committee which looks at business related to Māori affairs and Treaty of Waitangi negotiations.

This committee is chaired by Labour list MP Tamati Coffey who is zealously sponsoring the bill. Continue reading “Local Govt Commission over-rides Rotorua’s undemocratic voting model – but what will Labour-majority Parliament do?”

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

Democracy in Tauranga down the plug-hole until 2024 – so what can we learn about Mahuta’s intentions for Three Waters?

The Taxpayers’ Union saw the implications for the Three Waters programme.   Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s decision to cancel this year’s elections in Tauranga (spokesman Louis Houlbrooke said) showed she could not be trusted to deliver water services that are accountable to ratepayers.

The Taxpayers’ Union is supporting the Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance‘s petition to restore elections at www.restoredemocracy.nz.

Among his objections to Mahuta’s decision, Houlbrooke said the Wellington-appointed, co-governed commission (answerable only to the Minister) had pushed through a 17 per cent rates hike.

“Why should we expect her unelected, co-governed water entities to deliver anything better for ratepayers?”

Fair to say, One News  flushed out support for Mahuta: Continue reading “Democracy in Tauranga down the plug-hole until 2024 – so what can we learn about Mahuta’s intentions for Three Waters?”

Three Waters : an unnecessary programme that will degrade our democracy with a dubious (and unnamed) form of governance

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta yesterday welcomed the independent Working Group report on the Three Waters Reform Programme.  She insists the programme is necessary to ensure all communities have access to affordable, safe and sustainable drinking, waste and storm water services.  BARRIE SAUNDERS and KARL DU FRESNE – former colleagues of Point of Order’s Bob Edlin – challenge this on their respective blogs and warn of the implications for our democratic structures….  

 

Three Waters – a totally unnecessary battle

The Three Waters proposal driven by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is a totally unnecessary, very divisive battle with local government and the people of New Zealand.  

The focus has been on whether there should be co-governance with iwi leaders, and also, whether it adequately prevents privatisation, which I see as a red herring maybe designed to divert attention from the real issues.  

The critical question is whether the failings of local government are such, that their Three Waters assets should be confiscated by the state, reformulated into four entities, and then handed back into a convoluted governance regime involving iwi and local government nominees.   

Having looked at the papers behind the proposals I do not believe they meet the necessary threshold.  Yes, there are problems, as Local Government NZ has recognised for many years, but they do not in my view justify central government overriding local government in this heavy-handed manner.  Continue reading “Three Waters : an unnecessary programme that will degrade our democracy with a dubious (and unnamed) form of governance”

Yes, Ngai Tahu could campaign for votes to win council seats – but why bother, if privilege is granted to let it bypass the ballot box?

Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey, the highest-ranked South Island and Canterbury MP in National’s recently reorganised caucus, went out to open the batting for democracy in the debate triggered by the introduction of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill.

He expressed the Nats’ opposition to the legislative entrenchment of a governance arrangement which the council (also known as Environment Canterbury, or ECan) and Ngai Tahu have recognised as “a privilege”.

But Doocey was on sticky wicket, his task complicated by the council’s recent history and by the Nats’ role in the introduction of this privilege.

It was a National-led government which,in 2010, sacked all elected members of the council and replaced them with appointed commissioners.

A few years later, to ease the path to restoring a democratically elected council in 2019, the National-led government came up with a mix of elected and appointed council members, including two Ngai Tahu appointees.

After democracy was restored, the council and Ngai Tahu wanted to keep the Ngai Tahu appointees – and they were keen to stay on.

A joint council-Ngai press statement in October 2020 explained what happened. Continue reading “Yes, Ngai Tahu could campaign for votes to win council seats – but why bother, if privilege is granted to let it bypass the ballot box?”

Ngai Tahu man in Parliament champions Bill to bypass the ballot box for council seats (and says it’s not a special privilege)

Rino Tirikatane, Labour MP for the Maori seat of Te Tai Tonga, had the job – just before Christmas – of championing a retreat from democracy in his home patch by moving that the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill be read a first time in Parliament.  

He did so without a blush, arguing that the bill

“… reinstates mana whenua representation on the Canterbury Regional Council in the form of two Ngāi Tahu councillors from the 2022 local body elections”.

Yep.  It aims to reinstate councillors appointed by tribal leaders and cocoon them from voters who might have their own ideas about who should best represent them. 

But let’s not forget the tribe has extensive business interests and the potential for conflicts of interest arises, as Malcolm Harbrow has highlighted on his No Right Turn blog.

Allowing Ngai Tahu to directly appoint two members to the Canterbury Regional Council, he insisted,

“… is both undemocratic – they should be elected, not appointed – and creates serious conflict of interest problems. We’d be horrified at the thought of Fonterra being allowed to appoint members to a council responsible for setting policy around water and pollution, but Ngāi Tahu’s dairy investments and ongoing conversions put it in the same boat.”

Hobson’s Pledge made the same point. 

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu appointees are appointed to represent the interests of Ngai Tahu members but the runanga is the governance organisation of a billion-dollar (charitable) enterprise, holding farming, forestry and aquaculture interests, commerical and residential buildings as well as other businesses such as Go Bus (2/3 owned by Ngai Tahu) which are regulated by the regional council. Continue reading “Ngai Tahu man in Parliament champions Bill to bypass the ballot box for council seats (and says it’s not a special privilege)”