Alerted by press statements from National and ACT (here and here), Point of Order wondered if the Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill had been mentioned on the Beehive website yesterday.
It hadn’t. Since our previous report on the activities of our ministers, just two press statements had been posted.
One advised us of the Government-financed rebuild of the Rangiriri Pa Trenches complex in Waikato, the first project completed from a special regional economic development fund for sites of cultural significance. The other was a Statement on Cooperation in Agriculture between Japan and New Zealand.
The Attorney-General’s advice has been sent to Parliament’s Maori Affairs Committee, which is chaired by list MP Tamati Coffey, and can be found on the Parliamentary website here.
It more than somewhat challenges the thinking of the Government’s Tweakocrats and Sophistocrats by stating (more or less) that in terms of complying with this country’s Bill of Rights, the Rotorua bill is a crock.
Among other things, it says:
In a representative democracy, it is important to maintain approximately the same level of representation for everyone. The proposed arrangements in the Bill would make the number of council members for the Māori ward disproportionately higher than the number of council members for the general ward in comparison to their respective populations. As the disadvantaged group is those on the General roll, changing representation arrangements away from proportional representation therefore creates a disadvantage for non-Māori as they cannot in future elect to change rolls.
This proposed arrangement detracts from the key constitutional principle of equal representation in a representative democracy. I consider that there must be strong reasons to depart from this fundamental constitutional principle and, accordingly, to justify the limit on the right to freedom from discrimination. Departures from the Local Electoral Act may also have broader constitutional impacts and need to be carefully considered. Arrangements like these, if replicated across other local bodies could result in significant impacts, which may be better considered in full by central government and Parliament.
This (we imagine) will be of interest to Coffey not only because he is chairman of the select committee but also because he is the bill’s sponsor.
Another good reason for ditching the bill – of course – is that the recently published Local Government Commission’s determination for Rotorua offers a more equitable representation arrangement for that city.
More than a week after politely asking Coffey whether the bill will proceed on the strength of that determination , we have yet to hear from him.
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23 APRIL 2022
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