Ngai Tahu are given governance privileges in Canterbury and Willie Jackson gives us a rundown on “the new democracy”

Concerns about the constitutional implications of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill were overwhelmed by a tsunami of Labour hubris and ballyhoo in Parliament yesterday.  The weight of numbers against upholding liberal democratic values  in the governance of our local authorities resulted in the Bill being supported by 77 votes (Labour 65; Green Party 10;  Māori Party 2) to 43 (National 33; ACT 10).

And so – because a highly contentious interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi has been deemed to over-ride the notion that all citizens should have equal rights – one group of people in Canterbury will be spared the need to campaign for electoral support and can simply appoint representatives to two permanent seats on the Canterbury Regional Council.

As National’s Paul Goldsmith explained during the debate, the legislation allows for 14 councillors in Canterbury to be elected by everyone in the community, including Māori.  And then, after those 14 councillors are elected, Ngāi Tahu will appoint two more.

“So, this is not a question of Māori wards in Canterbury, proportional to the population and democratically elected. It is about the appointments of two councillors on top of what has been a one person, one vote election.” Continue reading “Ngai Tahu are given governance privileges in Canterbury and Willie Jackson gives us a rundown on “the new democracy””

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)”

Direct democracy is not the same as direct representation (a privilege intended for Ngai Tahu on Canterbury Regional Council)

The case for entitling Ngai Tahu leaders to appoint two representatives to the Canterbury Regional Council prompted your Point of Order team to check out the differences between representative and direct democracies.

Explaining why it has rejected a ballot-box procedure to decide two places at its table, the council contends it is “reinstating direct Ngāi Tahu representation”.

Is the council confused (we wondered) about the differences between direct and representative democracies?

Whether a democracy is direct or representative, it is supposed to ensure power is exercised by “the people”.

A representative democracy is a system of government where citizens elect representatives to vote on laws on their behalf.

A direct democracy is one where citizens vote on every issue themselves.

The key difference between the two systems is who is voting on laws, elected officials or the citizens.

Ancient Athens was a true direct democracy, where every citizen with voting rights was required to vote on all issues. Continue reading “Direct democracy is not the same as direct representation (a privilege intended for Ngai Tahu on Canterbury Regional Council)”

Oh dear – ECan has dug up a bad Bill (that was buried in 2019) to spare Ngai Tahu the bother of winning votes at the ballot box

Legislation to entrench Ngai Tahu representatives on Environment Canterbury – these would be  guaranteed appointments, to spare them the bother of pitching for popular support – failed to pass its first reading in Parliament in 2019.

On that occasion,  New Zealand First’s Shane Jones featured in scuttling a bill which would have entitled Ngai Tahu to appoint two representatives to sit with elected councillors after the local elections later that year.

It seemed that was the end of a bad Bill – but hey:  a few weeks ago the regional council announced it was again promoting a Bill that will provide “for mana whenua representation around the Council table”, by empowering Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to two members of the Council. This will be in addition to the elected members.

The aim – in other words – is not necessarily to bat for Maori generally.  It’s to guarantee two decision-making seats at the council table for “mana whenua”, or the local tribal elite. Continue reading “Oh dear – ECan has dug up a bad Bill (that was buried in 2019) to spare Ngai Tahu the bother of winning votes at the ballot box”

Democracy – a farm leader says it could be dangerous and iwi leaders want it weakened

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, vowing that her country would continue to increase defence spending, develop its indigenous defense industry and work with like-minded partners to contribute to regional peace and security, further said:

“We can work together to ensure that future global security won’t be determined by military or economic might. Instead, it will be guided by the values of freedom and democracy.”   

But buying into this democracy stuff is a challenge for some New Zealand groups.  In Canterbury, a farm leader is concerned about the prospect of “dangerous” consequences from regional council elections.  In Hawke’s Bay, some iwi leaders would prefer to be governed locally by regional council commissioners appointed by authorities in Wellington who share power with them. Continue reading “Democracy – a farm leader says it could be dangerous and iwi leaders want it weakened”