Democracy, the Treaty and the coup that is embedding tribal rule into our regulatory and legislative framework

By Muriel Newman

Finally, the mainstream media is reporting that a coup is under way in New Zealand – by the Māori tribal elite.

Admittedly that observation was penned by former Labour Minister and ACT Party leader Richard Prebble in an opinion piece for the Herald – but the newspaper published it and Radio NZ reported it.

The on-line Herald headline read “Three Waters is a coup — an attack on democracy”.

That bold and compelling headline, however, didn’t last. It was changed to remove the words “a coup” and now reads: “Three Waters is an attack on democracy”.

The obvious question is why?

A clue comes from an article written last year by political journalist Andrea Vance, about Jacinda Ardern’s PR machine:

The Government’s iron grip on the control of information has tightened. At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information.”

She then explained,

“And the prime minister’s office makes sure its audience is captured, starting the week and cementing the agenda with a conference call with political editors.”

So, did a member of the Prime Minister’s Office contact the Herald and ask them to change the headline? Continue reading “Democracy, the Treaty and the coup that is embedding tribal rule into our regulatory and legislative framework”

Transparency under Ardern – party submissions on donations are kept secret and Taxpayers’ Union is banned from LGNZ conference

Yet again we are being reminded that from the moment she took office in 2017, Jacinda Ardern made a promise she would not keep – she promised her government would be the most open and transparent New Zealand has seen.

In her first formal speech to Parliament she pledged:

“This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

A visit to Kiwiblog today draws attention to the latest breach of Ardern’s commitment.

Political parties’ submissions on donation law reform are being kept secret.

The very next Kiwiblog post takes us from bad to worse.  It tells of Local Government New Zealand’s annual conference being closed to an organisation which represents taxpayers because LGNZ poobahs disapprove of their opinions.

We imagine no such ban applies to the mainstream media, now that they have become reliant on state subsidies and have committed themselves to promote the Ardern Government’s highly contentious interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. Continue reading “Transparency under Ardern – party submissions on donations are kept secret and Taxpayers’ Union is banned from LGNZ conference”

Govt gives each council another $350,000 (of our money) to get Three Waters flowing – and win their support for its coup

Buzz from the Beehive

Three Waters reforms – the subject of widespread disquiet around the country – was among the issues tackled by Ministers with new initiatives over the past 24 hours.

So too was the vexed issue of housing.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being pumped into both problems. Or should that be “challenges”?

Housing Minister Megan Woods announced that not-for-profit groups looking to develop new rental homes for households on lower incomes that stay affordable over the long-term can apply for the first tranche of funding available from the $350 million Affordable Housing Fund announced in Budget 2022.

The first $50 million of this fund is devoted to rental developments for lower-income people who cannot afford a market rent but can’t access public housing, she explained. Continue reading “Govt gives each council another $350,000 (of our money) to get Three Waters flowing – and win their support for its coup”

PM condemns disinformation and upholds democracy in speech in Madrid – now let’s see what happens back in NZ

Buzz from the Beehive

Legislation to tighten things, legislation to relax things and a speech which reminds us of threats to our democracy – from the PM, we are delighted to note – feature in the latest posts on the Beehive website.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark has had a busy day, announcing two lots of legislation.

  • Legislation that bans major supermarkets from blocking their competitors’ access to land to set up new stores, to pave the way for greater competition in the sector, is the first in a suite of measures after a Commerce Commission investigation found competition in the retail grocery sector is not working.  The Commerce (Grocery Sector Covenants) Amendment Bill amends the Commerce Act 1986, banning restrictive covenants on land, and exclusive covenants on leases. It also makes existing covenants unenforceable and enhances the Commission’s information-gathering powers.
  • The Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill, which has passed its third reading, will establish a new financial conduct scheme that ensures financial institutions put customers before profits.  This follows reviews by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Financial Markets Authority which found banks and insurers in New Zealand lack focus on good customer outcomes, and have insufficient systems and controls to identify, manage and remedy conduct issues. The FMA will work with financial institutions to ensure they are prepared for the new regime, and licensing applications are expected to open in mid-2023. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will develop supporting regulations. The regime is expected to come fully into force in early 2025.

Continue reading “PM condemns disinformation and upholds democracy in speech in Madrid – now let’s see what happens back in NZ”

Democracy or the Treaty? Faafoi can’t see it, but cocooning Ngāi Tahu from Canterbury voters makes the answer all too clear

National and ACT MPs this week were given a platform to express their objections to the democracy-enfeebling Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill.

This legislation will give one group of Canterbury citizens, Ngāi Tahu tribal leaders,  a governance  privilege that has been given to nobody else in this country.  They will be able to avoid the challenge of nominating candidates, then campaigning for popular support at the ballot box to win places on the regional council.   Rather, they will appoint two councillors who will have full decision-making powers (often on matters affecting the tribe’s considerable business interests).

National MP Paul Goldsmith, during the second reading debate, said the Nats were opposing the bill

“… because it alters and offends two key principles of the democracy that we have enjoyed in this country for many decades and is fundamental to the success of New Zealand as a democratic country.”

The first is that all New Zealanders have equal voting rights.

The second is that there is accountability at the ballot box on a regular basis. Continue reading “Democracy or the Treaty? Faafoi can’t see it, but cocooning Ngāi Tahu from Canterbury voters makes the answer all too clear”

Chris Trotter: Nanaia Mahuta’s super-narrative and the blind eye of our mainstream news media

 The Ardern Government risks the emergence of what political commentator CHRIS TROTTER calls a “super-narrative” in which all the negatives of co-governance, media capture, and Neo-Tribal Capitalism are rolled into one big story about the deliberate corruption of New Zealand democracy. The guilty parties would be an unholy alliance of Pakeha and Māori elites determined to keep public money flowing upwards into protected private hands. Here’s what he posted on  his Bowalley Road blog ….  


WHETHER NANAIA MAHUTA followed the conflict-of-interest rules set out in The Cabinet Manual hardly matters. A dangerous political narrative is forming around the appointment of, and awarding of contracts to, Mahuta’s whanau in circumstances that, at the very least, raise serious questions about this Government’s political judgement. Enlarging this narrative is the growing public perception that the mainstream news media is refusing to cover a story that would, in other circumstances, have attracted intense journalistic interest. The conflation of these two, highly damaging narratives with a third – the even more negative narrative of “co-governance” – has left the Labour Government in an extremely exposed and vulnerable position.

The Government’s failure to adequately prepare the New Zealand public for what Labour clearly regards as the inevitability of co-governance hasn’t helped. The party did not campaign on the issue, and kept He Puapua, the controversial “road-map” to full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – i.e. co-governance – by 2040, under wraps. Similarly unheralded was the Government’s determination to establish a separate Māori Health Authority. And the application of co-governance principles to Mahuta’s deeply unpopular “Three Waters” project has done nothing to allay public fears that the country is being changed, in fundamental ways, without the electorate’s consent.

The apparent failure of the mainstream news media to follow up on the story is being attributed to the extraordinary conditions attached to the Public Interest Journalism Fund administered by New Zealand On Air. In essence, these conditions require media outlets in receipt of the Fund’s largesse to subscribe in advance to a highly contentious series of propositions concerning the Treaty of Waitangi – most particularly to the Waitangi Tribunal’s claim the Māori never ceded sovereignty to the British Crown, and that this “fact” requires the Fund’s recipients to accept and support the “partnership” model of Crown-Māori relations. The fear expressed by independent journalists is that the net effect of these conditions will be unquestioning mainstream media support for co-governance.

Since the widespread assumption among Pakeha New Zealanders is that co-governance and representative democracy are fundamentally incompatible, Labour’s willingness to be presented as co-governance’s friend runs the risk of being cast as democracy’s enemy.

Of even greater concern is the inevitability of this anti-democratic characterisation being extended to an ever-increasing fraction of the Māori population. Statements from Māori leaders appearing to discount the importance of, or even disparage, the principles of democracy have done little to slow this process. Neither have the intemperate statements of the former National Party Minister for Treaty Settlements, Chris Finlayson. His comment to the online magazine E-Tangata, describing those opposed to co-governance as “the KKK brigade”, merely reinforces the widespread public perception that the slightest public opposition to the proposed changes will bring down accusations of racism upon the opponent’s head.

The problem with this willingness to indulge in ad hominem attacks on people holding genuine reservations about the Government’s proposals is that more and more of them will decide that they might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and embrace the very racism of which they stand accused. In this context, the revelations that some members of a Māori Minister of the Crown’s whanau have been the recipients of Government funds, and appointed to roles not unrelated to the furtherance of the Minister’s policies, will be taken as confirmation that all is not as it should be in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

What began as an anti-co-governance narrative, and then merged with an anti-mainstream news media narrative, risks joining with a much older and more deeply entrenched narrative concerning the entire Treaty settlement process. This is the narrative that identifies the primary beneficiaries of Treaty settlements as a collection of Crown-assembled tribal elites, along with their legal and commercial advisers. Over the past thirty years these “Neo-Tribal Capitalists” have been accused of investing hundreds-of-millions of taxpayer dollars in what amount to private tribal corporations, over which the intended recipients of these funds – hapu and whanau – exercise only the most indirect authority and receive only the most meagre of rewards.

The result could very easily be the emergence of what might be called a “super-narrative” in which all the negatives of co-governance, media capture, and Neo-Tribal Capitalism are rolled into one big story about the deliberate corruption of New Zealand democracy. The guilty parties would be an unholy alliance of Pakeha and Māori elites determined to keep public money flowing upwards into protected private hands. In this super-narrative, the structures set forth in He Puapua to secure tino rangatiratanga, will actually ensure the exclusion of the vast majority of New Zealanders from the key locations of power. The only positive consequence of which will be a common struggle for political and economic equality in which non-elite Māori and Pakeha will have every incentive to involve themselves.

The painful irony of this super-narrative scenario is that Labour will have positioned itself as its cause – not its remedy. Rather than repeating in the Twenty-First Century the fruitful political alliance between the Pakeha working-class and the victims/survivors of the deals done between the Crown and the Māori aristocracy in the Nineteenth and Twentieth, Labour will be seen to have facilitated the creation of a Treaty Partnership that not only undermines democracy, but also exacerbates the inequality between Māori and Pakeha, Pakeha and Pakeha, Māori and Māori.

What lies ahead, as the institutions of co-governance take shape, is the coming together of two very privileged birds of a feather: the Pakeha professionals and managers who have taken command of the society and economy created by Neoliberalism, and the Māori professionals and managers created to produce and operate the cultural and economic machinery of Neo-Tribal Capitalism.

This, ultimately, will be the spectre that arises out of the controversy swirling around Nanaia Mahuta. The spectre of the worst of both the Pakeha and the Māori worlds. Worlds in which the powerful trample all over the weak. Where tradition constrains the free exploration of ideas and techniques. And where the petty advantages of separation are elevated above the liberating effects of unity. Where “Aotearoa” creates two peoples out of one.

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”

Jackson explains co-governance in terms of democracy and equity – but don’t look too hard at what 50:50 means down south

Anyone bothered by the insidious spread of Treaty-based co-governance arrangements will have been enlightened if not reassured by Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson’s defence of the concept when questioned by Jack Tame at the weekend.

Co-governance is shared decision-making and partnership and it is democratic because democracy has changed, he explained.

At least, that’s what Point of Order thinks he was saying.

So how has democracy changed?

Well, under co-governance Maori would have the same representation as non-Maori on the proposed Three Waters bodies that administer the management of water services.  This would be done because Article Three of the Treaty gives Māori an opportunity in terms of an equitable right …

“That’s not a superior right, that’s an equitable right. Why would you not buy into Māori working in terms of the Three Waters.”

According to this reasoning, we should not get too excited about numbers.  Equitability would translate into a proposal to give Ngai Tahu the same clout as around 20 elected councils over the management of South Island water services.    

  • One lot of co-governors would represent Ngai Tahu, a tribal business entity that claims the affiliation of 68,000 people,
  • The other lot would represent 20 or so councils representing around 750,000 people.

Continue reading “Jackson explains co-governance in terms of democracy and equity – but don’t look too hard at what 50:50 means down south”

Buzz from the Beehive – was it Winston Peters who last mentioned “democracy” in an Anzac Day speech?

It is a measure of the Government’s regard for the democracy that is being “tweaked” on her watch that Jacinda Ardern didn’t drop that word into her Speech to Mt Albert Anzac Day Service.

More than a century after the first Anzac Day commemorations were held in 1916 “in sober remembrance of those who had been involved in the Gallipoli campaign”, she said,.

“… this annual recognition of the service and sacrifice of New Zealanders in war remains equally significant, as we take pause to recognise all who have returned from service, and all who have been lost to us.”


“Anzac Day is a time to give thanks to today’s armed forces who strive to uphold the values we hold dear as they continue to serve in areas of conflict overseas.”

Point of Order delved back to 2019 to find mention of democracy in a ministerial speech on Anzac Day.  On that occasion the speech was delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters at the Danish Institute of International Studies in Copenhagen.

Peters, leader of New Zealand First, is no longer in office to impede Labour’s constitutional reconstruction as its coalition partner.  But it seems he is still a champion of democracy because he recently declared:

“The insidious creep of the racist, separatist, secretive co-governance agenda must be stopped now…”  

In Copenhagen, he explained that Anzac Day was the day on which Kiwis and Australians commemorate the sacrifices made by our service men and women over the last century and more in the pursuit of freedom. He said.

“A great number of New Zealanders lost their lives during two world wars fighting to defend Europe from tyranny and from fascisim.  It is therefore a privilege to speak today in Denmark, a thriving, peaceful and innovative democracy with which our country – New Zealand – shares so much.”

 Peters mentioned “the values that drive us”, including democracy.

“New Zealand is one of only nine countries with an uninterrupted sequence of democratic elections since 1854”.

But now – as Deputy PM Grant Robertson acknowledged this morning – our government is “adapting” core democratic principles to ensure better outcomes for Māori.

Radio NZ’s account of this interview includes a pointer to an item headed –

“We’re interested in things that work” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson (7 min 53 sec)

Work at what?

If efficiency of government spending is the objective, for example, we could learn a lot from the United Arab Emirates, which ranks number one on a World Economic Forum, Executive Opinion Survey for efficiency in fiscal management.

Qatar (fourth), Rwanda (fifth) and Saudi Arabia (seventh) are worth emulating, too, because they all come in ahead of New Zealand (eighth).

None of those countries has much time for “democracy” of the sort Peters mentioned in his speech,  although maybe Robertson’s recognition of the benefits of other forms of government  explains why he is arguing the case for tweaking…

Latest from the Beehive

26 APRIL 2022

Helping some of New Zealand’s highest energy users slash their emissions

The Government is helping even more of New Zealand’s biggest industrial players slash their emissions faster, with one of the Government’s biggest hitters when it comes to supporting decarbonisation, Minister of Energy and Resources, Dr Megan Woods announced today.

Boosting biggest city’s environment cred

More than 50 jobs are being created across Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland with the launch of three new Government-backed initiatives, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.

Celebrating 30 years of Great Walks

The opening of the 2022-23 Great Walks booking season next week heralds 30 years of epic adventures in our backyard throughout the country, says Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan.


25 APRIL 2022

Prime Minister’s Speech to Mt Albert Anzac Day Service

Let me start by saying how wonderful it is to see people up and down the country gathering together in person again this year, in commemoration of Anzac Day.

Buzz from the Beehive – and a fly in the ointment for Tweaker Coffey’s plans to rattle Rotorua’s voting arrangements

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.

Latest from the Beehive

23 APRIL 2022

Rangiriri Pa trench rebuild shines a light on our shared histories

The shared nineteenth-century histories of Aotearoa-New Zealand have come to life with the official opening today of one of the most culturally significant sites of the 1860s New Zealand Wars.

 Statement on Cooperation in Agriculture between Japan and New Zealand

Japan and New Zealand’s strong partnership is built on a long tradition of official and industry engagement, underpinned by our natural complementarities and strong business relationships.