The PM is telling us power resides in the ownership of water assets, so we shouldn’t fret about how much muscle Maori can flex

It sounded curiously like something out of a Marxist textbook – the notion that power sits with ownership.  

The relationship between ownership and power – it seems – should be more important to us than the issue of representation in the country’s democratic institutions or the concept of one person, one vote. 

The Prime Minister might try explaining her ideas to the good people of Canterbury, after her government’s MPs enthusiastically voted in support of legislation which ends equality of suffrage in procedures for electing councillors to the Canterbury Regional Council.  All residents will get to vote for the elected councillors (so far, so good), but residents who belong to the Ngai Tahu tribe get two more councillors, appointed by tribal leaders, for reasons that boil down to ancestry.

Labour MP Rino Tirikatene, speaking during the third reading debate, said the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngai Tahu Representation) Amendment Bill was

“… about the evolution of our treaty partnership and representation of Māori, of iwi at the local government level”.

These are ominous words, portending the bill will serve as a model for other Māori tribes in their push for the so-called “Treaty partnership” to be given tangible expression in all forms of government.

Next on the Government’s agenda – aiming for 50 per cent Māori/50 per cent Crown representation – is the government’s plan to have all local authority water assets come under the administration and management of four new structures under the Three Waters programme.

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