Buzz from the Beehive – or what are they up to now? (besides bruising local body democracy)

We had only just posted our Buzz from the Beehive report yesterday when Nanaia Mahuta banged out an announcement which buttressed her track record as a minister strong on democracy (with her rhetoric as Minister of Foreign Affairs) but lukewarm if not disdainful of it (with her actions as Minister of Local Government).

She said the Tauranga City Council will be run by commissioners until July 2024. This means the citizens and ratepayers of that city won’t get to elect a mayor and councillors to govern them at the next local government elections. 

Two other announcements over the past 24 hours or so deal with issues at the border, deciding who can come into this country as critical or skilled workers to work in manufacturing or tourism. 

Outward travel was the subject of an announcement that New Zealand and Australian public Anzac Day services will return to Gallipoli next month.

Tourism will further benefit from one of three spending announcements.  The other beneficiaries are a seaweed programme and Maori housing. 

And Finance Minister Grant Robertson told us he had hosted a call with his counterparts from Australia and the United States.   Canada and the United Kingdom were represented by deputies.  Did he tell them about this country’s robust economic performance, thanks to his stewardship as Minister of Finance?

Latest from the Beehive

12 MARCH 2022

Workforce pressures eased for manufacturing

Workforce pressures in the advanced manufacturing sector are to be eased with the approval of spaces for 100 critical workers to enter under a special immigration arrangement.

Return of working holidaymakers a boost to economic recovery

The return of working holidaymakers and more skilled workers from this coming Monday will accelerate New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by helping to fill workforce shortages and support tourism.

11 MARCH 2022

Anzac Day Services to Return to Gallipoli in 2022

Minister for Veterans’ Meka Whaitiri has confirmed today that New Zealand and Australian public Anzac Day services will return to Gallipoli next month.

Land-based seaweed trial a nationwide first

A land-based seaweed trial aiming to help restore our waterways is about to kick-off with Government investment beside the Firth of Thames wetland, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

10 March Joint Meeting of Finance Ministers

Finance Minister Hon Grant Robertson yesterday hosted a call with his counterparts from Australia and the United States. Canada and the United Kingdom were represented by deputies.

Delivering on our commitment to Māori housing

Today the Associate Minister of Housing (Māori Housing) Peeni Henare released the Implementation Plan for the National Māori Housing Strategy – MAIHI Ka Ora.

Support for new winter festivals in lower South Island Te Waipounamu

Two new winter festivals in the lower South Island are getting government backing through an annual fund that supports start-up events to become internationally significant.

Commission to be appointed to Tauranga City Council beyond October 2022

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has today announced her intention to appoint a Commission to the Tauranga City Council until July 2024.

 

Mahuta welcomes report which portends the local authority reforms (and Treaty partnerships) she seems keen to promote

The announcement we were expecting yesterday came later in the day, but not from the PM.  Rather, it came from Ayesha Verrall, Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation, who said government and businesses are working together to pilot the use of rapid antigen testing in workplaces.

But readers who believe that all citizens in a democracy should have the same entitlements and voting rights and the same ability to hold to account the people who govern us should look beyond Covid to another threat.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has welcomed the interim report on the Future for Local Government Review.

In her press statement, she says

“.. our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve to be fit for the future.” 

You could say it has been fast evolving already (or eroding, perhaps) on Mahuta’s watch in the local government portfolio. She has been instrumental in

  • removing the rights of citizens to challenge electoral arrangements which displease them, such as the introduction of Maori wards by local council;  and
  • pushing on with the highly contentious Three Waters reforms, which include arrangements for Maori to become co-governors (unaccountable to the majority of citizens) of four new water-administering authorities.

Continue reading “Mahuta welcomes report which portends the local authority reforms (and Treaty partnerships) she seems keen to promote”

Roll up for more money, says Nash, but the Nats remind him tourist companies must keep their doors closed

We are sure Tourism Minister Stuart Nash thought it was big deal, when he announced details of how businesses can apply for help under two initiatives from the $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan announced in May.

On the other side of the political divide, National’s tourism spokesman, Todd McClay, harrumphed that this was a “reannouncing” of a business support scheme for some South Island regions which provides nothing new for struggling tourism operators.

More particularly, McClay reminded the Minister that much of the country will be dropping to Alert Level Three late tonight.  This does not mean a return to business as usual.

The announcement (or reannouncement) was one of two new posts on the Beehive website since your Point of Order monitors last checked. Continue reading “Roll up for more money, says Nash, but the Nats remind him tourist companies must keep their doors closed”

First came the $2.5bn water package (or bribe?) and then the govt gets behind mayors on employment task force

The government is getting in behind local government leaders, not only to win hearts and minds on the Three Waters reform programme but also in  encouraging job schemes.

Yesterday it announced a $2.5 billion package (critics call it a bribe) to support local government transition through the reforms to New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.  Point of Order has looked at this here.

Today the government has signed a new memorandum of understanding with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, intended to strengthen the partnership to get more young people into work.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash meanwhile was announcing that five South Island areas have been prioritised in the latest round of decisions from a tourism fund that is supporting infrastructure projects from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island and the Chathams.

Details of 57 nationwide projects to receive support from the fund  have been released.

Nash explained that the Tourism Infrastructure Fund supports local communities under pressure from tourism, especially those with small ratepayer bases Continue reading “First came the $2.5bn water package (or bribe?) and then the govt gets behind mayors on employment task force”

Local government leaders can show Waititi how to dispose of democracy and adopt a Treaty-based system of representation

Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was preaching to a powerful army of converts among local government leaders when he said New Zealand should forget about this democracy thing and adopt a Treaty-based system of government.

If he was accurately reported, Waititi expressed his belief that some citizens – by virtue of their race – should be more equal than others.

Can you guess which ones?

According to Newshub, he said:

“We need to start looking at how Maori can participate more equally and equitably in that particular space in a tiriti-centric Aotearoa. Not in a democracy, because… democracy is majority rules, and indigenous peoples – especially Maori at 16 percent of the population in this country – will lose out, and we’ll sit in second-place again.”

He rejected suggestions abandoning a simple democracy for a “tiriti-centric” system would lead to separatism.

“We’ve been on the road to separatism for 180 years. If we look at a tiriti-centric Aotearoa, we’ll probably be the best nation in the world heading down this track.” Continue reading “Local government leaders can show Waititi how to dispose of democracy and adopt a Treaty-based system of representation”

Yes, there will be a cull – it will be aimed at cutting group that launched the “dirty dairying” campaign down to size

Players in the country’s biggest exporter earner, the dairy and meat industries, would have shown more than a passing interest in two statements from the Beehive yesterday.

Agriculture Minister announced the roll-out of extra monitoring and a range of practical support to help farmers achieve immediate improvements in intensive winter grazing practices.

Acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall  released a report outlining recommendations to strengthen the governance and good management practices within NZ Fish & Game, the outfit charged with managing sport fishing and game bird hunting across NZ that persistently harries farmers on environmental issues.

Verrall didn’t say so in her statement (no doubt with the wellbeing of Fish and Game governors in mind), but the review found:

“It is an extraordinary and unnecessary level of governance to have 144 governors (councilors of the regional FGCs and the NZFGC) for an organisation with a turnover of around $11 million., approximately $40 million in assets and 70 or so staff.  It was pointed out by several parties that this means there are more Fish and Game councillors in New Zealand than there are Members of Parliament.  The governor-to-staff ratio of 2-1 is not in line with best practice about governance ratios and effective teams.”

A culling – inevitably – is among the recommendations from the review team. 

It calls for fewer regions by amalgamating some of the existing ones and trimming the numbers on the NZFGC.  

Two further Beehive statements alert us to government decisions which will entail the spending of our money. 

  • A $110 million Spinal Unit and Adult Rehabilitation Unit in Auckland has been given the initial funding go-ahead from the Government. The new, purpose-built facility will replace the existing Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit at Ōtara and the General Rehabilitation Service in the Colvin Complex at Middlemore Hospital, and will form part of the $229.4 million Manukau Health Park super-clinic redevelopment.
  • Phase one of the Franz Josef flood protection project has been approved after West Coast councils sought COVID recovery support from the government. The northern stopbanks to protect Franz Josef township from the Waiho River will be upgraded  followed by work on the southern stopbanks.  This phase involves investment of up to $12.3 million by the government and local councils. The co-funding arrangement involves $9.23 million from government, through the Provincial Development Unit.

Two further statements tell us –

  • New Zealand has lifted the travel pause with Western Australia, effective from midday today when Quarantine Free Travel recommenced for travellers who have not been identified as contacts. Travellers identified as close contacts will need to complete 14 days of self-isolation and provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before departure for New Zealand.
  • Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta expressed her sadness at hearing of the death of former Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull.  He  had also provided leadership to Local Government New Zealand as it  grapples with climate change, infrastructure deficits, and the impacts of Covid-19.

 Damien O’Connor’s statement draws attention to intensive winter grazing (IWG), a farming practice where cattle, sheep and other livestock progressively graze areas planted with fodder crops. If done poorly or too extensively, this can have serious negative effects on both animal welfare and the environment, particularly freshwater and estuary health.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Ministry for the Environment (MfE), councils and industry representatives, have developed an online tool to help improve practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare.

In March, the government deferred the introduction of IWG practice regulations until May next year.

O’Connor said: 

“We want people to engage with this module so they will be ready for the upcoming changes.”

The 2021/2022 Intensive Winter Grazing Module can be accessed by clicking here

At Point of Order, we expect Fish and Game to keep a close eye on farmers’ compliance.  It’s the outfit which started the “Dirty Dairying Campaign” in 2002 as a way to voice their growing concern and mobilise public opinion in the fight against the declining ecological health of freshwater in New Zealand.

 But Fish and Game has its own issues.

The report released by Verrall outlines recommendations to strengthen the governance and good management practices within the organisation.

Fish & Game has had the same structure since it was set up in 1990.

The report is the result of a ministerial review initiated last year by former Minister Eugenie Sage to ensure its governance and structure were “fit for purpose” today.

The independent review, undertaken by Belinda Clark and John Mills, found Fish & Game plays an important role in environmental advocacy and stewardship.

It also identified “significant opportunities to strengthen governance and management good practices”, which somewhat suggestes they are not now good practices..

Verrall says she is now looking forward to Fish & Game adopting changes which will make it a much more fit-for-purpose organisation in terms of serving its core stakeholders, enabling Māori expression of rangatiratanga and in protecting the freshwater and other values so precious to all New Zealanders.

Latest from the Beehive

28 APRIL 2021

Franz Josef infrastructure gets green light

New integrated Spinal and Adult Rehabilitation Unit at Manukau Health Park

27 APRIL 2021 Continue reading “Yes, there will be a cull – it will be aimed at cutting group that launched the “dirty dairying” campaign down to size”

Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded

There was an international flavour to two of the new statements from the Beehive and a cosmic flavour to a third, when we checked earlier in the day.  But the most ominous announcement, signalling big changes in the offing very close to home, emerged from the office of Nanaia Mahuta, as Minister of Local Government.

She advised us – or warned us, maybe – she has appointed a team to review our local government arrangements.

She mentioned the evolution of local democracy.

Evolution?  Or further erosion?

One outcome could be a quickening of the pace of change that already has weakened citizens’ right to decide who should govern them and their ability to hold their governors to account for their performance at three-yearly elections.

On the international front, we learned – Continue reading “Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded”

The rot of local government democracy – Wellington citizens are deemed unfit to comment and Tauranga is run by Mahuta’s commissioners

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s intentions were plainly proclaimed soon after the Ardern Government began its second term.  She was determined to remove legislative machinery that enabled public polls to be conducted when councils attempted to create Māori wards.

The headline on an RNZ report summed up her commitment: Mahuta vows to clear obstacles to creating Māori council wards

She has been dismayingly successful, from the perspective of citizens anxious to buttress democratic electoral and governance arrangements against the fast-spreading erosion when special provisions for Maori are introduced.

First, she led the charge in ramming the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill through Parliament under urgency.

As National MP Nick Smith recalled at the time of the bill’s rapid passage into law, Mahuta had been in Parliament in 2002 when the law that allowed referendums to be conducted on Māori wards had been passed in 2002. Continue reading “The rot of local government democracy – Wellington citizens are deemed unfit to comment and Tauranga is run by Mahuta’s commissioners”

Nick Smith’s fairness questions (were Maori ward supporters given more time?) spark call for reopening of submissions on bill

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union  has drawn attention to a significant constitutional issue regarding our right to be consulted fairly on laws which affect our voting rights.

It’s the suggestion (the union said “disclosure”) that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahata gave local councils advance notice of her Māori wards legislation and the short time that would be allowed for public submissions. 

The Minister had given her allies a five-day head start to prepare submissions on the Bill to entrench Maori wards, union spokesman Jordan Williams contended.

Members of the public, on the other hand, were given just one day’s notice to prepare for “the disgracefully short two-day submission window.”

Williams insisted:

“The Minister knew perfectly well what she was doing. The decision to warn her mates before blindsiding the general public can only be read as a cynical attempt to manipulate the consultation process and limit the contributions of New Zealanders opposed to the Bill.”

This compromising of the process warranted the Speaker reopening the calling of submissions, Williams said. Continue reading “Nick Smith’s fairness questions (were Maori ward supporters given more time?) spark call for reopening of submissions on bill”

While an MP bridles against neckties, voters who oppose Maori wards are being told to get knotted

LATEST FROM THE BEEHIVE

While a Maori Party MP was grandstanding against colonial oppression and discrimination by refusing to wear a necktie in Parliament, the government was rushing the passage of a bill which will grant Maori a significant electoral advantage by subverting democracy at the local authority level. 

The grandstanding was done by Rawiri Waititi, who – when kicked out of Parliament on Tuesday for breaching a dress code that has since been changed – told Speaker Trevor Mallard: “It’s not about ties — it’s about cultural identity, mate.” He described a necktie as “a colonial noose”.

The bill being rushed into law removes voters’ right to veto the imposition of Maori wards on city and district councils.  This contradicts the Labour Party’s 2020 election manifesto, which stated:

“Labour will uphold local decision making in the democratic institutions of local government… Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.”

Yeah, right.

But under the Bill as it stands, tens of thousands of ratepayers in local authority areas where petitions have already been announced and signatures have been collected, will have their lawful democratic rights revoked.

As political commentator Karl du Fresne points out, the majority’s right to determine the form of local government representation in their communities is being scrapped to enable Maori (invariably part-Maori) candidates to bypass the need to win popular support.  Successful candidates will be responsible only to constituents who claim Maori ancestry. Continue reading “While an MP bridles against neckties, voters who oppose Maori wards are being told to get knotted”