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”

Supermarkets should check the Treaty – it might entitle them to a place among the decision-makers who shape their future

The Commerce Commission’s draft report into the retail grocery sector is being welcomed by the government as “a major milestone”. It is providing ammunition for Opposition criticisms of government economic and commerce policies, too.

Commenting on the report, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said the draft findings indicate there are problems in the market and (did he need a special inquiry to find this out?) inform him

“… that New Zealanders would get better prices, ranges and quality if there was increased competition in the grocery sector.”

The Act response is here and the National response is here. 

But supermarket operators were not the only subjects of a statement from the Beehive which portends substantial regulation for some businesses.

The futures  of tourism operators – Ngai Tahu is among the big players – will be affected by plans to address visitor pressures and safety at Milford Sound.

The Milford Opportunities Project (MOP) Masterplan unveiled in Te Anau yesterday follows four years work by cross-agency representatives, mana whenua, commercial interests and the wider community.

The project now moves to stage 3 and a new governance structure will oversee the next steps.

A ministerial group covering Tourism, Transport and Conservation portfolios will oversee the formation of a new Establishment Board to be chaired by the leader of the expert MOP group, Dr Keith Turner. Continue reading “Supermarkets should check the Treaty – it might entitle them to a place among the decision-makers who shape their future”

How Ngai Tahu will be flush with governance powers under water reforms – but not in all parts of the South Island

Journalists hastened to work out what’s up for grabs in various bits of the country after the PM announced a $2.5 billion package for New Zealand’s 67 councils, if they opted in to the government’s water reforms.

This (we were reminded) follows $761m being given to councils for water infrastructure upgrades in July last year.

The media didn’t devote too much energy to examining how and/or why the boundary lines will be fixed when the responsibility for drinking water, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure is shifted from councils to four regional entities or the governance implications of having Three Waters boundaries aligned with tribal boundaries.

For example (as you will find towards the end of this Stuff report):

Under the proposed water reforms, Blenheim and Richmond could be lumped in with a largely North Island water entity covering from Wellington to Gisborne, while Seddon and Murchison could be tied in with the rest of the South Island.

Six elected members would represent 21 South Island councils in an arms-length governance role. Up to six others would have a governance role to represent mana whenua.

This regional entity would  cover the majority of the South Island except for parts of Marlborough, Tasman and Nelson.

Cabinet papers showed Marlborough and Tasman could be split between two water entities to align with iwi boundaries.

Like most of the South Island, Seddon and Murchison were part of Ngāi Tahu’s takiwā (territory), so had been added to Entity ‘D’ with other cities in the takiwā, such as Christchurch.

The rest of Marlborough and Tasman had been included in Entity ‘C’, along with Nelson, Wellington, Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.

This suggests Ngai Tahu won’t get a governance grip on the whole of the South Island’s water-system infrastructure and its management,

It will do nicely, thank you, nevertheless.

These details call for an adjustment of the numbers in a press statement from Hobson’s Choice a few weeks ago (which news media did not publish and which Scoop and Voxy did not post):

  • 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 23 councils which “may represent 750,000 people”.

Point of Order suggested another measure of the governance power being given without a blush or much explanation to southern Maori – bring 2018 census figures into the reckoning.  These show Maori comprise 110,301 (10%) of a total South Island population of 1,104,531.

While Stuff (and other media) have shied from too closely examining or explaining the muscle Maori tribes might flex under Three Waters governance arrangements, it does say some elected members from both the city and rural districts have raised concerns about the lack of control locals would have over the proposed new South Island entity.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s objections fundamentally are matters of ownership, control, governance and accountability.

Another critical question for ratepayers is the extent to which hefty rates increases being considered by several councils – largely to pay for neglected water-system infrastructure – can be modified.

Ardern said $500m of the package – which National Party leader Judith Collins and others called a bribe to buy compliance from local governments – would directly help councils during the transition phase of the reforms. The rest would ensure councils were better off financially once water infrastructure was taken off their books.

Savings to ratepayers are a critical consideration in favour of the reforms.  Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says these would amount to thousands of dollars a year and ensure the estimated $120 to $185 billion in investment needed in water services over the next 30 years goes ahead.

According to news reports Point of Order checked this morning –

  • Christchurch has been offered $122.4 million from the $2bn fund while Selwyn and Waimakariri councils would get $22m each.

But Christchurch councillor Sam MacDonald said $122m was “pretty cheeky” when the council would hand over billions of water assets in the reforms.

  • Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman councils have been offered a combined $66.2 million.
  • Auckland Council would receive almost $509 million under the proposal.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff remains unconvinced. He said:

“The issue at stake here is about responsiveness and accountability to the people of Auckland through their elected representatives,” he said.

“We have real concerns about the governance structure proposed by the Government, which would remove mechanisms currently in place to ensure that Watercare is accountable to Aucklanders.”

Goff insists the council should be able to determine board directors and the strategic direction of the new water authority through a statement of intent.

He reportedly said the Government’s model would effectively remove Auckland Council’s control and influence over about 28 per cent of Auckland’s assets and 25 per cent of its expenditure.

“This risks creating a new water entity that is unresponsive to the communities it serves, and removes our ability to ensure that Aucklanders’ needs are put first,” Goff said.

But the PM says overhauling our drinking, waste and stormwater services will benefit all New Zealand communities, no matter where they are in the country.

Govt invests $16m in space venture with Ngai Tahu runanga – while protecting culture and biodiversity for good measure

The Government has invested $16 million in buying plots of land as part of a new partnership with Ngai Tahu, this one launched to take part in this country’s fledgling space industry.

It was described as “an exciting multi-pronged aerospace project” and – Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods proclaimed – it is coming to Kaitōrete Spit, a 25km stretch of land on the Canterbury coast.

It’s thanks to “a special commercial joint venture” between Kaitōrete Limited (Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga) and the Crown,

“ …  which will unlock jobs – including aerospace, develop a space launch and R&D facilities, protect cultural interests and the unique bio-diversity of the area.”

But wait.  There’s more:

“Project Tāwhaki is a special partnership with both Rūnanga that will rejuvenate a nationally unique environment, honour deep cultural relationships, and provide amazing opportunities to tap into the multi-billion-dollar aerospace economy. This is a very exciting day.”

We trust this venture fares better in winning the hearts and minds of local Maori than Rocket Lab has done at Māhia Peninsula in the Hawke’s Bay. Continue reading “Govt invests $16m in space venture with Ngai Tahu runanga – while protecting culture and biodiversity for good measure”

Rio Tinto strikes a deal with the Ardern govt on cleaning up its mess – and it brings Ngai Tahu into an array of commitments

Should we really be cheering news of a giant global company picking up the tab for cleaning up its own mess?  Surely that’s what it should be doing.

But hey, we are talking about Rio Tinto, a company widely criticised by environmental groups around the world and at least one national government for the environmental impacts of its mining activities. Or so we are told by Wikipedia.

And it has been a dab hand at persuading governments in this country to help power its aluminium smelter operations near Bluff at a modest cost.

But the PM, helped by some of her ministerial team., has urged the company to do something about its toxic waste and – hurrah – the company  has obliged.

The company has made a raft of commitments, including recognising Ngai Tahu (at least by the looks of things) as an organisation akin to a co-governor.

In fact, in the press statement from the Beehive Ngai Tahu is listed ahead of the central and local government bodies involved in the agreement. Continue reading “Rio Tinto strikes a deal with the Ardern govt on cleaning up its mess – and it brings Ngai Tahu into an array of commitments”

Water and the co-governing numbers caper in which 68,000 Ngai Tahu might carry the same clout as 750,000 South Islanders

The news media hastened to air Ngai Tahu’s prompt rebuttal of Opposition leader Judith Collins claim that the Government would be giving the tribe an ownership stake in the South Island’s water and water assets.

It has not been so hasty to clearly explain the implications of what Ngai Tahu does want.

Collins referred to a document which – she said – meant South Island water services would be co-owned by Ngai Tahu and the Government.

Not so, was the prompt and tart rebuttal from the tribe and from central and local government leaders.

Co-governance maybe, co-ownership no.

But what does co-governance mean for the administrative structure?

At first blush, vital questions of democratic governance and accountability are raised.

In a press statement from Hobson’s Pledge (not published by news media or posted by Scoop or Voxy) the implications are simply spelled out.

  • 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 23 councils which “may represent 750,000 people”.

If you prefer to use 2018 census figures, they show Maori comprise 110,301 (10%) of a total South Island population of 1,104,531

The 23 local authorities, by the way, serve ALL of the people who live within their boundaries.

The tribe’s political ambitions are no secret – they are reflected in a claim in the High Court, reported on the Ngai Tahu website in an article headed Enough is enough – why Ngāi Tahu is suing the Crown over its waterways.

 In a legal first, Ngāi Tahu has lodged a statement of claim in the High Court seeking recognition of rangatiratanga over its awa and moana, to address the ongoing degradation caused by the environmental mismanagement. 

 According to the article:

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as the representative body of Ngāi Tahu, and 15 tribal leaders, are asking the courts to make declarations that we have rangatiratanga over the wai māori (freshwater) of our takiwā, and that the Crown should engage with us to jointly design a better system to manage and care for our precious waterways.

Rangatiratanga is not ownership. Owning something means using it however you like.

Rangatiratanga as a concept and a practice encompasses rights, responsibilities and obligations. And that includes the obligation to do what we can to stop the continued degradation of our freshwater systems.

And:

We are seeking to have the Government work and co-operate with us to design a better system for water management, one that protects our environment, while still ensuring wai māori for food production and development.

In her press statement, Collins said the Government was advancing plans to transfer 50 per cent of publicly-owned water assets in the South Island to Ngāi Tahu ownership.

She referenced a Department of Internal Affairs document which (she contended) presented the Government’s preferred option for Three Waters reform to 23 mayors and South Island iwi.

The proposal was to consolidate all water infrastructure across the South Island into one organisation.

This new Mainland water agency, which would assume ownership of all water assets and some council debt, was designed to be 50 per cent owned by Ngāi Tahu.

This would mean councils that had invested ratepayer money in pipes, wastewater and drinking water facilities for decades would have these assets taken away.

This is yet another example of Labour adopting a view that the Treaty of Waitangi promises ‘dual-governance’ of core government services like drinking water, health and local government, Ms Collins says.

And:

“ … Labour has now decided the Treaty requires separate systems of governance and fifty-fifty ownership of resources with iwi, and it is making these changes before having a national conversation about whether this is actually what the Treaty decrees.”

Her comments were denounced by Ngai Tahu as “deceptive” and by Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins, who said they were aimed at creating “fear and division”.

There had been no discussion of Ngai Tahu co-ownership of water assets, “but even if there was, it wouldn’t be worth beating the drum and fear-mongering over”, Hawkins said.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, chairman of a group representing Otago and Southland’s 10 city, district and regional councils in discussing the reforms, said it was “imperative we stick to the facts”.

“To come out and say it’s co-ownership or co-governance, it’s way too early to make calls like that.”

But if if it’s not co-ownership or co-governance, what are we talking about?

Cadogan did not explain what was being discussed – apparently because he does not know.

He did acknowledge the reforms were the biggest issue facing local government for at least a generation, and involved crucial issues of democracy and councils’ future liabilities, as well as Ngai Tahu’s role.

But he said councils remained “woefully short on detail” about what was being proposed, and he had called a meeting on May 28 with Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, who has ministerial responsibility for the reforms, Ngai Tahu and Department of Internal Affairs officials to address that.

Dr Te Maire Tau, co-chairman of Ngai Tahu freshwater governance group Te Kura Taka Pini, said

“Ngai Tahu wants to design the structure of the new entity with the Crown, and share governance responsibilities.

“The tribe has a huge interest in the water infrastructure in the South Island. We’re like the rest of South Island communities, particularly because we’re rural, and we fundamentally don’t have clean drinking water.”

Co-governance would provide a safeguard against any future government that wanted to privatise the waters assets that were being transferred from councils, he said.

The PM was terse when asked in Parliament why the Department of Internal Affairs had presented “as a preferred option to 23 South Island mayors and iwi a document proposing co-ownership of South Island drinking water”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: They did not.

She was nudged to tell a bit more.

Hon Judith Collins: Is the Prime Minister now telling the House that this document here, that was presented to 23 mayors and iwi and says, “Owners are the Canterbury councils and Ngāi Tahu, who are responsible for appointing representatives to the JGG.”—is that not what it says?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m happy to correct the member. I’m advised that that piece of work was commissioned by Ngāi Tahu. It was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and it is not something that Ngāi Tahu or, of course, the Government, who did not commission it, have been pursuing.

Hon Judith Collins: So when the Prime Minister is now telling the House that this document is the fault of Ngāi Tahu, is she now saying it was not presented by the Department of Internal Affairs at the hui that were being conducted by it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m actually rejecting the content of the question. I’m advised that it was commissioned by Ngāi Tahu. It’s not a question of blame.

Hon Judith Collins: Who presented the document to the 23 South Island mayors and iwi?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It was prepared and commissioned by PwC. It has not been pursued, I’m advised, by either Ngāi Tahu or, indeed, by the Government.

The PM did rule out joint ownership of water infrastructure in the South Island between Ngāi Tahu and councils, as suggested in the document Collins had brandished. 

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Public ownership has always been a bottom line, so not only have we ruled that out; Ngāi Tahu have ruled it out.

But the co-ownership issue remains to be sorted out, apparently.

David Seymour: Will the Prime Minister rule out co-governance of water infrastructure between Ngāi Tahu and councils, as also suggested in this document, under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have been very clear on ownership structure. When it comes to the issue of governance of water services, the Government, local government—and, yes, alongside local government there has been good engagement with iwi, and local government themselves have been driving that, too. Those decisions are yet to be made, but we are very clear on ownership.

Collins attempted to pin down the PM on the meaning of co-governance.

Fat chance.

Hon Judith Collins: What does the Prime Minister believe is co-governance of drinking water in the South Island?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Ultimately, this has all been driven by the fact that in Havelock North we had people who got extraordinarily sick, and some who died, as a result of us not having consistent provision around either water regulation, making sure that regulations are upheld, or that our water infrastructure is sufficient. Currently, we have over the next 30 to 40 years $120 billion to $185 billion worth of investment required in infrastructure. What we are starting is a discussion with local government around how we deal with that significant infrastructure gap and investment when currently $1.5 billion, or $45 billion over the next 30 years, is how much local government is likely to invest. That is the problem we’re trying to address, and I would welcome the member’s engagement on that issue.

But when did the discussion start and who has been involved?

A DIA report on consultations on the Three Waters Reform Programme says that between September and October 2020, members of the Three Waters Reform Team and Taumata Arowai conducted a series of hui to engage with iwi, hapū and Māori throughout the country.

The meetings had been attended by over 300 representatives from many different iwi, hapū and Māori organisations.

The meetings had highlighted many emerging issues that have the potential to impact iwi, hapū and Māori throughout the country.

The issues aired in the report “have been themed according to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi to reflect the matters as they relate to Māori as Treaty Partners”.

There was resounding support throughout the hui-ā-motu for a stronger partnership between tangata whenua and the Crown. Many attendees reflected, that if done well, this reform programme is an opportunity to develop/improve this relationship.

And:

DIA heard that it needs to ensure tangata whenua are embedded as Treaty Partners from the very start, including mana whenua representation at every table, on boards and anywhere decisions will be made. It is important DIA alongside iwi, hapū and Māori work through rights, interests and entity ownership and governance, so the Department can identify the roles and responsibilities of all, as Treaty Partners, at these levels.

 Yet at least one South Island mayor – along with most of the rest of the country, who have yet to be consulted – says he knows little about what is going on.

Something is shamefully wrong with the reform process and it most certainly is not democratic.  

Forget about invigoration – LGNZ should aim to restore the democracy its members have debased

Invigorating our democracy was the noble cause championed by  Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull in a speech to more than 600 local and central government delegates, including the PM.   

Point of Order would press instead for  the restoration of democracy in local government.

Many of the 600 delegates will have been party to council decisions – without reference to their citizens – to arrange for iwi representatives to sit on council committees without the hassle of having to campaign for electoral support.

Waikato District Council – while Cull was speaking – was preparing a statement to declare it is planning “to introduce external specialist Maaori representatives to its principle Council Committees after the October 2019 local government elections”. Continue reading “Forget about invigoration – LGNZ should aim to restore the democracy its members have debased”