What used to be known as the Rotorua District Council approved on Tuesday, in an eight-to-five majority, an arrangement in which two representatives nominated by a new elected Te Arawa board will sit on the council's two main committees with voting rights.
The committees make recommendations to the council, rather than make decisions. Final decision-making rests with elected members on the council.
A Te Arawa Board, agreed upon in December, will be elected by Te Arawa members and will nominate representatives for council committees. The nominees will need to be approved by the full council.
This will cost the council $250,000 each year, except in a board election year (every three years) when the maximum will be $290,000. Te Arawa will also contribute to the costs.
Maori make up 36.4 percent of the Rotorua population, according to the 2013 census. There are five local tribes -- Te Arawa, Ngati Whakaue (a sub-group of Te Arawa), Ngati Rangiteaorere, Tuhourangi (located around Tarawera), Ngati Makino. There are numerous Maori there from other tribes throughout New Zealand, and many with no tribal affiliation.
The 13-member Rotorua council already has significant Maori input, from mayor Chadwick (whose husband John is Maori), Cr Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, former deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell, Cr Janet Wepa, Cr Tania Tapsell and Cr Glenys Searancke, whose late husband Graham was Maori.
Chadwick drove the proposal, but had substantial support from the Maori Party, whose co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell represents the Waiariki electorate that includes Rotorua, and her push reflects the current direction of the Local Government Commission.
Maori Party policy requires all local government to establish Maori wards and constituencies to provide for Maori representation.
Flavell recently praised New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd’s call for 50-50 representation in local government to reflect treaty partnership. Flavell used the R-word after the Rotorua vote when he said “during the submission hearings, the people of Te Arawa have had to stare at, and sit next to, the ugly face of racism, but today it was booted out the door”.
The Local Government Commission is also pushing for separate Maori boards on local government of people appointed by new tribal groups created by central government through the treaty settlement process. Chairman Basil Morrison is also a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.
Opponents to race-based appointees formed the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society. These included Mike McVicker, a Rotorua councillor who had resigned from a significant position on the council in protest, and councillors Rob Kent, Glenys Searancke, and Dr Reynold McPherson, an academic who is not a councillor.
The Pro-Democracy group’s website says the push for greater iwi involvement in Rotorua goes back to May 2013, when the council was defeated in the Environment Court in an Appeal action by Ngati Pikiao Environmental Society Incorporated, Ngati Makino Heritage Trust, and Lake Rotoma/Rotoehu Ratepayers Association. The council was ordered to pay the applicants $115,000 and contribute towards their legal costs.
The judgement of J.A. Smith strongly criticized the council for “a significant dysfunction between council and iwi in the area” and for “the reported lack of use of the Maori consultative committee”.
The council commissioned a $30,000 cultural audit by Tama Hovell who had represented Ngati Pikiao in the appeal case. The results of that audit have not seen the light of day.
A new chief executive and new mayor appeared in October 2013. Hovell received a new commission to design a “partnership plan” to involve the tribe in council decision-making. A “Te Arawa Partnership Plan” drafted by Hovell was proposed to the council in May 2014, at mayor Chadwick’s instigation. This plan proposed that:
a. Te Arawa form a board outside of council control, at ratepayer expense, to provide two unelected representatives, with full voting rights, to the two main council committees -- the strategy policy and finance committee, and the operations and monitoring committee.Ratepayers flatly rejected the plan and Chadwick’s intention to implement the proposal by June 2014 came unstuck. That was when McVicker resigned his leadership of the economic development portfolio in protest.
b. Te Arawa representatives would replace elected councillors on the statutory hearings committee that hears and determines Resource Management Act consents.
c. Te Arawa Board representatives would also sit on the chief executive’s performance committee, and on other committees and portfolio groups in council.
The matter was referred to Te Arawa and a number of tribal meetings financed by the council were held. The proposal with minor changes resurfaced in December 2014 in the guise of a proposal from Te Arawa, sponsored by the mayor.
Chadwick rammed through a number of progressively unilateral decisions on the proposal on split votes. Councillor Rob Kent resigned his role on the economic development portfolio in protest.
The Rotorua council considered Maori wards in November and rejected them unanimously. The process to set up Maori wards requires a ratepayer poll. Ratepayers in Waikato, Nelson, Wairoa, Hauraki, the Far North, and New Plymouth, have voted against Maori wards in an average 70/30 split. A Maori board with appointees on council committees circumvents a ratepayer poll.
In late November 2014, McVicker found out that Chadwick planned to re-introduce the proposal on December 18, 2014, at the last council meeting before Christmas, so formed the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society.
At that meeting Chadwick used her vote to pass her preference for the option with full voting rights as the council’s stated preference in the proposal to go out to public consultation.
The council received more than 1800 written submissions and over 200 people made verbal submissions. Despite Flavell’s racism accusation, submissions were not necessarily Maori in support and non-Maori against.
Councillors voting, last Tuesday, for inclusion of Te Arawa appointees were Steve Chadwick, David Donaldson, Karen Hunt, Trevor Maxwell, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Charles Sturt, Tania Tapsell and Janet Wepa. Those voting against it were Peter Bentley, Mark Gould, Rob Kent, Glenys Searancke and Mike McVicker, the councillor who had earlier resigned from a significant position in protest.
The $250,000 each year for two Te Arawa nominees will probably mean $100,000 a year for each nominee and $50,000 to Te Arawa, with the extra $40,000 in a board election year to pay Te Arawa for the election. The Rotorua council should tell its ratepayers how the money will be spent.
Otherwise, what is wrong with two representatives nominated by a new elected Te Arawa board sitting on the council's two main committees with voting rights?
1. Two representatives nominated by an elected Te Arawa board may represent Ngati Whakaue (a sub-group of Te Arawa), but not Ngati Rangiteaorere, Tuhourangi, Ngati Makino, as well as many Rotorua residents affiliated to other tribes throughout New Zealand, as well as many with no tribal affiliation.
2. The proposal was driven by a handful of radicals and imposed by a crusading mayor who used her casting vote to further her agenda.
3. The imposition of these appointees was done against the wishes of the majority; if a ratepayer poll were allowed the proposal would have been voted down.
4. The process generated substantial acrimony and widened a racial divide between Maori and non-Maori that was legislated into existence in 1975 through the Treaty of Waitangi Act.
5. Having race-based appointees on council committees with voting rights further erodes our political system in which rights and responsibilities are based on citizenship, not ethnicity.
This Maori culture show in Rotorua shows what happens when a local government politician with an agenda unites with radicals and subverts democracy to impose appointees on an elected governance body as a political “improvement”. Mayor Chadwick may be a little concerned at how voters will treat her at next year's local body elections.
Council votes for modified Te Arawa model, NZ Herald, May 26, 2015. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rotorua-daily-post/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503438&objectid=11454482
Rotorua Pr-Democracy Society website. http://www.rotoruaprodemocracy.nz/wp/about-us/