Saturday, March 9, 2019

Bob Edlin: All votes are equal on this regional council working group – but some are more equal than others

Here’s hoping the Greater Wellington Regional Council makes a better fist of restoring its eco-systems than it has done of overhauling its bus service.

But in establishing a consultative working group to develop the Wellington Regional Biodiversity Framework, it has brought curious ideas about “share” and “partnership” into considerations.

Clearly it has been infected by the same urge to foster co-governance that has swept through the country’s local authorities in recent years.

The working group will include three members who will cast TWO votes each, when it comes to electing the co-chairs.  The other 12 or so members will get one vote.

Any guesses about who might get two votes?

One document backgrounding these arrangements is headed Designing a shared way forward for our region’s biodiversity.  It says the Collaborative Working Group will be set up to draw together the views of the region’s biodiversity community, and develop the framework.

The council’s role then will be group member, supporter and facilitator.

The group, independently co-chaired in partnership with mana whenua, will drive the project forward.

Another document explains that the Wellington Regional Biodiversity Framework is a project to better coordinate the council’s efforts and achieve measurable gains for biodiversity conservation.

It will be a partnership between Greater Wellington Regional Council (GW), mana whenua partners, the Department of Conservation (DOC), local authorities, community groups and relevant non-government organisations (NGOs), and industry groups.

Public workshops held last year helped to confirm the need for the project.

The Collaborative Working Group will develop the framework.

Membership of this group will reflect the variety of values held by our region’s community that protect and enhance biodiversity. The group will develop a framework for supporting and joining up efforts to improve native biodiversity across the Wellington Region.

The document proceeds to set out the regional council’s variation of the Orwellian notion that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.


A mātauranga Māori worldview will shape how the framework is developed. This will be guided by an Ohu (advisory group). Greater Wellington’s Ara Tahi Leadership Forum has appointed the Ohu.

In line with the partnership approach the group will be co-chaired. All Working Group members will vote for one co-chair. Māori members of the Working Group will vote for the mana whenua co-chair.

Yep.  Three of the 15 members have the privilege of voting for both co-chairs.

The establishment team (Greater Wellington, Ohu and Department of Conservation) will appoint interim co-chairs to lead the Collaborative Working Group until permanent co-chairs are elected.

The Collaborative Working Group will be made up of around 15 members including:

· One representative from Greater Wellington
· One representative from the Department of Conservation
· Three mana whenua partner members (the Ohu)

Remaining members will include those who can understand and represent a wide range of values and interests from those in our region who have an interest in how native biodiversity is protected and managed.

The group will have at least 12 half-day engagements each year, including meetings, workshop, field trips and community events.

Participants will be required to attend and actively engage in the majority of meetings.

The group will work for up to two years to complete the framework, commencing from the date the group is formed.

Ratepayers will recompense members for their contributions to this work, of course.

Each working group member will be reimbursed $235 per meeting plus $0.76 per kilometre for travel.

But it’s more rewarding to be elected a co-chair – each will receive an additional $5000/year honorarium to cover the extra work involved in carrying out those roles.


Applications are now open to be a member of the Collaborative Working Group.  They will close at 9 am March 27.

Anyone can apply to be on the group.

A selection panel with representatives from Greater Wellington Regional Council, the Ohu and DOC, will invite shortlisted applicants for a discussion about the role.

You can find information here about applying.

2 thoughts on “All votes are equal on this regional council working group – but some are more equal than others”

  1. Odysseus
The GWRC has amply shown via bustastrophe it couldn’t administer a good enema. In the face of widespread calls for its abolition the GWRC now it appears to be seeking refuge in pseudo mystical folklore. Orwell would be delighted with the Stalinist representation arrangements they have arrived at, “some troughers are more equal than others”?
  1. Paul C
An understanding of and/or commitment to the Treaty is one of the screening questions on applications to be on this committee. Straightaway they are ruling out the diversity of opinion GW say they are aiming for on the committee. Conservationists have a variety of opinions and it is not the role of individuals or NGOs to be Treaty partners. That is the role of the Crown and Iwi.

Green grandstanding about democracy in Canterbury turns out to be rhetorical pap

Bob Edlin Local government March 6, 2019 5 Minutes

While the Greens were gurgling early this week about strengthening our democracy through a Member’s Bill, the Electoral Strengthening Democracy Bill, it seems they were musing at the same time about supporting Ngai Tahu’s push to be granted an extraordinary race-based electoral privilege.

According to a Stuff roundup of party positions on legislation with profound constitutional implications, they will vote for the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill at its first reading.  This is an electoral bill crafted to enable  Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu to bypass voters and appoint two representatives with full voting rights to the Canterbury Regional Council.

The Greens accordingly will be supporting an iwi organisation with no respect for the  democratic way of deciding how a community should be governed – it has said restoring full democratic elections would be a “step backwards” for Canterbury.

They also will be ignoring the glaring potential for conflicts of interest which Malcolm Harbrow highlighted on No Right Turn. 

Allowing Ngai Tahu to directly appoint two members to the Canterbury Regional Council, he said

“… 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 Choice 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.

The Greens’ own rhetoric gives a measure of their hypocrisy.

As Point of Order noted in an earlier post, Green electoral reform spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said New Zealand proudly has a strong democratic system  – but
“… there is definitely room for improvement to ensure we have the best democratic system possible and that access is fair”.

The words of MP Eugenie Sage more potently should have portended Green Party opposition to anyone being accorded an electoral privilege.  

People in Canterbury should not be second class citizens having to live with second class local body representation, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party is concerned at the prospect of the National Government failing to restore a fully elected Environment Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) in announcements later this week about the council’s future.

“No other regional or local council in New Zealand has a mix of elected and appointed representatives,” said Green Party Canterbury spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“It is high time for the return of a fully elected, democratic regional council in Canterbury.”

The Government needs to trust the people of Canterbury and return a fully elected, democratic regional council in Canterbury immediately, the Green Party said today.
In today’s announcement about the regional council’s future the National Government failed to restore democracy and a fully elected Environment Canterbury Regional Council (ECan). It once again postponed the return of a fully elected council, this time until 2019.

“National doesn’t trust the people of Canterbury to elect councillors to act in the best interests of the region,” Green Party Christchurch spokesperson, Eugenie Sage said today.

“National may not like people who get elected to local government, or agree with their views, but that’s not an excuse for crushing local democracy as it is doing by handpicking six ECan members.

“Democracy is our greatest asset yet National is denying Cantabrians a proper vote for almost a decade. Citizens deserve more than the second class council they are getting which the Government can continue to influence and dominate.


“Having appointed commissioners involved in making decisions on Council spending fails to honour the central democratic principle of no taxation without representation.

“When there was a fully elected regional council there was far more responsiveness to public concerns about the health and state of Canterbury’s waterways, biodiversity and natural environment.”    

  • From Hansard, October 13 2015.  Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements Bill, First Reading, which provided for a mix of seven elected councillors and six appointed commissioners, two of them from Ngai Tahu. 
EUGENIE SAGE:  We oppose the bill. We oppose the truncated select committee process, and we want the restoration of democracy in Canterbury. That is what Cantabrians deserve, not this half-pie model.

  • Partial return to democracy. September 8 2016.  Report in Farmers Weekly, after enactment of the Environment Canterbury (ECan) Transitional Governance Arrangements Act 2016.   
Former ECan councillor and Green Party spokeswoman for environment and primary industries Eugenie Sage was disappointed with the mixed-model.

“It’s half pie democracy and the public knows ECan will still be under the thumb of ministers in Wellington, she said.

“Democracy is our greatest asset yet National is denying Cantabrians a proper vote for almost a decade.

“Citizens deserve more than the second class council they are getting which the Government can continue to influence and dominate.”

It turns out Sage was hot and bothered about the influence on the council of an elected Central Government.   The influence of an organisation with significant commercial interests in Canterbury is another matter.

The Green Party did not respond, when Point of Order emailed (twice) last month to ask if it would support legislation to give Ngai Tahu extraordinary local government powers in Canterbury.

Nor did Labour or ACT.

Stuff was more successful in extracting  statements on their intentions.

It has reported the bill which would guarantee Ngāi Tahu two seats on future Environment Canterbury (ECan) councils is struggling to gain support in Parliament.

Labour says it is doing the numbers this week to see if it can get the apparently faltering Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill across the line for its first reading in the House.

However, the local bill will not get NZ First backing.   

Neither is it likely to get the support … from Canterbury National Party MPs, according to shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee.

And the Greens?

Forget about all the grandstanding for democracy recorded above.

Green Party Christchurch issues spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the Greens would support the bill.

“This is one way we can ensure there is strong Māori participation in local government.”

Another way – of course – is to muster electoral support and secure representation through the ballot box, like everybody else will have to do  when appointed commissioners are removed from the council.

The role of the ballot box was overlooked in the Stuff headline, too.

It said Ngāi Tahu’s future Environment Canterbury representation under threat.

So Ngai Tahu members are to be disenfranchised and barred from voting at future local body elections?

That would be an outrage, too.

One thought on “Green grandstanding about democracy in Canterbury turns out to be rhetorical pap”

  1. Odysseus
The Greens are truly the most unprincipled bottom feeders of NZ politics.

Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.

1 comment:

Peter van der Stam, Napier said...

Dear Bob,
How dare you say that some votes are MORE equal.
I get so sick of: maori not asking for but DEMANDING and getting what they demand. And NO government daring to say: enough is enough.