The proposal of Otago Regional Council (ORC) senior staff to give local iwi two (2) voting and paid seats on the ORC’s powerful policy committee, “is so privileged, and so obviously racist, that it calls into question the fundamental principles of democracy in Otago.”
On this Wednesday, 15 May 2019, the ORC will receive a senior executive management paper that recommends that two positions on the council’s policy committee be reserved exclusively for iwi (read Otakau runanga) representatives; that they be accorded full speaking and voting rights; that they be paid on the same pro rata basis as elected councillors; and that those positions be appointed by the local runanga and sit on the very next ORC policy committee meeting.
“It’s an extraordinary assault upon democracy. It is a recommendation that embraces all the PC nonsense of our age but misrepresents both logic and
law in advancing such racial privilege.”
Cr Laws said that the council “has only just received a secret report that outlines potential illegalities in our resource consent processes, by privileging three groups – local iwi, DOC and Fish and Game. Now, ORC wants to extend that privilege to just one of those groups – and have them both make the council’s policy and also be a central player in the processes that challenge such. It is an absurdity.”
“Whatever injustice Maori might have received in the past, can’t be corrected by empowering their descendants to have additional powers and privileges, that are simply unavailable to the ordinary Otago person.
And the greatest irony is that this privilege is denied not only all Pakeha in Otago, all Asian and Pasifikia folk, all other races and cultures, but also all non-iwi (Kai Tahu) Maori. It’s a backdoor way of getting not Maori wards, but iwi-only wards.
And no Otago ratepayer or resident will get a say on that, unlike on whether we should have Maori wards on the council.”
Cr Laws said that the “abuse of process here, is breath-taking.”
“There’s a financial cost to this policy. Was it put in the council’s annual plan for public submissions and consultation? It was not. This has been presented to council as a fait accompli.
“It is a decision specifically designed to shut out every Otago person from sharing their thoughts and their input.”
“It’s obvious that the ORC’s senior governance team – chairman Stephen Woodhead and deputy chair Gretchen Robertson – are a party to this staff recommendation. They see it as fostering Council-iwi relationships. There are a thousand and one ways of fostering a relationship. Offending every principle of democratic representation, is not one of them.”
Writer and former broadcaster Michael Laws, who served as an MP and Mayor, is now a councillor on the Otago Regional Council.