Friday, February 26, 2021

Barry Soper: Labour denying democratic rights of ratepayers with Māori ward move


This was a sleight of hand by Labour. The party should have campaigned on Māori wards for the country's councils during the last election.

Just after the landslide they declared their hand on what is a significant change that shouldn't be underestimated. They’re removing the ratepayers’ right to instigate a binding referendum if they can drum up the support of five percent of their fellow voters to get it up and running.

Attempts in the past have shown there’s no ratepayer appetite for Māori wards.  Since the Helen Clark Government passed a law almost 20 years ago making provision for Māori wards, 24 councils have tried to put them in place.

But the veto power of the ratepayers took over and just three of the attempts have been successful.

Still, it’s made no impression on this Labour Government. The democratic rights of ratepayers are being denied, despite what they say.

As some sort of justification the Minister sponsoring the bill, Nanaia Mahuta, crowed in Parliament about how many councils had made submissions supporting the Government’s moves.  Time and time again she told the urgent debate on removing the veto that 21 councils made submissions on the bill and all were in favour.

Hardly overwhelming support for the move considering the country at last count had 78 councils: 11 regional councils and 61 territorial authorities (50 district councils and 11 city councils).

Former Air New Zealand boss and now National MP Christopher Luxon, who’s got the local government job for his sins, must be reflecting on how good corporate life was compared to this.

Luxon made the point that regional councils can have binding referendums on virtually anything, like the colour of the town hall, whether you are going to build a library or where you are going to put a swimming pool.

He says a binding referendum can be applied to anything but not to a Maori ward under Labour’s changes.

Luxon reckons if it’s just about representation, it’s already being achieved.   

You only have to look at the biggest Māori caucus Labour has ever had in Parliament and in local Government people are getting elected to councils, he says, not because of the colour of their skin, but because they’re fundamentally equal.

The point is if Māori are interested in serving on councils, although given the state of most of them you would have to wonder why, then they should put their hand up along with the rest of us.

Barry Soper is a New Zealand political journalist, and has been featured regularly on radio and television since the 1970s. Currently, Soper's main role is political editor at Newstalk ZB, a radio network in New Zealand.


DeeM said...

I like the Tax Payers Union approach to this. They are going to publish details of all the councils who submitted in favour of the legislation so their ratepayers know who they are. Just like our authoritarian government, I'm sure many didn't inform their electorate of this and want to covertly spring it on them now it has been passed into law. Maybe it will inspire some brave souls to run for council on an anti-Maori ward platform. They'd get my vote.
Often the short blurb about candidates, which is about the only thing you have to decide on when voting, contains a whole load of waffle about how hard they'll work and what a privilege it will be, but nothing about policies they support or are against. I make it a point of never voting for someone who has told me nothing of their political and policy leanings. They're either keeping their views secret or they really have none. Either way, you can't trust them.

Jigsaw said...

Certainly the Taupo District Council made no attempt to consult with community- at least not the non-Maori part. I attended every one of the last local body election forums and not once was to the topic even mentioned. The feeling in the community was and is very strongly that the council just doesn't bother to consult.
The other aspect is that at present-someone who is Maori and lives within the Taupo town area gets to vote for 7 councillIors from likely many more candidates. Under the new scheme they will only be able to vote for a single councillior and that very likely from only a couple of candidates. What price apartheid?

Ray S said...

I told you so ! we are getting exactly what we voted for. Really, what did we expect, dancing around the maypole and tambourines. We are not being nice to each other are we, Jacinda will be very disappointed. God spare me please.