For over a decade there has been a growing crisis within democracy at all levels of government. Impositions keep coming from Wellington undermining the rights of all citizens to participate in the nation’s political processes.
Aucklanders in 2009 were denied the right to decide on whether to become a “Super City.” The imposed amalgamation of several local bodies occurred without a referendum, unlike for the Wellington region. The Council Controlled Organisations - entities established to carry out public functions - have little or no scrutiny. Typical is Auckland Transport continuing with its predetermined policies rendering consultation farcical.
Central government continues the process of impositions undermining Auckland Council's own urban planning reforms of 6 years ago. Edicts from Wellington, with the complicity of the National Party, will soon have a major impact on the city’s heritage suburbs along with policies that allow for three storied non consented buildings.
A reset is now required to put the “local’ back into local democracy. Local community boards have few powers and unsurprisingly voter turnout declined to only 35% at the last election. Voters at this year’s local body elections need to vote for a mayor and councillors who will implement and demand change. The status quo is untenable.
Labour's centralising and consolidation of powers into new enlarged bureaucracies mirrors Auckland’s transformation, but with co-governance in mind. The co-governance arrangement of Auckland’s mountains, shared between Iwi trusts and Auckland Council, illustrates how democracy becomes subverted. The Tupuna Maunga Authority merely reflects the world view of the Maori tribal trust in developing its own policies while ignoring those from local communities. The Iwi trust dismisses any alternative views as racist and thereby rejects them. Councillors merely rubberstamp the trust's projects.
Starting with the Waikato River Settlement Act (2008), which sacrificed democratic principles for a treaty settlement, National followed with additional co-governance policies and impositions. Amongst them was The Marine and Coastal Area Act 2011 which overturned the previous act that kept the foreshore and seabed in public ownership. Iwi were extensively consulted and gained the right of veto over resource consents, while all others were ignored. In 2017 preferential consultation rights were given to Iwi under the RMA, which will become further enhanced under new RMA replacement Acts. All of this means local bodies will have to forever show deference and capitulation to Iwi, at ratepayers’ expense. The inept leadership of P.M. John Key, in accepting the UN “declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples” is now being further played out.
P.M Jacinda Ardern’s revolutionary reforms are based on this, and the 2019 “He Puapua report”. All of these policies are now being implemented in the Three Waters Reforms, Health, and Polytechnics, to be followed by Resource Management, Local Government, Education and Justice. In addition, an attempt will be made to curtail freedom of speech and political discussion on these issues with the imminent “Hate Speech” law. All reforms will feature co-governance or variations, such as power of veto for Iwi alone.
Proportionality is lost when a tribal minority of 8% assumes the same power as 92% of the population. Co-governance elevates the power of one group, Iwi, based on family and genealogy, it is unchallengeable, unelected, unaccountable, subverts democracy and is ultimately self serving. It leads, now evident, to nepotism and corruption. Democracy is egalitarian, embracing all groups in society and is accountable.
In all of the above policies both proposed and passed, the illusion of consultation has occurred, but in reality the original version remains unchanged The majority of New Zealanders are not given the right to discuss, nor the time, to have direct input into the proposed changes - unlike Iwi. The changes made by National, and Labour, were never mandated thus lacked constitutional integrity. Unwittingly many politicians have accepted the Waitangi Tribunal's propaganda. For over 30 years it has espoused information similar to that of the “Ministry of Truth” in George Orwell’s dystopian “1984”, presenting the myth of partnership between the Crown and Iwi, developing a Maori perspective of the Treaty of Waitangi, while excluding all others. The political changes proposed and now being enacted, will ensure that Parliament will lose respect and consequently forfeit its authority as the majority of people become disenfranchised.
A counter revolution is required for the next general election. In spite of M.M.P. (a system implemented to prevent an “elected dictatorship”), unscrupulous politicians have worked to undermine our democracy. New Zealanders will need to vote for reforming parties that uphold democratic principles, an effective Bill of Rights, and above all else change must include binding referendums - ensuring a more collaborative system of government and genuine consultation. This is necessary to maintain an equitable system whereby the majority of people who pay taxes are fairly represented. Simply put ‘No Taxation without Representation” otherwise we join those countries where democracy is severely eroded.
Wayne Ryburn, an Auckland University graduate, with a thesis on the history of the Kaipara, “Tall Spars, Steamers and Gum”, has been a social science teacher for nearly 50 years.