Monday, August 28, 2023

Peter Williams: Will Auckland Council include Maori seats?

And will they be voted for ?

In the midst of the general election campaign, you would think that matters pertaining to local body elections would not be high priority for the population at large.

As a voter in a local authority, I’m certainly not thinking of local elections and most probably neither are you.

That lack of interest and attention is probably the rationale behind an extraordinary exercise by Auckland Council at the moment called “Deciding whether to introduce Maori Seats for 2025.” One might have thought this was quite an important issue requiring attention free from other political distraction for the voters of Auckland.

But the Council opened submissions on the subject a few days ago, closes them on September 24 and will make a decision in October. It looks like the council will not even hold any sort of poll, as happened in Western Bay of Plenty where 78 percent of those polled said no to the idea but the council went ahead and did it anyway.

It’s rather obvious that Auckland Council has pre-determined this outcome because the consultation document makes little mention of the body that already exists to represent Maori interests in Auckland, the Independent Maori Statutory Board.

The IMSB has appointed members sitting on Auckland Council committees – with full voting rights. The question is whether or not Maori seats on the Auckland Council after 2025 would be in addition to the IMSB or replaces them. The ambiguity of the consultation document suggests it is in addition to what is already there.

What’s more, one of the options suggested for “ensuring mana whenua representation” at Auckland Council is through appointing unelected members to sit around the council table with full voting rights, as happens at the Canterbury Regional Council.

So are Aucklanders, of whom just 11 percent identify as Maori, going to have unelected members of their governing body, as well as extra unelected members of council committees?

See the problem here? This must be what Willie Jackson calls “tweaking” democracy.

The very woke Local Government New Zealand, from whom Auckland Council withdrew as a member back in March, issued what they called “The Guide to LGNZ Standing Orders” in August last year. The top priority, according to LGNZ, is that all local authorities have obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and should acknowledge the mandate of mana whenua as the traditional governors and that they should enable the participation of Maori as citizens.

The big problem with that stance is that local government is not the Crown and therefore, like every other non-Crown entity have no obligations at all under the Treaty.

But Auckland Council, or rather it’s bureaucracy, has decided to ignore that reality, and push ahead anyway to create a governing body for New Zealand’s largest conurbation which will have some deeply undemocratic elements.

Aucklanders can submit against the proposal. I doubt they will be listened to. The worrying thing for the rest of us is that where Auckland goes, the country goes.

Maybe the best hope the plan will be rejected comes in the vote made by Auckland Council to withdraw from LGNZ back in March.

It was a split vote, 10-10, until Mayor Wayne Brown decided he would save his ratepayers $350,000 in fees and pull the pin.

On past form, he’s unlikely to support a move to Maori seats on council, especially positions that will not be voted for.

Peter Williams was a writer and broadcaster for half a century. Now watching from the sidelines. Peter blogs regularly on Peter’s Substack where this article was sourced.


Robert Arthur said...

As stated, in a society claiming to be democratic, and considering how easily maori/trace maori now find their way into political general elected positions, race based special places are absurd. Neverhteless for Auckland I suspect maori ward councillors will be less of a threat to the interests of the general public than the hand picked activists comprising the Independent Maori Statutory Body, with their infiltration into all council business plus voting rights. I am very wary especially of maori selected appointments and candidate. At a hui for the Tupuna Maunga Authority in 2019 a very senior representative of the IMSB declared that as a maori through and through he supported without question any decision of a maori run organisation (the TMA specifically). Hardly the appropriate approach for a Council staffer. A condition of any maori wards must be disbandment of the IMSB. But it will prove impossible to shed the staff and they will remain as staff for and controllers of maori ward members. A luxury not available other Councillors.

Anonymous said...

Made a submission against the proposal, although I know that public opinion will be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Well, Lower Hutt is going through the same Ward contemplation exercise with a special panel now set up at the hapless ratepayers expense. The likelihood of it all getting turfed out at this coming general election is high but, no, let's pull out all stops and waste money until then. Just like the Govts thinking on Three Waters, Health, the Polytechs, the RMA, 16 year-old voters reforms etc. These Marxist, woke tossers know no bounds when it comes to spending others money on patently racist, divisive projects with no true cost/benefit analysis nor public mandate in sight.
Fortunately, David Seymour has announced they will end race-based representation. The sooner that happens the better for democracy and the vast majority.

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