Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Mike Yardley: Time to review ECan’s Ngāi Tahu-appointed councillors

Consultation has just closed on Environment Canterbury’s (ECan’s) draft long-term plan, which has copped considerable public flak for proposing an eye-watering 24% annual rates rise.

Much of the explosion in spending is entirely discretionary, with the consultation document freely trumpeting, “we have made the bold decision to do more for our environment and do it faster”.

Last week, city councillors tied themselves up in knots, evenly split on whether to criticise the regional council’s proposed rates hike in their submission to ECan.

Half of our councillors blocked any such rebuke from being written into the submission, fearful that it would sully inter-council relations. What a cop-out.

But the deep dive into ratepayer pockets is not the only battle the regional council has on its hands. The Government is gearing up to strip ECan of its enabling legislation that installed two Ngāi Tahu-appointed seats to the council table, to represent the interests of the 10 Papatipu Rūnanga.

The Ngāi Tahu representation legislation was initiated by the council and Parliament passed it into law in 2022. You will recall that Ngāi Tahu representatives previously served as appointees after the elected council was sacked by the National-led Government in 2010.

Following the reinstatement of a fully elected council in 2019, two tumu taiao (cultural) advisers served at the council table until 2022, but had no voting rights. Today’s two Ngāi Tahu-appointed councillors have fully-fledged voting powers, without securing a democratic mandate.

How can you have a body anchored in democracy with a side-serving of no democracy?

Council officials continue to talk up the arrangement. ECan’s director of Ngāi Tahu/Māori relationships, David Perenara-O’Connell, tells me “it has resulted in enhanced relationships and decision-making providing for council to honour both Treaty and Treaty settlement commitments”.

But the 1998 Ngāi Tahu Settlement certainly did not bind our elected bodies to pave the way for tribal-based appointments. Earlier this month, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown announced that councils that brought in Māori wards without polling residents will need to hold one – or scrap the wards they had set up. Legislative changes will be made by the end of July.

That will have no bearing on ECan’s current governance arrangements. However, Brown confirms to me that the coalition is committed to repealing the Ngāi Tahu Representation Act 2022.

“The Government is considering options for repealing this legislation and I will take a proposal to Cabinet outlining the preferred option in due course,” says Brown.

The chair of ECan, Cr Peter Scott is unimpressed. He tells me: “Having mana whenua around the table when decisions are made has reduced the amount of time and cost of resolving issues in court. Mana whenua aspirations and perspectives feed into council decisions and direction for staff, and we get better policies and regulations as a result.”

However Cr David East scoffs at that: ”Ecan has aligned its view of the Treaty with the radical version that has evolved in recent years. Consultation with mana whenua is still a drawn-out process where little is achieved, with associated cost increases.

“Continual requests for extension of time and an apparent inability to agree among the various rūnanga still prevails.”

Scott doubles down: “Rūnanga had no confidence that the council could appropriately manage the environment.” He insists the current arrangement is working well.

East points out there are already “two elected councillors with Māori ancestry who can and do advocate from that perspective”.

“The appointment process merely adds another overlay to the complexity of decision making, in an environment that is already clouded by political allegiance.”

Neither of the Ngāi Tahu-appointed councillors, Nuk Korako and Iaean Cranwell, would provide comment.

Repealing the ECan legislation was first telegraphed in the Coalition agreement between ACT and National. ACT Leader David Seymour tells me: “Ngāi Tahu are welcome to gain greater representation and voting rights on the council by participating in local government elections and being voted in. No one should gain these rights without going through this process.”........The full article is published HERE

Mike Yardley is a writer and broadcaster - including with Newstalk ZB.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A glimpse of the messy ethnocracy that NZ will surely become before 2040 - because public protest was insufficient.