Wednesday, April 17, 2024

NZCPR Newsletter: Coalition Promises


The Coalition Government says it is moving with speed to deliver campaign promises and reverse the damage done by Labour.

One of their key commitments is to “defend the principle that New Zealanders are equal before the law.” To achieve this, they have pledged they “will not advance policies that seek to ascribe different rights and responsibilities to New Zealanders on the basis of their race or ancestry.”

All parties have also agreed undefined ‘principles’ of the Treaty will be removed from legislation.

With that in mind, let’s examine two recently announced Coalition initiatives – the first a Bill to fast-track major infrastructure projects, and the second a proposed Bill to restore local body petition rights.

The Fast-track Approvals Bill has been designed to provide a faster pathway through the consent process for major infrastructure projects. It is now in front of a Select Committee and open for submissions until 19 April – see

A critical part of that reform is the appointment of expert panels to assess projects and recommend to Ministers whether or not they should proceed. Section 3 of Schedule 3 of the Bill provides details of their makeup. It
stipulates that up to four people can be appointed, and it specifies two of these positions - one must be nominated by “iwi authorities” and another by “local authorities”.

Additionally, Section 7 (1) outlines the skills needed for panel members, with (c) specifying “an understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles” and (d) “an understanding of tikanga Maori and matauranga Maori.”

While it is appropriate that iwi, along with all other groups that may have an interest in a project, are invited to make submissions on proposals, it is completely inappropriate that race-based organisations will be given privileged status on panels.

Furthermore, with local government now committed to closer partnerships with iwi, the panel membership - as specified in the Bill - is likely to deliver an iwi veto.  

For a Government committed to equal rights that has pledged not to advance policies “that ascribe different rights and responsibilities to New Zealanders on the basis of race”, including iwi appointees on panels represents a gross betrayal.

Nor is it acceptable for this legislation to include any reference to Treaty “principles” given the Coalition’s commitment to remove them from legislation.

This a very serious matter - if the public cannot trust the Coalition to deliver on its core commitment to removing racial privilege and rebuilding a society where equality of all citizens before the law prevails, then their promises are not worth the paper they are written on.

Section 3 of Schedule 3 of the Bill, and Section 7, part (1) (c) and (d), and part (2) - must be removed from this Bill during the Select Committee process, to ensure the Coalition’s commitment to equal rights for all New Zealanders prevails.

On the face of it, the second Coalition initiative - a Bill to restore local body petition rights – represents a major step towards repairing democracy and removing the race-based privilege that Labour imposed onto society without a mandate.

Petition rights were a constitutional safeguard inserted into the Local Electoral Act by Helen Clark’s Labour Government in 2002 to prevent councils from attempting to change the electoral system for their own advantage. They were only applicable in situations that involved changing the voting system - firstly, switching between STV voting and First Past the Post, and secondly, establishing Maori Wards, since that required the introduction of the Maori electoral roll.

In both cases, a petition signed by 5 percent of voters could trigger a binding referendum that could overturn a council decision. Where communities have been given the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they want Maori wards, the vast majority have rejected being divided by race.

Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government abolished petition rights in early 2021 after winning the right to govern alone. They completely disregarded the convention that decisions of a constitutional nature – such as the abolition of petition rights - should be subject to a democratic vote. Instead, by passing retrospective legislation under urgency, they thwarted nine petitions that were already underway in communities around the country, and opened the floodgates for Maori Wards. 

At the time, the Herald’s Chief Political Reporter Audrey Young was 
scathing about Labour’s deceit: “The Government has made a strong case for abolishing local voters’ ability to overturn a council’s decision to establish a Maori ward. So it is unforgivable that Labour did not put it in its 2020 election manifesto. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta foreshadowed the move within weeks of the election. It was clearly on Labour’s agenda all along. It may be a divisive issue but there is no excuse for Labour having hidden it at the election. No doubt Labour feared it could strengthen the arm of Act or, more importantly, of New Zealand First and did not want to take the risk of saying what it wanted to do in case the issue cost it votes.”

In announcing petition rights will be restored, the Minister of Local Government, Simeon Brown
explained: “The Government will introduce a Bill in the coming months that will restore the ability for communities to petition their councils to hold binding polls on Maori ward decisions. This will include holding binding polls on wards that were established without the ability for local referendums to take place.”

He described how affected councils will be required to either disestablish their Maori wards now or hold a binding poll alongside the 2025 elections – to take effect in 2028.

While this announcement appears to fulfil a major election promise made by all three Coalition partners, the experience of the Fast-track Approvals Bill means we will now have to wait to see the legislation’s fine print before expressing outright support.

As expected, the response from Local Government New Zealand was negative, with President Sam Broughton claiming it was “complete overreach”, even though the policy had been well-signalled. 

In calling community-driven referenda “a skewed version of democracy that isn’t used to determine any other wards or constituencies, just Maori ones” and stating petition rights should “either apply to all wards or none at all”, the President demonstrated an astonishing ignorance of facts and the importance of the constitutional veto in local government democracy.

He explained LGNZ believes iwi should be key players in Maori ward decisions, claiming “Councils make these decisions based on feedback from their communities and iwi representatives.” That councils consult their communities over Maori wards, is patently untrue. It is iwi who now call the shots.

In fact, one wonders who LGNZ is actually representing these days. While they claim to stand up for local councils, they happily accepted government funding to promote Maori co-governance and Three Waters, against the wishes of many of their members.

website indicates they see their future as partners with iwi: “Building on the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we are committed to establishing robust partnerships between local government and Iwi Maori. Our goal is to ensure that these partnerships are grounded in genuine understanding, respect, and collaboration. By working closely with Iwi Maori, we aim to foster a shared vision for a future where Maori tikanga, values, and perspectives are integral to decision-making processes at the local level.”

With the organisation clearly ‘captured’ by the iwi elite, it is little wonder that council members are increasingly considering withdrawing their support from LGNZ.

The LGNZ President also boasted, “We now have the highest representation of Maori elected members in local government ever.”

He’s not wrong. As a result of the on-going pressure on councils from Labour and iwi to adopt Maori wards, Maori are now seriously over-represented in local government. 

Back in 2020 a LGNZ
survey showed the proportion of Maori elected to local authorities was 13.5 percent - virtually identical to the 13.7 percent of Maori in the adult population according to the 2018 census.  

This means that before Labour abolished petition rights, there was no under representation of Maori in local government. All of the claims about barriers to Maori representation were deliberate lies. There was no need to introduce Maori wards because Maori were quite capable of getting themselves elected in general wards.

However, as a result of Labour opening the floodgates, the number of councils with Maori wards exploded from 3 to 35, and Maori
representation has blown out to 21.6 percent

That means Maori are now grossly over-represented in local government - just as they are in central government.

While the restoration of petition rights will help to restore democracy and proportionality in local government, the real answer is to remove race-based representation altogether, since there’s no longer any need to provide a helping hand to get Maori elected – they are quite capable of doing so themselves.

As could be expected, the Government’s petition rights announcement received widespread coverage. Yet, in spite of it being a good news story about democracy, virtually all of the mainstream media coverage was negative.

There was no mention that petition rights are an electoral safeguard, and that their return will restore a democratic right that had been unconstitutionally stripped away by Labour. Nor was there any mention that the widespread introduction of Maori Wards had led to a dangerous over-representation of Maori in local government.

Instead, their negative reporting simply reinforced the perception that a serious pro-Maori bias has infected the mainstream media ever since Labour’s $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund tied funding to the favourable reporting of Maori issues.

Public disillusionment with the media was on display in the latest AUT Trust in News
survey, which showed New Zealanders’ trust in the mainstream media has plummeted from 53 percent in 2020, to 33 percent in 2024.

The proportion of those who actively avoid the news has increased to 75 percent from 69 percent last year, in spite of interest in the news remaining high at 72 percent.

The report states around 87 percent believe the news is biased and unbalanced, 82 percent believe it reflects the political leaning of the newsroom, 76 percent regard the news as too opinionated, and only 27 percent believe the news media is independent of undue political influence most of the time.

There are also claims of too much sensationalism, too much Maori language, and too much coverage of Maori issues.

Given the current financial difficulties being faced by the industry, they should take heart in the fact that Kiwis are still hungry for news - just not the misinformation that’s currently being dished out due to the way the media are self-censoring.

This issue of censorship is also a major concern of this week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, the former Judge and Law Lecturer Anthony Willy, who explains:

“Censorship comes in many forms, some subtle and some not so but the overall effect is the same, some person, or group does not want you to exercise your freedom of choice and speech on a given topic. The reason for this is always the same - it is because in saying what you think contrary to the view of others you impinge on the personal interests of those whose views you are criticising. This in turn affects their privilege, power and in our market economy their ability to accumulate wealth.”

He's not wrong.

As a result of widespread censorship preventing people from speaking out and raising their concerns publicly, New Zealand has become victim to a sinister attempt by a well-funded Maori elite to enrich themselves by gaining control of democratic power and public resources.

Using the pretence they are a Treaty partner, Labour progressed their agenda at lightning speed to the point where it now infects all areas of society.

The Coalition was elected not only to stop their influence but to remove it altogether. Will they honour their promises to protect equal rights and rebuild democracy – or are they too being ‘captured’ by iwi?

The Fast-track Approvals Bill signals the latter.

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*Do you believe iwi and councils should have dedicated seats on the four-person panels convened to review major infrastructure projects under the Fast-track Approvals Bill?

Dr Muriel Newman established the New Zealand Centre for Political Research as a public policy think tank in 2005 after nine years as a Member of Parliament. The NZCPR website is HERE. We also run this Breaking Views Blog and our NZCPR Facebook Group HERE


DeeM said...

The alarm bells are ringing!!!
Why would this coalition government produce a new FastTrack Approvals Bill which continues to favour Maori and give them undemocratic representation?
I'm pretty sure both ACT and NZFirst came out strongly against this kind of thing. National are a different story.
But all three parties have agreed to this.

This is extremely concerning and we need to find out whether one, two or all three parties supported this.
One of the main reasons many voters elected this government was to end this kind of positive racism, not encourage it.

As Muriel says, what nasty little secrets will be revealed in the detail to reinstate referendums on Maori wards. Maybe only Maori will be allowed to vote in them.

Anonymous said...

Did people expect any different? This isn't about Maorification. This is communism and they've chosen the Maori as their vehicle in New Zealand, and other indigenous peoples in other countries. But at the end of the day it is all about "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." The only thing people can do in such circumstances is start to turn to God for only he can provide us with a path out of this.