The Government’s ‘Future of Local Government Review Panel’ – why this is a problem

The “Future of Local Government Review Panel” is a worrying report for both democracy and governance. The report is designed to remove the current structures of governance and democracy, and replace them with te ao Māori values. This is not to work alongside existing values, rather to displace them.

The report is called ‘He mata whāriki he matawhānui.’ and states (summary by the Taxpayers Union):

  • Transferring a laundry list of powers that currently fall before elected council directly to hapū/iwi and other Māori organisations;
  • Appointing unelected positions by mana whenua to be given equal status as elected members (including voting rights). But unlike the councillors, the mana whenua representatives cannot be removed at the ballot box;
  • Requiring council staff to conform with ‘te ao Māori values’ by law;
  • Funding of ‘Tiriti-based partnership in local governance’ (no matter the cost to ratepayers, apparently); 
  • Removing the requirement for local referenda before changing the voting system (for the remaining councillors to be elected) by imposing STV across the country; and 
  • Lowering the local voting age to 16. 

The report discusses transferring the current council powers to hapu/iwi and other Māori organisations, having unelected positions for mana whenua and inserting Māori values over all council governance.  Other worrying aspects of this document include changing the voting system to STV, which no one really understands, and lowering the voting age to 16. The report falls under local government, and the minister is Nanaia Mahuta, who was also responsible for the He Puapua report and the Three Waters legislation. There is a common theme that runs through all three documents.

Below are the six recommendations in the report specifically referring to a Tiriti-based partnership between Māori and local government:

  • That central government leads an inclusive process to develop a new legislative framework for Tiriti-related provisions in the Local Government Act that drives a genuine partnership in the exercise of kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga in a local context and explicitly recognises te ao Māori values and conceptions of wellbeing.
  • That councils develop with hapū/iwi and significant Māori organisations within a local authority area, a partnership framework that complements existing co-governance arrangements by ensuring all groups in a council area are
    involved in local governance in a meaningful way.
  • That central government introduces a statutory requirement for local government chief executives to develop and maintain the capacity and capability of council staff to grow understanding and knowledge of Te Tiriti, the whakapapa of local government, and te ao Māori values.
  • That central government explores a stronger statutory requirement on councils to foster Māori capacity to participate in local government.
  • That local government leads the development of coordinated organisational and workforce development plans to enhance the capability of local government to partner and engage with Māori.
  • That central government provides a transitional fund to subsidise the cost of building both Māori and council capability and capacity for a Tiriti-based partnership in local governance.

The following three extracts of this report relate specifically to the six recommendations above:

  • “That local and central government, in a Tiriti-consistent manner,
    review the future allocations of roles and functions by applying
    the proposed approach, which includes three core principles:
    ▸the concept of subsidiarity
    ▸ local government’s capacity to influence the conditions
    for wellbeing is recognised and supported
    ▸ te ao Māori values underpin decision-making.
  • “That central and local government explore and agree to a new
    Tiriti-consistent structural and system design that will give effect
    to the design principles.
  • “… ensuring there is a Māori perspective represented in system
    stewardship” and “giving effect to the importance of embedding te ao Māori and the place of Te Tiriti in building an authentic partnership and ensuring
    this is enacted in daily practice.”

One of the main aims of this report is to replace the democratic process with a Māori, hapu/iwi-based system with subsequent underlying values. The report does say in partnership, but essentially, it is the replacement of core common values of all, to one  of a race-based system.

Potentially, this is only the first step in replacing the core values of one system, ala local government, with another one based on the “core values” of one race. If implemented, the next step will be to eventually replace our current democratic, Westminster system of government, based on the fundamental principles of the rule of law and the values of democracy, with a hapu/iwi-based system with all its underlying “values”, thus disenfranchising most other races of decision making and freedom of expression and choice.

This may be considered an extreme position. However, if you think in a linear approach and review history, and then look forward, you can see a process of action. If you understand this process, then this line of thinking is not so far fetched as one would think. It is now euphemistically called co-governance.

There are people more alarmed at this process than I am. Notably, I was sent a video of a meeting  in Warkworth  (attached ). While I agree with much of the sentiment in this presentation, I was disturbed by the call to action, a kind of rallying cry to violence. It is not direct, but subtle in an aggressive manner. Whether it was sent to me to support this process, I am not sure. The outcome for me  is that the country is becoming polarised. There is the potential for next year’s election to be quite divisive and aggressive as two very opposing values begin to clash. Yes, I agree on pushback, and this is one case I agree on, but not necessarily in this manner, even though I fully understand.

To highlight the division occurring in our society and the separatism that is being created, I was sent a video of an interview with David Seymour on Māori TV to debate Māori TV’s Moana Maniapoto about co-governance. The point is not whether you agree with David Seymour or not, but how the interviewer handled the interview. I got the sense of unbridled hatred towards David Seymour and a sense of polarisation I have not felt before in such an interview. I was amazed at how Seymour remained calm under such provocation.

These two videos highlight how New Zealand is becoming so divided and polarised on this issue. The Future of Local Government Review is just another extension and path along this road of potential separatism of this country into two parts, based on race, with conflicting political systems, that in the end will benefit one party. As Chris Trotter wrote, in such a situation, there will only be one winner and it will be the dead bodies of pakeha left on the hill (my apology to Chris for mixing two quotes into one).

The current government has put New Zealand on a collision course of values of democracy verse values based on race-based policies, and many New Zealanders are now feeling helpless, venerable, and cheated at the same time. When that happens, it is natural for unrest to occur. This is what is happening right now with another report like the Future of Local Government Review.

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