The Playcentre Outcome and Co-Governance – what it means for democracy

The recent local council elections have highlighted many issues. Much of the swing to the right in these elections was caused by opposition to Three Waters and Labour’s centrist policies. There is also deep concern about Labour’s concept and implementation of co-governance. Many New Zealanders quietly distrust this concept and its impacts on democracy. This includes the veto rights Māori will have over Three Waters, the Health Authority and resource consents. Veto rights can effectively stop the concept of democracy in its tracks.

A case in point is the Playcentre outcome where co-governance and the veto right has stymied 92% of those who favoured change. Playcentre has its own goal, and over the last two decades it has been tweaking its constitution to incorporate co-governance, with a veto right.

The aim was to “change the parent-led child care education organisation’s constitution to a “trust deed” so — among other issues —  more of the funding it received would go to local playcentres, rather than “98%” going to the administrative body, which operates a bulk-funding model” (Otago Daily Times (ODT)).

“While 91.75% voted in favour of this change, it was overruled by some of the organisations roopu (governance bodies). In other words, 366 of 400 playcentres voted in favour of change” (David Farrar). However, “before any change could come into effect, a separate vote from the organisation’s roopu needed to be considered.

“The organisation’s six roopu are “governance bodies within Playcentre Aotearoa, consisting of whanau Māori, to give whanau Māori an equitable voice in Playcentre governance,” which require at least five of the six roopu to agree in order to achieve a consensus.

“Four roopu voted in favour and two against, but the two-thirds majority was not enough to carry the change” (David Farrar – Kiwiblog, 28 September 2022).

As “one parent said reactions at their local playcentre were of disappointment and disbelief.

“We just couldn’t believe it. It’s supposed to be about the kids.

“There was no explanation given by roopu and a lot of parents were quite upset.” (ODT)

As David Farrar succinctly put it, “Welcome to co-governance! Two votes get to veto 366 votes. This is the future the Government wants for Three Waters. One Iwi can veto and over-rule 22 South Island Councils”.

This matter has even rattled the cage of left winger blogger Martyn Bradbury, who  wrote, “Thank the little baby Jesus that Kelvin was so focused on destroying Labour with his stupid attack on Karen Chhour that he managed to eclipse this dreadful story from Playcentre Aotearoa…” (2 October 2022, Daily Blog)

Bradbury criticises the centre right over its call for one person, one vote, over the undemocratic concepts of co-governance, which is a strange idea to highlight when he is questioning the integrity of how co-governance works, when he states, “…the fear many critics of co-governance have is that somehow a small tribal elite Māori faction will stop decisions being made. This Playcentre Aotearoa fiasco highlights those fears in stark contrast. You cannot have a hold out like this and claim it is democratic!”

The Playcentre fiasco maybe a small matter to most people, but it is a concerning outcome in the broader picture. It is bad for everyone, and for poor Māori too. Chris Trotter on the left, sums this up differently, but dovetails back into this questionable outcome when he refers to Kelvin Davis’s attack on Māori, Karen Chhour, as a misguided metaphor. “The only rational answer is that he, along with those controlling the increasingly powerful Māori corporations arising out of the Treaty Settlement Process, intends to alter the political reality of New Zealand in such a way that the Māori aristocracy, and the Te Reo-speaking, tertiary-educated, professionals and managers of the Māori middle-class (the only Māori worth listening to?) will soon be wielding very real authority over the rest of New Zealand.”

It is indeed a very concerning outcome for everyone, but not necessarily for powerful Māori elites. Welcome to co-governance.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Bryan Gundersen

    Good stuff.

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