Wairarapa councils split over Tiriti integration in codes of conduct

By Contributor

Carterton District Council is adopting a code that includes a commitment to recognise and respect the significance of the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Photo / RNZ / Aaron Smale

By Emily Ireland, Local Democracy Reporter

Of Wairarapa's three district councils, only one is set to immediately adopt a refreshed code of conduct with mention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Carterton District Council [CDC] will adopt Local Government New Zealand's [LGNZ] 2022 code of conduct template today, which includes a commitment to recognise and respect the significance of the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Its northern neighbours in Masterton have been recommended to adopt the previous council's 2021 code of conduct, "and undertake a review of the code in the first half of 2023".

Meanwhile, South Wairarapa District Council's [SWDC] code of conduct is not on the inaugural council meeting agenda.

A spokesperson said SWDC's current code was based on LGNZ's 2019 template and was adopted in 2021.

"Because the members of this council are so new, they want time to consider it, so it is not on the first meeting's agenda."

The Local Government Act 2002 requires councils to have a code of conduct.

The code sets out the expectations for how elected members will conduct themselves, including their behaviour and the disclosure of information.

LGNZ prepares and makes available a code of conduct for councils to amend and adopt.

Its 2022 template, which will be adopted by Carterton District Council, is based on feedback received on its 2019 template and includes an acknowledgement of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and a focus on managing specific types of behaviours, such as bullying or harassment.

It states elected members will acknowledge the core principles of the Treaty and includes specific instruction to councils to "be open to working with mana whenua partners in the design and delivery of their work programmes"; "to establish a strong and enduring relationship with iwi and Māori, within the context of iwi and Māori expectations", and ensure services are provided in "a culturally appropriate way that recognises and supports the expression of te ao Māori".

The template also says councils should "identify opportunities, and develop and maintain ways for Māori to contribute to [council] decisions, and consider ways [council] can help build Māori capacity to contribute to council decision-making".

The new LGNZ template, used in CDC's code, includes an explicit description of unacceptable behaviours, and acknowledges the principles of good governance [the Nolan principles].

The LGNZ template defines bullying as "offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour".

"It represents an abuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure another person.

"It may be a regular pattern of behaviour, or a one-off incident; occur face-to-face, on social media, in emails or phone calls, happen in the workplace, or at work social events; and may not always be obvious or noticed by others."

Previously, the LGNZ Code did not explicitly state what constituted unacceptable behaviours.