National has reiterated its plans to roll back co-governance initiatives, should it be elected to government at next year’s general election.
Tomorrow, the government will vote on the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill, which - if it becomes law will allow iwi to appoint two of the council’s 14 councillors.
Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene is sponsoring the bill, saying it is part of honouring co-governance guarantees in te tiriti and will essentially reinstate a previous policy that allowed Ngāi Tahu to recommend two councillors.
"Having mana whenua present at the council table is so important. The other areas which are so important is that having that knowledge and expertise can lead to better decision making," he told Parliament last month.
National and ACT, however, are arguing the policy undermines principles of democracy, with National’s justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith saying the change will make the two councillors unaccountable to the public, and reaffirming National's plans to roll the legislation back.
“Since the Ngāi Tahu appointments are permanent, the normal rules of accountability do not apply. The universal principle that politicians are better behaved when they know they can be thrown out at the next election, will not apply for these councillors in Canterbury," Goldsmith said.
'Extra voting power'
“The bill will give Ngāi Tahu the right to appoint two councillors. Since Māori will have had an equal vote in the appointment of the other 14 councillors, this arrangement gives Ngāi Tahu voters extra voting power."
Goldsmith says he believes the changes will open the door for further co-governance arrangements beyond the South Island, saying a similar bill may be resurrected in Rotorua by the Māori affairs committee.
“This is anti-democratic and divisive,” Goldsmith said.
“Equal voting rights and accountability at the ballot box are basic principles and National will restore them.”
“It’s astounding that any party should have to make such a promise – given most Kiwis take equal voting rights for granted – but that basic principle is being undermined by the Labour government.”
Co-governance discussions were reignited upon the release of the controversial He Puapua report, drafted in 2019 but released only last year.
The report itself was developed out of the recommendations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the National government signed in 2010.