You may recall from our last email on this issue that LGNZ sends a guide to Standing Orders, along with a template to use, to councils at the start of each term and that this year they have made significant changes from the last version in 2019, without announcement, fanfare, or scrutiny from the media.
We told you then that these new guidelines assert a new special status in decision making for Maori and iwi that will limit the democratic authority of those who were elected by the voters at large (which included Maori).
LGNZ have a role, ultimately funded by ratepayers, to advise councils. With these guidelines, however, they have recommended divisive, anti-democratic approaches to council decision-making processes that are not only not required by law (as they heavily inferred) but may well breach the law.
We were so concerned about the claims and recommendations pushed by LGNZ that Hobson’s Pledge engaged prominent public law firm Franks Ogilvie to provide a legal opinion on the advice provided.
It makes a compelling case for rejecting the LGNZ advice. I can particularly recommend the summary from paragraphs 4 to 11.
Hobson's Pledge have sent this report to all local and regional councillors and mayors in New Zealand, so they are armed with the case for equal citizenship in their councils rules.
Some may ask, why is this important?
Simply, it is because at the foundation of our democracy lies the assurance that every vote holds equal value and every citizen has equal access to their governing institutions.
An election is the opportunity for we, the people, to deliver accountability from our elected representatives. After that election, no one should get in ahead of the rest to set the agenda or screw the scrum.
LGNZ’s Standing Orders guidelines are promoting a form of co-governance that goes beyond mere consultation, attempting to incorporate an obligation to unelected representation.
You might expect a dramatic change in the law from Parliament or a policy change from the Government to cause this kind of shift in how LGNZ's Standing Orders guide is written, but none of that has occurred. They're simply making it up as they go.
LGNZ are promoting co-governance by stealth with dire legal and democratic implications.
Their advice holds weight with your councillors, who will have assumed LGNZ have provided reliable guidance.
That's why we've presented the Franks Ogilvie advice, so your councillors will know equal citizenship is on the line here.
Before our democracy is eroded further, LGNZ should be required to explain on what legal basis they have advised councils of this new approach.
Already, some councillors are replying, thanking us for raising the issue and saying they will be pushing back at their next council meetings.