Race based representation – Auckland Council is trying to pull a swift one

This is important to all New Zealanders, but especially to those who live in the Auckland Council area.

At a time when everyone is extremely busy with the stresses of life and the upcoming general election, Auckland Council has taken a page from Labour’s playbook and is pretending to do a  “consultation” on a matter which strikes to the very heart of our democracy.

And although this mainly impacts only our Auckland-based supporters, it is something we all need to pay attention to because the decisions made by Auckland will inevitably set the precedent for other local authorities.

The issue at hand is Auckland Council's consultation on “Deciding whether to introduce Maori seats for 2025,” and the devil is in the detail.

Appallingly, the Council has a consultation timeline that opened just a few days ago and closes on 24 September, with a decision to be made in October. It is difficult to see why they thought the middle of a general election campaign was the best time to conduct this important consultation process. Was there some kind of rush? It is hard not to be suspicious of the timing.

When considering the matter of Maori seats, it's important to remember that Auckland Council already has specific Maori participation through the Independent Maori Statutory Board (IMSB).

In the complex Maori Seats consultation document, the information about the IMSB is misleading, particularly regarding the level of authority and influence the IMSB already has on the decision-making processes of the Council. It also avoids any clear statement explaining that the establishment of Maori Wards would be in addition to the IMSB.

This lack of clarity is compounded by the consultation response form making no mention of the IMSB at all, as if it isn't central to the discussion at hand.

You may recall that last year Hobson’s Pledge campaigned against the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngai Tahu Representation) Act. This legislation established permanent, unelected representation on that Council for the Ngai Tahu iwi. We expressed significant concern that a precedent for unelected representation on councils, with full voting rights, would be created.

Sure enough, Auckland Council’s consultation document references this kind of arrangement as one of the options for 'ensuring mana whenua representation'.

Also last year, we challenged the standing order guidelines issued by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) as they wrongly claimed that all councils had Treaty obligations. We confirmed through independent legal opinion that councils are not Crown entities and therefore are not Treaty partners, so no such obligations actually exist.

Despite this, Auckland Council’s consultative material infers that they have accepted LGNZ’s advice on the Treaty, and that there is an obligation for them to create separate Maori representation.

According to the Council's own advice, Maori make up just 11% of Auckland’s population and, of that, 80% of those Maori are associated to iwi outside of Auckland, in other words are not 'mana whenua'. This makes it very hard to argue that a separate representation model is needed to give 'mana whenua' a voice when it is likely not going to be 'mana whenua' that will be appointed or elected.

This whole consultation process should be alarming to ALL New Zealanders. It further entrenches race-based representation, and the groundwork was laid for this in advance.

Subsequent to the production of the He Puapua report, the then Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, changed the law to prevent citizens being able to challenge changes to council representation via a referendum. Strange thing to spend time legislating against.

Coincidentally, Auckland Council has specifically referred to the previous ability to go to referenda as being one of the reasons they had not previously pursued the establishment of Maori wards. They clearly know that this racial division is abhorrent to most Aucklanders and would be strongly opposed.

Now that this mechanism to protect democracy has been removed, Auckland Council has quickly pursued changes having already held meetings with Maori prior to any broader consultation with the voting public.

I realise this is a complex issue and may not be seen as something that impacts you directly, but the erosion of local government accountability through changes to democratic process has sadly become a reality. This is the death of democracy by a thousand cuts.

If you are in Auckland please have your say - click here!

It is also possible to submit in person on 14 September 2023 and you can register for this by emailing [email protected]

P.S. Don't forget to keep the pressure on candidates for the general election! Remind them that democracy is essential if we are to remain an inclusive, multi-cultural, liberal democracy.

Tell your candidate at: ­­­­­­­­­www.bottomline.nz

Authorised by: Hobson’s Pledge, Suite 311, 184 Symonds Street, Auckland 1010