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Opinion by Rupert Pye
In 2017 former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer wrote a startling blog post expressing concern about the state of democracy in New Zealand. It surely should have been headline news but it wasn’t. Which raises a large question mark about the media’s competency and sense of responsibility. His statement was made during the National Government, led by John Key.
Palmer had very good reason to be concerned about that government. One act by the government was totally unprecedented. Almost eleven years ago, on April Fools’ Day 2010, Nick Smith, then Minister for the Environment, induced the government to sack the democratically elected Environment Canterbury (ECan) council and replaced it with state commissioners by passing the ECan Act.
The move outraged the Law Society Rule of Law Committee which denounced the ECan Act as repugnant to the Rule of Law. Most were appalled.
Here are other issues relating to the outdoors and environment.
In April 2016 Nick Smith also removed the right of local councils to consider and hear submissions on 1080 poison aerial drops and put the final say with central government which became solely responsible for 1080 poison and pest control methods – with no reference to the public.
This policy and the ECan takeover were dictatorial state control from a National government.
At the time, Waikato Regional Councillor Clyde Graf told Radio NZ the change withdrew the ability of the community to engage in the consent process, and stopped local government from being able to manage their own pest control.
In effect, the public’s right to comment was abolished.
There was the 2004 ERMA review of 1080 was essentially a “kangaroo court” with submitters restricted to only five minutes. It was a token gesture to consultation – lip service only.
The National government was voted out in 2017, but the new coalition government of Labour, Greens and NZ First continued the government trend of diminishing democracy.
Firearm law changes following the Christchurch March 15, 2019 mosque tragedy, were rushed through in just a few days. Over 12,000 submissions were considered in just two days – defying credibility.
Then just the last week, the Labour government pushed the the Maori Wards Bill though its final reading in Parliament in just a few days. There was virtually no meaningful government instigated public debate.
Democracy is being eroded and harder to find.
Jordan Williams executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union said “This law is a brazen attempt to hijack local democracy, and the use of Parliamentary urgency betrays of the promise of open and transparent government.”
Even if you ignore the issues, whether it be the firearm laws, 1080, ECan or Maori wards, what is important and so very alarming is the erosion bordering on abandoning democracy.
Some columnists have examined the erosion of democracy. A number have identified complacency by the public or in other words apathy. There is deep concern that most New Zealanders are oblivious. They think New Zealand has a strong democracy and therefore don’t focus enough attention on the need for protections against undemocratic behaviour and corruption.
Respected writer and columnist Karl du Fresne looked at complacency, said recently: “One thing we do very well in this country, besides rugby, is evasion of responsibility. We get reports and inquiries, hollow apologies and hand-wringing … and then it’s back to business as usual”.
He found there is a glaring “accountability deficit” throughout New Zealand.
The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ) raised red flags last year that parliament’s select committee democratic process was being undermined to the detriment of the public giving submissions. Current CORANZ Chairman Andi Cockroft made an oral submission to a select committee dealing with the Resource Management Act (RMA).
After being beforehand, granted 15 minutes speaking time the chairman interrupted Andi Cockroft’s submission after five minutes and said the committee had heard enough thereby cutting the oral presentation short by ten minutes. It was another insult to democracy.
Making submissions has become a joke
The five minutes now regularly accorded to submitters by select committees is in strong contrast to years ago when select committees listened to an oral submission for half an hour, an hour or more.
Tony Orman, who has over decades made several submissions to select committees, wrote on the CORANZ website some months ago, saying “the public believe Parliament is the place of democracy – where you could get a fair hearing from elected representatives based on a historical and moral constitution of honour, truth and justice. It is not a charade.”
But he is wrong, it is a charade -– more than a bad joke.
Little wonder the public rate politicians, political parties and governments as among the most untrustworthy.
Is apathy by people and failure to hold politicians to account a major obstacle to retaining democracy?
More from the world of Woke-ism, fast becoming the official religion of Jacindaland. From SummitNews.com
Toy giant Hasbro has announced that Mr. Potato Head will become gender neutral ‘Potato Head’ in order to encourage kids to create “same sex families.”
The company is dropping “Mr.” from the name in a move “designed to break away from traditional gender norms, particularly when it comes to creating Potato Head families,” according to Fast Company.
The change will help children “create same-sex families or single-parent families” as Hasbro seeks to lean away from representing the “traditional family structure.”
“Culture has evolved,” said Kimberly Boyd, an SVP and GM at Hasbro. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists—with the “Mr.” and “Mrs.”—is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”
satire by Neil Miller of the Taxpayers’ Union
The following is a leaked diary entry written by Ricardo Menendez March, MP.
Gracefully returning from Mexico, the third most deadly hotspot for COVID-19, suddenly I am confronted by a border guard demanding all this paperwork about quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing that apparently I, a busy Member of Parliament, should have filled in “months ago”. “Months ago?” – who can understand such bureaucratic jargon?
Responding to the frontline staff, I point out the obvious absurdity in his argument. “Next”, I quip, “you will be saying that Kiwis should not travel to Mexico at all.” He produces a piece of paper from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade saying exactly that. However, I spot that it is almost a year old. I cannot be expected to keep up with these historical edicts about the country of my birth and long intended travel destination. I am a list MP.
This will not stand. I fix the guard with my most smouldering Central American gaze and confidently ask: “Do you know who I am?”
Turns out he has absolutely no idea who I am, and no one in the growing and increasingly restless line behind me can help him. Someone quipped that I might be “Cliff Curtis’ less famous brother” which was the best of a bad bunch.
I decide to go over the guard’s head and ask my old comrade Chris Hipkins for an emergency MIQ slot. Problem solved, so I return to Koru Club for a free-range soy latte with a twist of GMO-free lemon.
Well, it seems that Minister Hipkins (as he insists I call him) either does not know who I am, does not care who I am, or does not consider backbench Green list MPs to be a service “time-critical for the purpose of delivering specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential health infrastructure.”
Undeterred, I lodge another application for an emergency exemption on the grounds that my “urgent travel is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons.” It is also declined, but I do not think the Minister had to address the letter “To who it may concern”.
Over a leisurely dandelion and bog myrtle muffin in the lounge, I realise this situation could actually look bad from a PR perspective. Even the tamest of journalists will occasionally latch onto stories about Green MPs who preach carbon neutrality constantly topping the frequent flyer mile chart, or members of the most principled party in Parliament repeatedly trying to use their status to jump the queue on the grounds of non-existent health expertise or for reasons of national security.
I call in our communications “big gun” – though the Greens’ musterer insists he/she/they are referred to as “the sizable inclusive conversationalist”.
It is Clint. He may have a surname, but everyone calls him “Hey Clint” for some reason. Probably a cultural title… Hola Ricardo has quite a ring to it. Will write to the Speaker and see what he/she/they think of my plan.
“Hey Clint” has come up with a great strategy for when the opposition and media find out what I have done. I should say that I never wanted either of the emergency exemptions I applied for. You know, both those applications that used up time and resources from officials, the head of MBIE, party leader James Shaw, and Minister Hipkins. I am sure they relished a bit of excitement during these quiet days of summer.
He – and I now have written permission to call Clint “he” – suggested I mention family illnesses and my long-term partner as often as possible, but not mention I go to Mexico at this time every year.
On reflection, this might actually be good for my career. I have never had so much coverage. I should go on holiday more often.
Guru’s Ladies Chorus wins the day
Most of you will have missed the best theatrical performance in Kapiti in decades, called “The Battle for the Kaj”. Where you may well ask? Darlings, it was not at the new performing arts centre but — most wonderful of surprises — it was at Council Chambers on 25 February 2021. The choreographer was none other than the Great Guru accompanied by his GLC (Kapiti Ladies Chorus) of Councillors Holborrow, Elliott, Buswell Sophie Handford with McCann and Cootes, as boy soprano’s, singing in falsetto.
Could the Guru and his Chorus pull off a spectacular victory against the thousands of opponents and win? Yes, and this is how it was done.
The Guru had a Maori group perform the haka for 20 minutes. It was so moving that Councillor Handford shed tears, then joined in the haka as an exemplar of audience participation. This was the pivotal moment when The Force (Te Uruhi) of the Kaj won. All the members of the Guru Ladies Chorus spontaneously nodded their heads in rhythm with the gyrations of the beautiful Sophie.
The performance was wonderfully shatteringly assertive and aggressive and so loud that ear drums burst. As a delightful little sideshow an evil white female, foolish enough to be an opponent of the Gateway was battered with a chair bashed against her knees by a haka warrior. This theatrical aside perfectly encapsulated the win at all costs driving Force of the great theatre.
Councillors Compton, Randall, Halliday and Prvanov had not auditioned for the KLC and were treated as party spoilers. Why? Because they said Council should decide on proven facts not theatre and wild speculation. They were drowned out by the cacophony of cheerleading by a list of Guru appointed yes-persons who sang choruses in praise of this building. The Gateway was described as the centre and heart of Kapiti. Wow!
This showpiece of council meeting as drama deserves its own Oscars. So here goes.
Oscar for Best choreography: Mayor Guru 9.8/10
Oscar for Best harmonious choir: GLC 9.4/10
Oscar for Supporting the Kaj: The Guru and the Guru Ladies Chorus 9.9/10
Oscar for Best fictionalization of facts: KCDC staff project team
Oscar for Most courageous performer: The lady with the bruised body and knees
Raspberry for Party spoilers: joint winners, Councillors Compton, Randall, Halliday and Prvanov
Kerry Bolton refers to this in a comment. This is more detailed correspondence; firstly an e-mail sent to the mayor and councillors by a friend of one of the victims, Vicky Cooper
Subject: KCDC Meeting 16th [25th] February 2021 assault
I attended the meeting yesterday from 9:30 to 12:30. I wish to report an assault I witnessed by a young man who was part of the local iwi against Vicky Cooper. Vicky and her husband were sitting in the back row and the man was sitting directly in front of Vicky. When he stood up to Haka, he shoved his chair hard against Vicky’s legs using the back of his legs. Vicky tried to push the chair off her legs but the man continued to force the chair against her legs. The Coopers’ chairs were against the wall and there was no room to escape. The man continued to Haka and took over more space as he became more vigorous in his movements. I could see by the look on Vicky’s face that she was being hurt. There was a struggle for some time with the chair, until Vicky’s husband managed to pick the chair up and placed it on a vacant chair in front of him. She will have bruising on her legs because of the force used. The man was tall and stocky and was wearing a white shirt.
There were elderly people sitting on either side of the Coopers and also next to this man, who could easily have been hurt also. I felt quite scared and I was worried that the assault would escalate. I am disturbed and appalled by the aggressive behaviour. There were many people who witnessed this. There is no place for that behaviour in council chambers. He has brought shame to the people of his iwi for this assault on a woman in council chambers.
Please provide me with the contact details of the person that is the most appropriate for me to discuss this matter further?
Secondly, comment by Vicky Cooper;
I was pretty shocked when this happened, my Dad who is 80 this year was sitting next to me so I was very concerned for his safety. I think the haka is an amazing thing to witness, I just don’t know why they couldn’t have moved to the front and carried out their haka. The manner in which they did it felt intentionally aggressive. As you said, we moved the chair onto the row of chairs in front of us when the woman stood up to join the haka, when the young lady left she had a go at me because she said the chair hit her in the head which I do not believe is the case. I replied that her friend was smashing it into my legs and asked what I was supposed to do, she left the room with the group. I felt very threatened and completely unsupported.
Afterwards a council staff member did come to check I was ok but proceeded to tell me repeatedly to stop yelling at her instead of hearing my concerns. Tokenism at it’s best.
Physically I’m fine. I wouldn’t expect any action to come of this, they will ignore it as they ignored everything we said.
This is right by central Taupo’s busiest corner and is a contrast to what the KCDC has decided to erect: something that enhances the view rather than obstructs it, conveys the indigenous culture and relatively inexpensive.