from Democracy Action

Just a few short years ago, Dr John Robinson wrote the commentary ‘Drifting into Racism’, which warned of the upcoming destruction of New Zealand’s social structure. It has only been four years since it was first published, and yet in that time, the ‘drift’ has turned into a full-blown gallop!

An example of this is the debasing of democratic rights in the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, currently before the Māori Affairs Committee. This Bill seeks a major change to the Rotorua Council’s representation arrangements, overturning the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote, each of equal value.

The Bill would provide those on Māori electoral roll 260 percent more voting power than those on the General electoral roll.

The case for this change is built on the fake ‘Treaty partnership’ and its political manifestation: co-governance. 

This Bill must be defeated. I am writing today to ask you to please make a submission, no matter how brief – and encourage your husband, wife, mother, neighbour, dog, budgie, pet rock, family, friends and foes – absolutely everyone to do so too. While you may not live in the Rotorua district, once a precedent has been set councils around the country will fall like dominoes – your council could be next.

In a great show of support for the democratic value of participation, the Māori Affairs Committee has allowed just two weeks for the public to respond. As of today there are only 6 days left –– consultation closes at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 20 April 2022.

THERE ARE THREE WAYS TO LODGE YOUR SUBMISSION

  1. You can type your comments directly into the boxes provided in the online submission form, see HERE.
  2. You can prepare your submission as a Word document or PDF, and then lodge it by uploading HERE.
    N.B. Remember to tick the box provided if you are willing to make an oral submission to the committee.
  3. Or, use the super easy Hobson’s Pledge online submission-making tool, which takes just 30 seconds, see HERE

REASONS WHY THE ROTORUA REPRESENTATION ARRANGEMENTS BILL IS A BAD IDEA

  • The Bill gives different values to different votes, based on the ethnicity of the voter. It allows 21,700 voters on the Māori electoral roll to elect three ward Councillors – the same number as the 56,600 voters on the General electoral roll*. This means the votes of people on the Māori electoral roll would have 2.6 times the voting power than those on the General electoral roll. (*Estimated resident population as of 30 June 2020, provided by Stats NZ). This undermines democratic citizenship which locates sovereignty (the right to rule) equally in each eligible voter.
  • The Bill is at odds with electoral rights based on equal suffrage. The votes of people on the General electoral roll will be worth only 58% of the votes of those on the Māori electoral roll. This represents a significant constitutional change that is contrary to the most fundamental principle of democracy.
  • Alleged inequality is not a valid reason to justify this Bill. Rotorua Council has a history of more-than-proportionate numbers of those with Māori heritage elected on merit. 
  • The Bill promotes racial discrimination, which will have a negative impact on social cohesion and race relations. Entrenching a race-based system of representation whereby the votes of citizens from all other ethnicities will count for less than those on the Māori electoral roll — for no other reason than their ethnicity — is inherently racist. This contravenes Article 2 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights i.e. freedom from discrimination.
  • New Zealand’s constitutional conventions require major changes to democratic representation to only be undertaken through widespread consultation and express public approval. This is not the case here – there is no mandate from the people of Rotorua to undertake such serious constitutional change. 
  • The Bill is at odds with the Labour Party manifesto 2021, which stated “Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset”. 
  • The proposed model of representation contravenes Article 3 of Te Tiriti which guaranteed, according to Sir Hugh Kawharu’s translation, that “the Queen of England will protect all the ordinary people of New Zealand and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England.” 
  • The Bill fails to protect our democratic and civil rights as provided for in the New Zealand Bill of Rights, which guarantees equal suffrage. Equal suffrage means giving all voters equal voting power. 
  • The Bill flouts international democratic standards. Proposed provisions are in breach of obligations under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — ratified by New Zealand in 1978. This Covenant, which is legally binding on State Parties, provides every citizen the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections by universal and equal suffrage.

Click HERE for an example submission, which can be edited to your liking for your own use. To download it, please select File > Download > Word Document

Please note that this proposed legislation is initially only for the 2022 and 2025 local body elections. However, it can be extended by order in council i.e. if requested by the Council, without the need for Parliamentary approval. So, it’s not for two terms only, it’s for at least two terms.

We thank you in advance for taking the time to make a submission on this important Bill. Your silence could be construed as support, whereas your submission adds volume to those saying NO to this Bill. 

If you need help, please let us know at: enquiries@democracyaction.org.nz

Cheers,

Susan Short
Secretary