By Dr Muriel Newman
New Zealand is one of the oldest democracies in the world. This system of government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ — that treats all citizens as equals before the law — has been a liberating force of human endeavour throughout the ages. We have indeed been fortunate in New Zealand that successive governments have faithfully upheld policies to protect our democracy as sacrosanct.
That is, until now.
Before Jacinda Ardern swept into power with an outright majority at the “Covid” election in 2020, it was unthinkable that any political party that had been democratically elected to government would even consider introducing policies that would seek to deliberately destabilise the democratic foundations upon which our relatively free society has prospered.
Yet destabilising our democratic foundations is exactly what Jacinda Ardern is now doing.
As a result, it’s decision time for New Zealanders. Do we uphold the foundation of our Westminster Parliamentary democracy, namely one person one vote, where all votes are equal, or do we go down the path towards an Orwellian Animal Farm democracy, where all are equal — but some are more equal than others?
Unfortunately, this is not a trivial question. It’s time for a national conversation about what we want from our democracy, and in particular, whether we want those New Zealanders identifying as ‘Maori’ to be guaranteed greater rights and privileges than everyone else.
The Ardern Government claims Maori do have greater democratic rights than others. They allege those rights arise from a ‘partnership’ between Maori and the Crown, that was created by the Treaty of Waitangi. They maintain this partnership guarantees the iwi elite the right to ‘co-govern’ New Zealand through 50:50 power sharing arrangements.
But what they don’t reveal is that by giving iwi veto rights and therefore control, ‘co-governance’ is just another name for ‘tribal rule’ — by unaccountable representatives of multi-million dollar business development corporations.
A key problem New Zealanders face is that the partnership the Government is using to justify what amounts to totalitarian tribal control — through the transfer of democratic power and public resources to the iwi elite — is actually fake. Since it is constitutionally impossible for a partnership to exist between a Sovereign and the governed, it represents a massive deception of New Zealanders by the Government.
As the former Judge and Law Lecturer Anthony Willy has explained, “Emphatically there is no partnership as known to law between the Crown and a subject… All people claiming some Maori inheritance are entitled to the sum of the rights enjoyed by any other New Zealand citizen, no more and no less.”
Yet, in spite of the partnership claim being fake, it underpins the He Puapuaagenda for Maori supremacy that Jacinda Ardern’s Government is rolling out.
The new Maori Health Authority, which is being established through the Pae Ora Bill that is currently in front of Parliament, that will give the iwi elite veto power over New Zealand’s entire health system, is part of He Puapua.
The Three Waters proposal, which will give the iwi elite veto rights and control of New Zealand’s entire water infrastructure and services is also part of the He Puapua agenda for tribal rule.
And, as if that’s not enough, Labour is now using the fake partnership claim and co-governance to quietly pass through Parliament a law change that could set a precedent for the widespread undermining of democratic voting rights.
Using a Local Council Bill, they are planning to replace the one-person, one-vote, all votes are equal principle upon which our Westminster representative democracy is based, with Animal Farm democracy, that elevates the influence of some voters above all others.
The Bill in question – the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill –– is also straight out of the He Puapua playbook. Introducing the concept of co-governance, it will have the effect of giving Maori a disproportionate influence over the makeup of the local council in Rotorua — and is likely to become the model for the next phase of local body reforms being planned by the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta. Once entrenched into local government, central government elections could become the next objective.
This fundamental shift in the governance of local authorities was set in motion by Jacinda Ardern straight after her election with an outright majority in 2020. One of her first law changes was to abolish the right of communities to hold a binding referendum on the creation of Maori wards – a democratic safeguard that had been introduced into local government by Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark to prevent councils from gerrymandering the voting system in their own favour.
By removing community veto rights, the pathway was opened for local authorities around the country to introduce Maori wards. And many have done so at the behest of powerful iwi lobby groups, without properly involving their local communities.
The number of Maori wards that can be created by a council is governed by Schedule 1A of the 2001 Local Electoral Act, which calculates the number based on the relative proportions of the Maori Electoral Population and the General Electoral Population.
In the case of the Rotorua District Council, the matter of whether or not to introduce Maori Wards was initially referred to their Maori advisory body, which recommended 3 Maori seats on the council of 10. Since the General Electoral Population of Rotorua is 55,600 and the Maori Electoral Population is 21,700, their request for 30 percent of the seats, was proportional.
One might have thought that the Rotorua Council, which traditionally elects a number of Maori Councillors – sometimes a majority — on merit, might have preferred to retain the status quo of 10 members elected ‘at large’, but the Council’s Mayor, former Labour MP Steve Chadwick, saw this as an opportunity to pursue co-governance.
Using the Orwellian double-speak objective of ‘voter parity’ — which sounds like it means that everyone’s vote is of equal value, when instead it significantly elevates the value of Maori votes — Mayor Chadwick proposed an ‘ideal’ co-governance arrangement. This consists of 1 Maori Ward with 3 councillors to represent the 21,700 Maori who live in the district, 1 General Ward with 3 councillors to represent the 55,600 non-Maori who live in the district, along with 4 councillors plus the mayor elected at large by those on both rolls.
Using the Electoral Commission’s records for voters registered in Rotorua, this ‘co-governance’ arrangement would see the 8,210 voters registered on the Maori Roll electing 3 councillors, and the 38,831 voters who are registered on the General Roll also electing 3 councillors, giving voters on the Maori Roll almost five times the voting power of those on the General Roll.
Since this outcome would clearly contravene not only our cornerstone democratic tradition of all votes being equal, but also the principle of proportionality under the Local Electoral Act, the Rotorua Mayor and her Council have asked Parliament to change the law.
This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator former Cabinet Minister Barry Brill shares his concerns that this Bill will set a precedent for the manipulation of electoral law throughout the country, by allowing a minority of voters on the Maori Roll to gain a disproportionate influence over the majority of voters on the General Roll. He also makes the point that since voters on the Maori Roll overwhelmingly support Labour, an iron grip on power might be their ultimate goal:
“The Labour Government has surrendered to a terrible temptation. The glittering prize of perpetual power has swept away their traditional respect for constitutional conventions, their political ethics, and even their commonsense. They know that people on Maori Rolls will almost always vote for the Labour Party. They do not – ever – reflect the same voting patterns as voters on New Zealand’s General Rolls.
“The Rotorua Bill is a spearhead. It tests the waters for plans such as He Puapua which seek to transform this country into a Tribe-dominated ethnocracy. Nobody sees the Rotorua Bill as a one-off… We have recently heard multiple Maori voices undermining the concept of democracy, and demanding an ethnocracy in its place. The Maori Party says that ‘majority rule does not work for Maori’. He Puapua, which is being pushed strongly by Minister Willie Jackson, relies upon majority rule being set aside.”
The truth is this Bill should never have gone before Parliament. It’s a local matter for the people of Rotorua to decide.
The Labour Government should have honoured the commitment they made in their 2020 Election Manifesto: “Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset” – and refused Mayor Chadwick’s demand for Animal Farm democracy.
Instead, the Council should have agreed to options that complied with the law and let the local community decide which arrangement they wanted through a binding referendum process. In fact, an important part of New Zealand’s democratic convention is that to be legitimate, constitutional law changes – especially those affecting the electoral system – should be decided through a binding referendum of voters. This is to safeguard the public interest and ensure those in power cannot unilaterally make constitutional changes for their own advantage.
Barry Brill asks, “So, is this type of ‘partnership’ the future? Will the voting public rebel?”
We most certainly hope the public will let Parliament know what sort of democracy we want in New Zealand, by rejecting the Bill – especially in light of the Local Government Commission’s recommendation of 1 Maori Ward with 3 seats, 1 General Ward with 6 seats, and 1 Rural Ward with 1 seat for Rotorua.
The timeframe for submissions on the Bill is tight – only two weeks – since co-governance advocates want the new law in place for the October local body elections. That means it would need to have received the Royal Assent before 1 June. With the Select Committee still required to engage in a proper democratic process -including hearing oral submissions – we would suggest that anyone who shares the concern that this Bill could set a precedent for Labour’s co-governance agenda sends in a submission HERE opposing the Bill and asking to be heard before the deadline of 20 April.
Those who live in Rotorua, of course, have the power to transform their council in this year’s local body elections by supporting candidates who believe it should be the public who decide matters such as the makeup of their council — not Parliament 0- and are committed to a binding community referendum process.
The media, which has traditionally played a crucial role in our democracy, by acting as a public watchdog and holding the government to account, is largely turning a blind eye to the Government’s attacks on New Zealand’s democratic foundations.
To their shame, much of the mainstream media have allowed themselves to become ‘captured’ by Jacinda Ardern’s $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund, which requires them to promote the fake ‘partnership’ that underpins co-governance and the whole He Puapua agenda. As a result, public trust in the media is plummeting as we witness our Fourth Estate transform itself into State propagandists.
While Jacinda Ardern promised on election-night to govern for all New Zealanders, by attempting to impose tribal rule onto the country, she is instead taking away our freedom and democratic rights. Claiming ‘co-governance’ is about fairness and equity, we now know her real agenda is to enable privileged Maori to seize control of public resources and services for the private benefit of the tribal elite.
With her ultimate goal the establishment of an elite iwi aristocracy, that bestows privilege on those of Maori descent, the Rotorua Bill and the precedent it will set can be seen as a significant step towards her objective.
It will also assist Minister Mahuta, with her planned reform of local government and its voting system – changes that will no doubt create a pathway for the further erosion of democracy.
And if anyone is unsure about where all of this is heading, the iwi leader of Tuhoe, Tamati Kruger, spelt it out in a recent interview.
In the wake of a disastrous co-governancedeal with Tuhoe over the Urewera National Park in 2014, where funding has vanished, huts have been vandalised, tracks have been closed, and the public has been excluded, the Tuhoe chairman said, “Co-governance is not our term. I don’t see it as the final destination. I don’t see co-governance as the answer. But I think it’s the next bus stop in a journey that has to be made. It’s everyone’s journey. It’s like gravity, you can’t defy it. It’s on its way.”
What he’s talking about, of course, is full control.
Is full tribal control really the future we want for our country?